by: Tirhakah Love (@catalytic92)
In Pillow Talk Tiffany Gouché paves her own duplicitous lane between gospel-inspired evocations of love and smoky minimalist grooves of contemporary R&B-rap fusion. Gouché, 27, is one of Inglewood’s promising R&B upstarts appearing alongside artists like Jill Scott and Ty Dolla $ign. Lessons learned from studio sessions with R&B’s prominent players have given Gouché a sober tonality that, at times, feels almost melodically senescent, but packs an urgency that is indispensable to young love.
Few records in the last year negotiate the obscure status of R&B more candidly than Pillow Talk. Consolidating hip-hop and R&B on the Billboard charts isn’t doing many up-and-coming artists any favors; the convergence understates the extremely talented artists on one side of the genre spectrum and encourages genre bending for the sake of marketability instead of catering to extraordinary talent on the other. In the mainstream the quandary leads empirically lower quality in hip-hop and R&B, not to mention the effect it has on a music that is largely, though not entirely, conceptualized and aimed at African-Americans. But a few feet below the glass ceiling the phenomenon is a lot more intriguing.
The only ceilings Gouché acknowledges are seen through her own widened, climaxed pupils. Her sexual presence conjugates nicely with gospel harmonies and independently recorded beat boxing licks. And like most appeals to higher power, her moments of transcendence, of climax, happen behind closed doors—despite all the tease. In “Ready 2 Go,” Gouché chirps, “Been waitin’ on this valet but you can’t wait to take your clothes off now/And you been bitin and scratchin like you’re wild.” The image reaches a fever pitch when she chronicles first, second and third base but never extends to the excessive. In her music, Gouché puts forth a sexiness relegated to private space, one that must be peeled back and fleshed out beyond smooth words between drinks.
Desiring privacy doesn’t push Gouché to prudence and when her voice crescendos from her sweltering tenor to velvety falsetto in “Can I” the urgent need for somatic gratification resurfaces, “Oh, your body’s shakin, you push me up against the wall like you can’t take it/Oh I love when we kiss it’s amazing/And I been waiting for this moment since the day we met.” Her vocal variation ranging from inflections taking advantage of her ability to fall into the cut with ease to Migos-inspired adlibs on “Last Breath,” convey the payoff of meticulously juggling old school R&b sensibility-and all of its underpinnings in traditional gospel harmonies—with a decisively modern perspective.
Gouché jumps into the deep end of a mainstream proclivities with the humble brag record, “On the Up,” maligning the nameless ‘they’ who “only want to slow you down” on your way to stardom. Lyrically, the songwriter can be heard as a little cliché. This shines through most on the aforementioned “On the Up” and unsurprisingly on the title track “Pillow Talk,” in which the iterative refrain dulls out the bouncy production. Fortunately, the EP is but 25 minutes so the space for redundancy is pretty limited.
While promoting Pillow Talk on Home Grown Radio, Gouché explains her conscious effort to “get back to her feelings” on this record, tossing fears of critique and insecurity by the wayside and articulating her most genuine self. Her identity, in its fluctuations is as complex as the musical landscape she is preparing to enter, providing Gouché with a seemingly endless repository of emotional depth. The EP reveals an artist facing the market appeal of common pop while harnessing her vocal chops and aptitude for production to be an impressive addition to a new generation of R&B musicians. With Pillow Talk, Tiffany Gouché freely uncovers her sexuality as a reflective dialogue centered on body, spirituality, and secret time—parlaying certain R&B platitudes for vibrant and soulful eclecticism.