Tinashe: Joyride (RCA) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, August 4th, 2020  




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In 2014, Tinashe was on the cusp of a mainstream breakthrough. Her debut album, Aquarius, had received critical acclaim and comparisons to fellow fast-rising artists FKA twigs and Kelela, as well as comparisons to R&B legends Janet Jackson and Aaliyah. And although the album's single "2 On" didn't quite blow up (it peaked at no. 24 in the U.S.), it was a sleeper-hit that sold over 1 million copies by the end of the year. Then, without explanation, her career ground to a halt.

The title for Joyride, then set to be her second album, was announced in 2015 but a series of singles promoting the album failed to chart and delayed the project. Those songs tried on a range of styles, from clubby EDM with Chris Brown to glossy '80s synth-pop, but none of them had much impact with the public, nor did they seem like the work of an artist with a distinctive identity. Then, in 2016, a companion album, Nightride, was released to keep fans satisfied. It favored a hazy atmosphere that was on-trend for the moment but bar its sexy, off-kilter single "Company," it lacked bold, memorable hooks.

Therefore, Joyride arrives with lofty expectations and a sense that casual fans may have already given up on Tinashe's hit-making ability. It's strange then that Joyride adopts many of the same stylistic features of Nightride, opens with a minute-long Lynchian soundscape, and clocks out at a brief 37 minutes. Instead of providing the major hit that Tinashe dearly needs, Joyride attempts to rebrand her as an alternative pop auteur.

Hip-hop stars, such as Future and Offset, make guest appearances across this album, but so do indie-pop darlings Little Dragon. It appears that Tinashe wants to have it both ways, with both the artistic freedom to experiment and the commercial security of pop success, but she fails to commit to both. The result is a record stuck in limbo. Joyride is not catchy enough to conquer mainstream radio, nor is it unusual enough to be interesting.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Joyride is that it would be unfair to call it bad. These songs are competently written but rarely satisfying. Only "Stuck With Me" (featuring Little Dragon) and "No Contest" properly hit their marks as effortless updates of early 2000s pop and R&B, while "No Drama" is a good, albeit uninspiring, single. Elsewhere, "He Don't Want It" mimics the atmosphere of Kelela's Take Me Apart but forgets the memorable song writing, and "Me So Bad" pairs a lame one-liner"you want some me so bad"with the most rudimentary of tropical house instrumentals. 

Joyride feels like an album that has had anything adventurous about it focussed-grouped away and its hints at conceptual ambition are quickly abandoned after the opening two tracks for run-of-the-mill R&B. Tinashe is a good singer and a great performer, with the looks and work-ethic to be a star, but she sounds bored on this album. It's disappointing that the most conspicuous thing lacking on Joyride is joy itself. (www.joyride.tinashenow.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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