Album Review: Tinashe’s ‘Joyride’ 8.5/10

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Today, Tinashe finally released her long-awaited second studio album, Joyride. The album comes 3 years after it was supposed to be released, and four years after her debut album, Aquarius.

Known for not fitting into any particular genre, Tinashe crafted us a perfectly balanced album of alternative R&B, which is the uptempo sequel to 2016’s Nightride. Tinashe’s fan base, the SweeTees, have declared that Tinashe’s artistry is split between two personas; the commercial-friendly, “Popnashe,” and the sultry R&B seductress, “Mixtape Tinashe.” The SweeTees will be pleased as there is a presence of both on Joyride. Longtime fans will be delighted to know that the majority of the album is made of “Mixtape Tinashe” records, something that was not expected, considering the album’s singles were more “Popnashe.”

On the album, Tinashe collaborates with rappers, Future, Offset (of Migos), Ty Dolla $ign and French Montana. She also succeeded in securing what she described as a “dream collaboration,” with her favorite band, the Swedish electronic pop group, Little Dragon.

 

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The album includes a total of 10 songs and 3 interludes. After all, it wouldn’t be a Tinashe album without the presence of a few mysterious interludes. In total, the album is just 37 minutes long, shorter than any of her previous bodies of work, but equally superlative. With tracks that cater to every positive mood you can think of, the album’s title is perfectly descriptive of its content. Anybody would be appeased in cruising around with Joyride playing.

The album opens with an intro called “Keep Your Eyes On The Road.” On the track, we hear the muffled sounds of cars speeding by, while Tinashe warns in a resolute tone, “There’s no turning back now / Please fasten your seat belts.” “Keep your eyes on the road,” she repeats, at one point commanding “put your fucking seat belt on.” Finally, Tinashe tells us “Prepare for Joyride.”

Following the album opener is the title track, “Joyride,” a song produced by Hit-Boy.  The track sets the mood for the rest of the album. It is the most alternative of the 10 tracks, employing eccentric drum instrumentation in the beginning, adding a beautiful piano melody in the middle, and ending with an emotionally charged violin. The track will be majorly satisfying to those who favor “Mixtape Tinashe.” On the song, she incorporates multiple nods to fan favorites from her early career, crooning “Don’t stop looking at me,” the lyrics from one of her most highly acclaimed songs, 2013’s “Vulnerable.” The album is cohesive with the mind-altering vibe of Tinashe’s previous works. On the second verse she sings, “Need another shot now, baby / Rollin’ up a joint, let go / I been rock n’ rollin’ with my ex / We’ve been gettin’ closer to the X / We be always poppin’ like the X / Crossing out the haters with the X.”

The album’s third track is the lead single, “No Drama” featuring Offset. The track was no doubt made for the club, reminiscent of Tinashe’s biggest hit, 2014’s “2 On.” On the track, Tinashe ensures that the haters are aware that she isn’t going away anytime soon, singing “Said I’m fallin’ off but they won’t JFK me / Try to be myself, but they want AKA me / AKA a popstar, AKA a problem / AKA don’t hold me back I swear I got ’em.” The song is perfect for a day when you’re feeling yourself and no amount of hate is enough to overpower that vibe.

On “He Don’t Want It,” Tinashe puts us all into a trance. Possibly the most seductive sounding song on the album, Tinashe uses her soft, heavenly vocals that were heavily present on her 2013 mixtape, Blackwater. Interestingly enough, Tinashe has revealed that she started recording the song in 2013, which explains its vocal similarities to Blackwater. Like Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” the track is one of those songs that have a tragic subject that is overshadowed by optimistic sounding production. Despite that the track is sonically very sexy and erotic, the song is actually about all of the “fuckboys” who passed on all of Tinashe’s amazing qualities. In an angelic tone of voice on the song’s bridge, Tinashe sings, “Messing with my head / Why you so wishy-washy? / Saying what I want to hear, I never really bought it / Why you even hit me anymore? / Make-make me stop / Make it stop.”

 

“Ooh La La,” produced by J. White, the master behind Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” sounds like a more upbeat sister to Nightride‘s raunchy tale, “Sacrifices.” The song is one of the album’s most promising tracks. Accompanied with the naughty sounds of bed squeaking, the track is an instant “twerk anthem.” Tinashe once again sings about smoking and hooking up, “I need love, you’ve been chose / I don’t fall hard, I might go ghost / Ooh don’t forget, lose your chance if you play me to the left / Roll up, gon’ catch that flight / Top floor, we ain’t tryna go down.” Complete with the repeated “Oh” vocals from Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s 2003 hit, “Dilemma,” the track combines trap music with 2000s R&B, creating an infectious, dance-inducing number with ample replay value.

Track six is the album’s third single, “Me So Bad” featuring Ty Dolla $ign and French Montana. Unfortunately, the track is the lowest point of the album, specifically because the song doesn’t include enough of Tinashe. She only has one verse and the rest of the song gets hijacked by Ty and French. The song would have been much better had it only included Tinashe and Ty, but the addition of French lowers the quality of the song. Despite this, the track will most likely be a favorite for those who wanted a Popnashe-dominant album. The track sounds similar to the tropical-dance elements of Rihanna’s “Work” and Major Lazer’s “Run Up.”

