Not to be confused with our R&B girl crush, London-based up-and-comer Rationale goes by the name Tinashe when he’s not onstage. His musical persona is a lot louder; he dances like a maniac and is selling out London arenas too. It’s tricky to pinpoint his exact sound, if you ask him he’ll say it’s “baritone with an 80s tinge”, but that doesn’t really do justice to the sonic boom that erupts from his vocal chords – you’ll just have to listen to find out for yourself.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Tinashe arrived in England at eight years old. He was adopted, “by an awesome man who taught me how to be a gentleman”, and was subsequently encouraged to pursue music by a string of key figures in his life. “It’s that classic story of receiving a broken down instrument,” he says, and in this case it was by way of a battered old guitar that he first discovered his gift for unique musical arrangements.
“I knew I could sing from about the age of 10,” he says.
“Instead of being outside playing football with the other kids,
I was in a practice room trying to find a way to record my voice, trying to emulate my heroes at the time.” The first CD he owned was “Earth Song” by Michael Jackson, a prudent starting point for the varied vocal range and hyperactive energy that would come to define Rationale’s live performances.
Before he began performing his own music as Rationale, Tinashe was working as a songwriter for major music labels and he knows the industry and its trappings all too well. “I watched artists struggle with trying to balance being a good musician with having a good persona, so when it came to my own music
I thought, ‘What if I just don’t bother with my face? What if I just put it out there as it is?’ ‘Fast Lane’ connected with an audience so immediately that I didn’t feel the need to be there.”
Rationale finds his true enjoyment in live performances, a side of the music industry he wants to elevate to its former glory:
“I think live music is the place where stars are born.” He lists New Order, Morrissey, Queen and Kanye West among his biggest influences. “I don’t agree with everything Kanye does but here’s an artist who is starting a conversation in society,
and it’s not always the easiest conversation to have,” he says. And it’s this kind of dialogue that Rationale wants to begin with his own music, with “Fuel to The Fire” examining the injustice faced by marginalised minorities.
“I was very ambitious at the beginning of the Rationale project in terms of the live act. I wanted it to be a sort of FKA Twigs meets St. Vincent, the kind where somebody has dedicated themselves to engaging their entire audience. Seeing Freddie Mercury writhing around on stage and belting out great vocals feels like a moment,” he says. “ And I want to create moments like that.”