Back in 2014, Tinashe dropped "2 On", and it was everything we wanted from a breakout hit; strutting confidently between the bedroom and the dancefloor, the sultry R&B single put Tinashe on the global map and in everybody's Tinder date playlists, all from a re-imagined segment of Sean Paul's classic "We Be Burnin". Later that year, she kept the bar high with her commendable debut album Aquarius, and before we could take another breath, she announced her follow-up: Joyride.
The years that followed were filled with bumps and bruises. Sure, Tinashe had moments of brilliance: Snakehips collaboration "All My Friends"' is a pensive ode to alcoholism that practically pours itself into shot glasses, while 2016's nocturnal Nightride mixtape is a decadent affair. But this period was largely marred by Tinashe's cancelled tours, clashes with her collaborators and label, and numerous album delays, leaving many to wonder if the ride had come to a dead end.
However, Joyride has finally arrived, fashionably late and brimming with sass. We didn't wait nearly as long as we did for the infamous Guns n' Roses epic Chinese Democracy or Detox (are you there, Dr. Dre?) but in today's music landscape - where the revolving door of popular artists is swift and ruthless - momentum is more important than ever. Thankfully, Tinashe's flame hasn't burnt out yet, and Joyride is an enjoyable full-length, one where she doesn't succumb to the dreaded sophomore slump.
We're thrown into Tinashe's world with the title track, the brashest of the bunch. Pulsating production jabs away with foreboding rhythm, while Tinashe's brooding vocals and chants further add to the song's eerie energy. Later, the mood softens and Tinashe's voice soars towards the light, with the album opener reminding us that she can occupy the left-field as well as the mainstream lanes of pop.
"Ooh La La" has a wonderful throwback flavor, with featherweight guitar and punchy use of the 'Oh!' sample that harks back to Nelly & Kelly Rowland's iconic duet, "Dilemma". Taking the soul of classic R&B and injecting it with contemporary zing, it proves to be one of the album's best. "Stuck With Me" is another standout, a collaboration with Little Dragon that blossomed from a humble Instagram DM conversation back in 2014. Tinashe murmurs, "I'm a train wreck / I'm a car crash / But you're shotgun /Get an airbag" over the endearing bounce of the beat, making for a swell juxtaposition. And despite its subdued nature, "Stuck With Me" still conveys the feeling of young, reckless romance.
While it's one of the more upbeat moments on the album, the sun-soaked single "Me So Bad" falls well below the rest. Driven by dancehall production - a sound that's heavily infiltrated hip-hop, pop and house - the whole thing feels overblown and preoccupied with commercial success. It's a feeling that heightens when you consider the addition of French Montana, who had his own chart-dominating dancehall hit, "Unforgettable", last year. Fellow single "No Drama" is likely to get heads bopping in the club, but also feels rather pedestrian with an Offset feature thrown in, just because. It's likely to fall into the seemingly endless pile of trap-friendly Migos collaborations that have become omnipresent in recent years.
"Faded Love" is the strongest of Joyride's trio of singles - with Tinashe's flirtatious impulsiveness coming through strong in its lyrics: "No, don't give me your name / No, I don't need your number saved in my phone / Just follow me home." The hypnotic hum of the beat hovers beneath Tinashe's staccato hook, and mixes amicably with Future's intoxicated flow that arrives at the halfway mark. "No Contest" follows after, a slow R&B twirl that undergoes a swift tempo change, morphing into a fun-filled sugar rush. Then comes the warm embrace of piano ballad "Fires & Flames", where Tinashe wraps up the album with meticulous care.
Tinashe is an artist who revels in her inability to be boxed into any sound. She can sing expansive anthems and intimate love letters with equal power, and accordingly, Joyride is a mixed bag of sounds that feel both fresh and familiar. It's a seductive collection of songs that call out to Cupid, but unfortunately, it hasn't been spearheaded by the strongest of singles. Running at 13 tracks long, one has to also question whether a short introduction and two interludes were necessary. Still, Tinashe shows us her skill set on the remainder of the album, and Joyride takes us on enough sonic detours to keep us engaged.
During the most tumultuous years of her career, plenty of critics were ready to state that Tinashe's time was up. On Joyride, she proves that she has plenty to offer, and can still claim her crown in the coming years.