Jhené Aiko caught us off guard with the lyrical content of her surprise new single “Maniac,” but the sultry songstress had a very direct inspiration for the art project that surrounds the Fisticuffs-produced record.
Aiko tapped esteemed director and photographer Steven Taylor, a master in the Japanese art form of shibari, to create artwork and visuals that involved her being tied up in rope.
“Working with Jhené on the ‘Maniac’ shoot was a true pleasure,” Taylor tells Billboard. “Not only was it an inspired idea on her part by involving the shibari artist but she also allowed me space to be creative within that. I’m really proud of the motion pieces we created in conjunction with the song and I hope it helps connect her fans and listeners to her vision on an even deeper level.”
After discovering images of shibari on Tumblr about five to six years ago, Aiko wanted to share her sexy, kinky side with the sensual track, which she made alongside Detail and Big Sean.
Below, the petite singer discusses the inspiration behind her “Maniac” art project, mixing pleasure with pain and the meaning of sexual empowerment.
ON CREATING “MANIAC”: “I was in the studio with Fisticuffs, who started the beat. We’re always just coming up with ideas and I just started singing about being a maniac. I think that the older I get, the less afraid I am to express all the sides of myself. “Maniac” was such a fun beat. I wanted to make sure that I explored the fun, sexy side of myself. I also got in with Detail, who’s an amazing songwriter, and [Big] Sean — I love Big Sean — and they collaborated with me on this song.”
ON SHOWCASING HER SEXUAL SIDE: “Sexual empowerment means just embracing your sexuality, doing whatever makes you feel comfortable and not worrying about society’s standards and what they think is sexy or acceptable. It’s just being true to yourself and not worrying about what other people’s opinions are on how you express your sexuality. I think of course, as adults, you should be responsible with your sexuality and your body but at the same time, it’s just about not being afraid to express it, whatever it means to you.”
ON SHIBARI INSPIRATION BEHIND THE VISUALS: “The concept is this art form of Japanese bondage called shibari. It’s something I saw years ago that really just caught my eye because I felt like it just looked like art. This is something that the Japanese do and it’s decorative tying. They do it for sensual purposes too but it’s a true art form. I have this a kinky spirit sometimes. [Laughs] If something looks a little painful, then I’m like, ‘Yeah, I wanna try that.’ When we were shooting the pictures and working on the behind-the-scenes stuff, it was such an experience while I was being tied up because it actually was pleasurable. It looked so cool to me, like I wished I could just go out in this and not be cold. Steven’s direction was such a big help because he really brought some cool ideas to the table and the reason why I called it an art project is because the pictures and the statement is just as important as the song. It’s not just, oh, I’m releasing a single. We captured this moment that I feel like me and Steven came together and really created.”
ON BEING A “MANIAC”: “I think I definitely have manic tendencies, especially when I’m alone in my head, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on. There’s those moments where I’m in the mood and I’m just like, ah, I feel like I have to express myself to the fullest level of expressing myself where I’m just like… hop on a dick like a maniac. [Laughs]”
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(Photos by Steven Taylor)