Tinashe’s long-awaited “Joyride,” an album originally slated to be released as early as 2015, has had a long journey. With delays, single releases of “Superlove,” “Player” ft. Chris Brown and “Flame”—all of which never appear on the album—and with the release of “Nightride” beforehand, many were wondering if the album would ever come, but it is finally here.
We begin with the singer telling us to fasten our seatbelts, playing into the anticipation. At first it feels as if she is talking to the listener, but the beginning is more introspective. The repetitiveness of “keep your eyes on the road” brings us a determined artist, one trying to make her way through an industry that is trying to deter her. This tenacity sets the tone for the project and leads us into “Joyride.”
“Joyride” is a barrage of vocals and instruments, but what is most compelling is the call backs to past tracks. It’s hard to forget the submerged percussive synths from “Far Side of The Moon” from her debut LP “Aquarius,” to the “Don’t stop looking at me” quip, a reference to “Vulnerable,” a track from her third mixtape, “Black Water.” But it doesn’t stop there. The “It’s my life” from her most recent mixtape, “Nightride” and the serene hums from “Cold Sweat” off of “Aquarius,” are more references that flow even further beneath the surface.
To any listener it may seem like a profusion of random notes, but it’s extraordinarily calculated. In the outro she says, “Ain’t looking back at the old me,” but she is. She is giving her fans a reminder of the sound she had, shows us how her sound has grown and reminds them why they fell in love with her in the first place. In “Joyride,” Tinashe is transcendent. The entire track is barraged with chants of “livin’ life,” creating an anthemic tune dedicated to being in the now, to reaching the highest level of stardom and to have all of her dreams realized.
There is no difficulty in understanding that this is a Tinashe record. Each song carries sounds reminiscent of each mixtape and album. While she may not be looking back, her past follows her, but now in a more improved way. Her sound is more polished, layered, dark and mature. The complexity Tinashe presents in this album is mystifying.
“Joyride” features a number of surprisingly refreshing tunes. “Stuck With Me” is a catchy bright track that is deeply satisfying. It features the lead singer of Little Dragon, Yukimi Nagano, a rare female collaboration for a Tinashe project. Bold, flirty Tinashe and Nagano shine over the percussion beneath them.
“He Don’t Want It” comes off as a continuation of the experimentation left in “Nightride.” Tinashe contrasts her falsetto with rapping through the dark techno beats. Many of her past projects include the ability to enchant listeners, creating gratifying sounds. “He Don’t Want It” continues these pleasing explorations of our eardrums.
If there is anything the singer is telling her listeners, it’s that she’s more daring and audacious than she’s ever been, even calling out her own label in “No Drama” for trying to fit her into a single pop star or R&B mold. In each love song, she states all her needs for men, making sure that she’s in charge of all her relationships. Tinashe is more assured in who she is than ever before.
Yet at times Tinashe’s identity is what hinders her the most. Known for her interludes and experimental sound, these portions of her identity can be seen as gimmicky. In both interludes, “Go Easy on Me” and “Ain’t Good For You” match many of Tinashe’s previous ones, yet here they don’t progress the album. They don’t create a transition between the tracks and tend to feel like pieces that belong in the space of the album, just not at the right time.
The artist’s vocals are marred by a number of vocal distortions and filters. While that is a staple in her music, her talent can be lost underneath all these sounds and a bit too much ornamentation is put on her voice.
Not only is Tinashe an artist who writes her own music, but she is an artist who has produced numerous tracks on her own. In a male-dominated music industry, she shines above it with her tenacity. Her captivating story is what the world of pop and R&B needs. Tinashe is confident throughout this record, expressing her own desires, needs and vulnerabilities, but most importantly, independence.
Tinashe is an artist who continues to take control. She is not merely a pop star or R&B star, and she definitely isn’t someone who is only set on making hits. Tinashe is an artist who encompasses the future of pop and R&B as she bridges the gap between experimental and mainstream. She continues to push the boundaries and offer her voice to a wide array of people. She exceeds all expectations in “Joyride.”
Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected]