“I will not be ignored.”
It’s not about the destination. It’s the Joyride.
True, it feels like forever since Tinashe first dropped her major label debut, Aquarius in 2014 (the best album of that year) — way longer if you, like me, have remained a ride-or-die ever since those earliest mixtapes: from 2012’s In Case We Die and Reverie, 2013’s Black Water through to last year’s Amethyst.
Ever the versatile act, she’s dabbled in between different genres (and languages) while prepping her seemingly eternally delayed sophomore LP, resulting in everything from “Player” to this summer’s fizzy “SuperLove” to #SomethingMoreNoSeasCortes with Enrique Iglesias to a UK club queen moment with KDA. (Oh, and then there’s that whole “Slumber Party” thing with underground indie punk singer-songwriter, Britney Spears…)
But it’s time to cruise down her own lane again.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it’s up to me,” Tinashe’s sagely declares on “Lucid Dreaming,” the opening track of her newest full-length project, Nightride.
And her message is more direct than ever: “If it’s my life, ain’t nobody gonna tell me how to live it.” Damn right.
As the 15-track set’s title might imply, Nightride is made for a late night listen — whether riding ’round windows down or putting on a private show between the sheets. For those concerned by her Top 40-friendly pop offerings and the myriad collaborations as of late, fear not: she hasn’t lost touch with her hazy, alt-R&B sound.
Plenty of new cuts like “C’est La Vie,” “Spacetime” and the drippy, slow-tripping “Sunburn” provide a continuation of the zoned-out sound of her early work. She hits harder on the Metro Boomin-produced “Sacrifices,” which recalls the lustier moments of Aquarius, like “Cold Sweat.”
She’s not necessarily here for a long time, just a good time — so consider yourself warned. “It’s not my M.O. to fall in love, but fucking around with me is dangerous,” she breathily purrs — aural foreplay before her unapologetic NSA anthem, “Company,” arrives in all its cocky glory.
She lays it down and promptly shuffles out the door — but not without switching up the production at the tail-end of the track, stretching the original outro into an oddly touching robotic chant. “I just wanna be the one you see every now and then…” Oh, precious fuck buddy.
Nightride is rich with atmospheric sound — she will not be ignored — to the point that she’s even supplying a brief moment of ASMR with her “Binaural Test” interlude. Tingles, anyone?
But the production isn’t just top-notch — it’s occasionally upside-down: “You Don’t Know Me,” one the most experimental cuts, featuring long stretches of lyrics and loops played in reverse (be still, my “Passion” heart), supplies an especially disorienting touch. “You don’t know me like you think you do,” she cautions; the backwards lyrics acting like a barrier to her deepest thoughts.
Previously released tracks like “Ride Of Your Life” and the still-incredible “Party Favors” aside, most of this is too left-lane to secure radio spins — except, perhaps, the finger-snapping “Touch Pass,” a striptease-friendly standout from her recent tour that bumps just as hard on record.
“This is so exclusive,” she coos with Janet-like precision on the piano-inflected deep bass banger. “You gotta touch pass, come through.”
As cohesive as Nightride is, she ends on an unexpectedly nostalgic note with “Ghetto Boy” — which is not a Cheryl cover, sadly. Instead, she dabbles in Dev Hynes-slash-True-era Solange-slash-Carly Rae Jepsen ’80s prom power ballad territory. “Nobody’s gonna hurt you, nobody’s gonna do this for you,” she sweetly assures.
Update: Nicola Roberts wrote the track with Dev Hynes (knew that was him!) and Babydaddy, she confirmed. Together, that’s Girls Aloud, Tinashe, Dev Hynes and Scissor Sisters all on one song. Category is: “shook.”
Her potential as an artist is endless, truly.
Nightride contains all the key characteristics of mixtape Tinashe, her best creative mode, taken to the next level: moody, downtempo, lusty, unwaveringly confident and just out of this world, filled with those heaven-sent coos echoing in the distance; the essential soundtrack for an after-hours escape.
After a few bumps in the road, this is the sound of Tinashe taking control of the wheel again for one of her most focused projects yet. And it’s one smooth ride.
Nightride was released on November 4. (iTunes)