“There’s no turning back now”
This is what Tinashe warns you on the opening track of her sophomore album, Joyride. And, for better or for worse, she’s right.
By all accounts, it’s a miracle Joyride even exists at all. Since the album was first announced in late 2015, the project has suffered major delays and probably endless itinerations thanks to the lukewarm reception of several lead singles that seemed to hint at an album perpetually in chaos.
From the icy ‘Company,’ to the wistful ‘Flame,’ the sheer number of avenues being explored and then hastily abandoned by Tinashe was worrying, as if the album were being shelved and re-developed each time a single failed to land, which was admittedly quite a lot.
It wasn’t just a shame for Tinashe – whose always showed so much promise – but also hinted that the big bosses at RCA had little to no faith in the staying power of her sophomore effort.
But, like we said, for better or for worse, the Tinashe that stands in front of us today is a long way from the Tinashe that looked to be on the cusp of superstardom in 2015.
The first thing that hits you when you listen to Joyride is that some people have been passionately awaiting the arrival of this album for 4 years and they’ve delivered…this?
That’s not to say that Joyride is a bad album, because it’s not. If anything, it being a bad album would have been better It would have been completely understandable, given its fraught emergence into the world. If Joyride was a bad album, it would have softened the blow. But it’s not bad, just bland. Nothing pops and nothing diverts your attention long enough for you to be distracted from thinking ‘if only she had one single on here as good as 2 On.’
There are highlights here, scattered though they may be. The duet with Little Dragon, ‘Stuck With Me’ is legitimately great, and the peppy ‘Me So Bad’ feels like it has all the makings of a summer smash but never quite gets here. The title track is an interesting proposition too, given that for a brief time it was stolen from Tinashe by none other than the Queen of No Phucks, Rihanna herself, for inclusion on Anti.
That proved to be a bust, so back to Tinashe it went. It sets the album up to be something it never quite manages – a collection of pulsating, sex-driven bangers that hinge on Tinashe’s voice, filled to the brim with what seems to be an insatiable hunger. It’s a great start, but she can’t help but let you down.
The first single, ‘No Drama,’ is also a fine inclusion, if still a little underwhelming. It, nevertheless, contains the best lyrics of the whole album; ‘said I’m falling off but they won’t JFK me / tried to be myself but they won’t AKA me / AKA a pop star, AKA a problem.’
And in many ways, Tinashe’s right, but she also contradicts herself. If anything, it’s hard to see Joyride as anything but Tinashe rallying against becoming a pop star. This doesn’t feel like the album Tinashe needed to make, or even wanted to. Instead, it’s what she’s ended up with, out of necessity rather than choice.
There’s nothing surprising here, nothing to make you stand up, take notice and think ‘this is what I’ve been waiting for.’ We can’t help but feel for Tinashe, though. She’s clearly been through the wringer with this album and, fair play to her, has stuck with it to the bitter end. But it all just feels so familiar, so life-less in places, that it makes you wonder what Tinashe and her label want her to achieve with Joyride. What’s the end goal?
It won’t make her the star she so clearly is capable of being, and it’s not strong or cohesive enough to become an underrated yet beloved cult classic. It just…exists. It shows up to the party. It’s certainly no Joyride, it just feels like a de-tour.
At the end of all this, of four years of painstaking delays and creative overhaul, Joyride shudders to a halt. The doors have fallen off, the tires need fixing and there’s a lot of smoke coming from the engine.
It might take a lot of work and patience to fix, but there’s something salvageable at the end of this. It’s Tinashe herself.
We shouldn’t give up on her, even if it sounds like she’s given up on herself.
Join our club.
Words by George Griffiths