All hands on deck to discuss pan flutes.
Crystal Leww: I applauded “2 On” in early 2014 for being one of DJ Mustard’s more dynamic beats, moving in ways that no Mustard beat had before. “All Hands on Deck” is maybe less of a straightforward thrill than “2 On,” but it moves in ways that “2 On” does, tries things that “2 On” never did. I’ve been screaming about ratchet pan flutes for half a year now, ever since “All Hands on Deck” appeared on Aquarius, but it’s wild that Cashmere Cat and Stargate took this sound, one that is basically a template that depends on the charm of its performer, and added such a lovely flair. It doesn’t feel forced, either; Tinashe’s the girl who has a song called “Indigo Girl” on that same album, and she is every bit as moody and mysterious and sexy on this as ratchet pan flutes call for.
Alfred Soto: She could have meant the title for her collaborators, whose key changes cause nary a stumble. Although I didn’t understand Aquarius at first, it’s become one of my essential R&B albums: supple, glistening, finding aural correlatives for Tinashe’s quiet virtuosity. “All Hands on Deck” was one of the sleepers. Excellent hook, sure, but the song’s too modest, unobtrusive, a natural single with the mien of an album track.
Madeleine Lee: Pan flutes > guest rappers.
Katherine St Asaph: Bebe Rexha is quickly becoming pop’s premier purveyor of teenage-girl angst and dead-eyed steeliness (“looking for a boy to fill this empty void”), Cashmere Cat its premier purveyor of pop-rnbass, and Tinashe its premier purveyor of a superconfident, indelible delivery. With Stargate also on deck you’d think “All Hands” would become unwieldy, but it’s not; it’s piecework songwriting as musical quick-panning, confident snappy facade to inner turmoil and back. Not even the odd lack of enunciation (the second verse does not go “death to wussy porn”) can keep the track from near-perfection. The remix, with an Igloo where its heart used to be, probably could; but the tragedy of the rapper couldn’t be better-timed to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Will Adams: I’m certain there’ll be a summer party I go to where this is playing that will prove me wrong, but for now, “All Hands on Deck” tells what “2 On” showed. The pan flutes are an interesting production choice, probably the best aspect to distract me from the just-okay bump of the rest.
Ramzi Awn: Exacting and expertly produced, Tinashe’s voice accentuates each beat like it’s her last. Flawlessly featured synths make for a mathematician’s dream in a swirl of snaps, textures, and woodwinds. And the gated vocals on “All Hands on Deck” suit Tinashe’s voice to a T. This is new music.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Look, Crystal is going to tell you about ratchet pan flutes. I’m here to be Johnny Raincloud. I’m here to remind you that as an album, Aquarius is full of meandering esoteric gems where Tinashe ennobles R&B and lives in a dream-pop world that unpopular nerds Cocteau Twins will never get into because they’re lames. And that this and other Stargate entry “Feels Like Vegas” are the most obvious “FOLLOW UP TO 2 ON” tracks on the album, the concessions to Epic for letting her get away with an adventurous journey by throwing out floaties for babies (heck, Roscoe Dash even sounds like an overgrown baby). We shouldn’t be entertaining this clunky “You break my heart, now I’m a baddie >:3” bit when she can do so much better, and especially with those godawful synths on the chorus.
Anthony Easton: It never slows down or speeds up but recedes and expands. In those moments where the song unfolds, Tinashe’s crystalline voice exceeds the production, but when it works within the context, it becomes really intriguing. So much of this is how it sounds, unified but overstuffed — even a list would not give it its due, but: that sound like water on a hot stone, those revs of an engine, the handclaps and girl group oooh oohs. That it is so overstuffed, and that she suggests a filling of emptiness, is a perfect formal twinning — it is smarter than the other work that Cashmere Cat has done for people like Lana Del Rey, and it suggests a genuinely superstar move from mix tapes to superstar leads. Stargate was involved in this, so there is some mark of the Eurosleaze, and I could imagine a bit of Bey here, but it does seem closer to Cashmere than Stargate.
Iain Mew: The verses scavenge good bits from “R.I.P.” and “Dominoes”, or at least seize on good ideas which are familiar but not overused. The amazing pan flutes, aside, much the same goes for the whole song, from its bass under bass under ice to the semi-plea chorus. It’s like the inverse of “Don’t Look Down” yesterday: no magic in assembly, but an impeccable selection of parts.
Jonathan Bradley: Every superhero needs her theme music, and this is a great origin story for Tinashe, as phoenix of the darkest timeline: “Kiss the old me goodbye; she’s dead and gone.” Sinuous and entrancing, and that’s before the call-to-arms hook muscles in.