Tinashe’s second full-length studio album comes in the wake of numerous mixtapes and EPs, all of which helped to maintain her profile in the competitive world of contemporary R&B but none of which connecting with radio in the same way that “2 On” did. Nightride continues to showcase Tinashe as a middle of the road artist who is capable of producing some mildly interesting moments, but falls into mediocrity on an extended project such as this. An accomplished team of writers and producers attempt to build more of a complex musical world around her relatively uninteresting voice, succeeding at times but collectively failing to escape the trap of being painfully average which afflicts many artists on their sophomore effort.
The fact that she hasn’t produced another hit is somewhat of a mystery, as Tinashe does adapt well to the current market of very ambient-sounding R&B and hip-hop. However, the project really picks up when she turns to producers who are more known for trap music and club bangers than floating over woozy instrumentals that sound like Drake is in one of his moods again. There is actually a lot of trap influence all over the project, but half the time it puts the syncopated hi-hats that define the genre over these slower and moody synths to varying degrees of success. Well-known producers like Metro Boomin, The-Dream and Dev Hynes all do a great job.
Tinashe’s work, as demonstrated by her metamorphosis into a Cassie Ventura for the new decade on “2 On”, is much better serving as a complement to tracks which run at a higher speed and are focused on large, dynamic trap-influenced beats. Her voice is simply not interesting or powerful enough to carry a slower and vocal-focused R&B ballad, which take up about half of the project. However, some producers certainly try to break up the monotony and provide some things we haven’t really heard before. The-Dream’s glitchy and distorted beat on single “Company” continues to diversify his profile as an R&B producer by successfully backing a Tinashe song with what sounds like early Skrillex. Dev Hynes, as well, has proven his masterful ability to alter his style to match a voice time and time again, and on closing track “Ghetto Boy” does it as well as he does on Carly Rae Jepsen’s underrated E-MO-TION album.
In contrast, the slower tracks like “Sunburn” are quite boring. The underlying problem with Nightride is the overwhelming similarities among the tracks – Tinashe is almost trying to adapt to a sound too much without adding enough individuality of her own in the process. There is not much of an understanding of her own strengths here. The sweet spot in Tinashe’s voice is the sugary and sensual upper range that she displays on tracks like “C’est La Vie” and the 2nd half of “Sacrifices” — acting more in the role that the vocalist on a popular EDM song does. She works as an airy complement to the prominent instrumental, but carrying a whole song at her full voice doesn’t work as well. For this reason, tracks like “Soul Glitch” and “Spacetime” go on far too long for what they are.
Ultimately, the fantastic interlude “High Speed Chase”, which runs barely over a minute, serves as a microcosm for the album as a whole. For an album that I was so bored by, on a relisten I was surprised by how many tracks stood out on their own as being very solid. There are many interesting musical moments here, they are just infrequent and inconsistent. Tinashe needs to grasp a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and firmly latch onto the former in the future.
Favourite Tracks: Ghetto Boy, C’est La Vie, Touch Pass, Ride of Your Life
Least Favourite Track: Sunburn