The album’s seventh track is an interlude called “Ain’t Good For Ya.” It was originally a full song that was only a minute and thirty seconds long, but Tinashe cut it down to an interlude so that fans wouldn’t be angry at such a short track. Like “Ooh La La,” the interlude is a sexual song, with plenty of dance value, even if it’s just for one minute. Tinashe whispers, “I’m not your one girl / Why don’t you come out and play? / Higher, higher / They don’t ever say no, to me, yeah / They don’t ever say no, to me, yeah / It ain’t good for ya.” 

The next track, “Stuck With Me” featuring Little Dragon is the second-best offering on Joyride. On the song, R&B and EDM crash into each other, making a product that has the potential to be a nightclub dance hit. The song is interesting because like “He Don’t Want It,” the production is very optimistic sounding. Despite the song’s energy, the lyrics are eerie, with Tinashe singing in her signature deep, breathy register, “I got little a feeling that you’re good for me / Never take a stand but you stood for me / I could build a team if you want to / Meet you in the city if you want to / I like your vision, I can see through / You be the lock I put my key through / I got an angel on my shoulder / But the devil keep me colder.” The song describes the uncertainty of young love, especially between two people who have complicated and conflicting personalities. They know that as a couple, the chances are slim, but they go through with it anyway because they are so drawn to each other that they are willing to take the risk. The chorus of the song is truly haunting, but in the most beautiful way: “I’m a trainwreck, I’m a car crash / But you’re shotgun, get an airbag / Get an ice pack for the weekend / Cause he stuck with me, I can feel it.”

“Go Easy on Me,” the album’s third interlude, features cinematic piano instrumentation; the type of piano sound that you hear during movie scene portraying a dreary conversation between two characters. Tinashe whispers, “The world is sick / Sick with ignorance / Sick with pollution / Sick with bigotry / Sick with fear / Sick with hatred / So please, go easy on me, baby.”

Joyride‘s tenth song, “Salt,” is a downtempo, western-inspired break-up song. The part where the leisurely drums are joined by an electric guitar is the moment when the song transforms from dream pop to desert rock. On the song, Tinashe sings, “We were never meant to make it last / Take my heart and rip it out my chest / No matter what you think you got to do / Don’t throw salt on the wound / Hope you’re happy loving someone else / Even though you really love yourself / So when you go and break my heart in two / Don’t throw salt on the wound.”

On “Faded Love” featuring Future, the album’s second single, produced by Stargate, Tinashe exemplifies the aura of a one night stand. The song is perfect for dance, which is interesting because sonically the song is muted with a sedated melody and sensual lyrics. On the first verse, Tinashe sings to someone that she has decided to go home with, “No, don’t give me your name / No, I don’t need your number saved in my phone / Just follow me, follow me, follow me, follow me home / Wanna take off my rings in my California King, let me get you alone.”

Perhaps the best song of the entire album, Joyride‘s “No Contest,” is what I’ve been waiting for since 2015. The SweeTees became familiar with the song when Tinashe performed it on the Joyride Tour. Despite multiple videos of the song’s live performance, the high-quality, studio version of the track was not released until today. On the song, produced by Soundz, we are taken on a journey through 2000s inspired R&B with the incorporation of 808 beats that make the track infectious, and empower it with extremely high replay value. The song is about falling for someone who has the reputation of being a player and refusing to let that reputation discourage you from pursuing a relationship with them. On the pre-chorus, Tinashe sings, “Why you all on my conscience / Swear you don’t know what to do / Got me thinking that I’m just / Maybe I’m in love with you / Yeah I heard all that nonsense / Yeah I know, all them girls be all on you / But I ain’t here for no contest, when it comes to loving you.” The most memorable part of the song is the bridge. Tinashe discusses how this person isn’t hitting her up as much as they did before. She’s wondering if maybe everyone was right about this person’s “player” reputation. However, she is defiant it giving up, refusing to believe these rumors. She sings, “Hardly ever speaking, it’s been weeks, now where the time go? / I been incognito and I blame it on the time zone / No one likes a shady nigga, shady niggas fall back / But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt if you want that.”

“Fires and Flames” brings Joyride to a close. Like Nightride’s closing number “Ghetto Boy,” “Fires and Flames” is a ballad. It is no question Tinashe’s best vocal performance in her entire career. The whole song is complimented by a romantic, emotional piano instrumentation that illustrates a candlelit aura of passion. “Fires and Flames” is about being in love with a person, particularly an ex, who you know isn’t good for you. You view them as damaged and you want to fix them, but deep down, you know that you can’t and you’re trying to keep yourself from being sucked back in. With powerful sentiment, Tinashe sings, I can’t forget what we’ve been through now / I’ve tried to not let you self-destruct / I know it wasn’t just your fault / I keep my back against the wall / I’m scared that you’re too powerful / I’ve tried to stop getting too close / Ooh, you gotta / Ooh, you gotta / Ooh, you gotta come down.”

Overall, Joyride, is everything that was expected and more. Though it offers a variety of different genres and moods, the album remains cohesive in that every song feels positive, even the ones with sensitive subject matter. It allows listeners to see how much Tinashe has matured since 2014’s Aquarius. Once viewed as merely a turn-up queen by the general public, Joyride enables Tinashe to break out of the box that people have tried to put her in. She uses her unmatchable talent in songwriting to disperse raw emotions into every song on the tracklist. Every song is relatable, and like her past works, the album has the quality of allowing listeners to float away to a different place.

The album as a whole is a solid 8.5/10.

Did you get your copy of Joyride yet? It is available now on all streaming platforms and in stores for purchase!

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