At first, Tinashe’s “Joyride” was supposed to drop as her sophomore LP in early 2016, and early 2016 came and went. Then it was slated for later that year, with even a lead single to show for it, but instead she gave us the woozy “Nightride.” Now, it’s been more than 2½ years after the initial album teases hit the Internet, and her “Joyride”-or-die attitude finally comes to fruition Friday with the album’s release. When any album is so heavily hyped, some disappointment in the reality of it is almost inevitable, and the 13 trim tracks of “Joyride” don’t entirely escape this, but there’s enough here to bite into and leave satisfied.
The singer has indicated that the delayed arrival of “Joyride” was partially due to creative differences with label RCA, but she is satisfied with the control she had over the final product. “No Drama,” released as a single in January, comes out ready for the big time, with the singer slinking through the slurry, sing-along-able chorus (“Don’t want no drama-maaaa/We pulled up in that ooh la laaa”) on a jittering beat, and a melodic rapid-fire verse from Migos rapper Offset.
The Future collaboration “Faded Love” boasts an intriguing sunset-hued backing and a dysfunctional cyborg stutter in the chorus, but still isn’t as compelling as the pair’s frisky “Aquarius” standout “How Many Times.” And the radio-ready thirst anthem “Me So Bad” is strangely anodyne despite its raunchy subject matter, with guest French Montana’s shoutout to condom-free sex.
The goodies are hidden in the deeper tracks. The Hit-Boy-produced title track starts with a vocal siren, and the singer struts through her haunting lower octave over a high-octane stomp. “Stuck With Me” is a sparkling and bouncy bop; the collaboration with Swedish electronic band Little Dragon came about through Tinashe literally sliding into the band’s DMs on Instagram, and Tinashe’s breathy-sweet vocal baton passes back and forth with Little Dragon lead singer Yukimi Nagano.
The most fascinating offerings on “Joyride” are those the singer recorded herself in her home studio. On “No Contest,” layers of vocals twine and wind through each other, and a gentle harp trades off with splashy retrowave bass. The heartbreak hymn “Salt” is propelled by a haunting chorus of hums, undulating through a melody that just as easily could have slotted into a delicate acoustic ballad. And the shimmery “He Don’t Want It” glows like a fog-wreathed neon landscape. Tinashe’s career started with dreamy mixtapes that she made alone in her bedroom in her parents’ house, and she’s long since moved on to more sophisticated setups, but in these tracks from her own castle, she touches something stellar.