Brace yourselves. This album stinks to high heaven. Once upon a time, Tinashe showcased great potential. Following poor debut album sales (70,000), the 25-year-old pop star decided to switch lanes. Personally, I found no fault in how she made her albums. Tinashe’s 2014 debut Aquarius was stellar. Despite a lack of commercial support, her rookie effort impressed me. Songs such as “Bet,” “All Hands on Deck,” and “How Many Times” remain in my R&B rotation. Tinashe’s talent cannot be denied. However, some questioned her artistic credibility. For years I’ve defended Tinashe. I loved her mixtapes before and after Aquarius. Spacey, moody trap-R&B is her strong suit. Even her seven-track EP Amethyst I liked. Nevertheless, Tinashe’s third full-length fails to progress her artistry. It is an off-the-rails mess of pop clichés. While die-hard fans might salvage a few tracks, Tinashe gives no reason to invest in her potential here.
Warning: This album runs out of gas sooner rather than later. Matter of fact, Joyride is on Empty by the end of the first song. The title track embodies the overarching theme of the album. Not only does Tinashe struggle to commit to one style across the album, nearly all of these songs lack identity. Although she has every right to vary between styles, Tinashe stifles this long-awaited project with uncertainty. A handful of tracks on Joyride undergo multiple sonic transformations. Due to this, the album feels like one giant question mark. After three years of hype, this is what we get? I’m salty, y’all. Perhaps I placed too much faith in her artistry. However, I know for a fact she’s a more meticulous artist than this current material. Lyrical substance is this album’s worst enemy.
While many pop offerings reside at surface level, these 13 tracks do not compensate with sticky hooks and melodies. Rather than reflecting on personal experience, she replaces lyricism with stale vocal ad-libs and pseudo-raps. I could excuse simple lyrics if they turned into hit records. There are none here however. She presents a care-free vibe across this tracklist. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just strange that in a time when female empowerment is as important as ever, Tinashes focuses on one-night stands instead. Femininity was once a priority in her music. Now it seems like she couldn’t care less. No one said she is an activist. And I don’t expect her to be. Yet I sense a whiffed chance to expand her musical message. Additionally, her voice lost its luster. Tinashe limits herself to tired contemporary soundscapes. She favors SoundCloud-esque simplicity possibly to sell more albums.
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know how much that bothers me. Tinashe used to tackle society, consciousness, and relationship woes. Her fringe pop approach drew me in. The only remnants of this past agenda appear on the interlude “Go Easy on Me”. She states that the world is sick with ignorance, pollution, bigotry, and hatred. However correct her claims are, the interlude lasts 30 seconds. She gives no context to her statements. No other tracks address these issues. So, I have to label them as fake-deep sentiments. Stating the obvious without a fresh take is hollow to say the least. Nevertheless, the subsequent song distracted me for a moment. “Salt” is Joyride’s single artistic feat. This vocal pop ballad expands her versatility. Unfortunately, it does not fit amidst the endless mediocrity presented here. Forgettable, dull, and regressive, Joyride stalls out before it can leave the driveway.