Rising star Joy Crookes has been turning heads for a while now, ending 2020 in fourth place on the BBC Sound of 2020 list, which left us awaiting her success and anticipating what was to come. Crookes has now released her debut album, which fuses Neo-Soul with personal and political lyricism, resulting in a record exploding with vibrance and captivating storytelling.
Throughout the 13 tracks, we hear Joy explore various topics, such as; immigration, break-ups, generational trauma, tory neighbourhoods and mental health. These stories are met with the entrancing sound of Neo-Soul, a genre which embraces influences from Jazz, Funk, R&B and much more. Crookes has a sound reminiscent of the great Amy Winehouse with a similar London songwriter style, yet blends her own Bagladeshi-Irish heritage within her music, setting her apart from comparisons.
The album’s lead single ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’ saw Crookes embracing her heritage in the music video, stunning in a Saree and Bangladeshi accessories. She did this whilst incorporating the culture of growing up in London into her lyrics, in an empowering account to inspire listeners to stand their ground and fight for what they believe in.
One of the most personal tracks on the album ‘Unlearn you’ sends a poignant message on the effects of sexual violence, and how when faced with such a difficult situation, you can be left wishing you could reject that someone hurt you in such an inhumane way.
Speaking on the song, Joy said;
“I don’t know how I managed to get that one out. I had the lyric, ‘unlearn you from my body’, and I was interested in how, when you break up with someone, you still have phrases that you share and so you have to unlearn them.
Then when I started to write the melody, I realised what I’m really trying to talk about is unlearning something that happened to me that was completely out of my control.
It’s something that happens to so many men and women. You’re in a situation where someone else takes control of your body, your mind, your everything and how do you survive? How do you, more importantly, find a way to unlearn that from your body and not blame your body and not blame yourself for something as scary as that.”
It’s clear that Crookes poured her heart into this album, with many songs covering personal topics that must have been hard to sing. However, there are uplifting moments, such as ‘When You Were Mine’, which takes us on the eventful ride of Joy discovering her first love was actually gay. She says that a celebration of their love is at the heart of the track, intertwined with the slight bit of jealousy she felt seeing her ex move into a different relationship, made perfectly clear within the lyrics;
“I’m shook but you look good together
I had my hesitation, but I just can’t hate him”.
‘Skin’ is an album which sets an endearing soulfulness alight, projected through personal and thought provoking topics that take the listener on a rollercoaster of bittersweet emotions, as is life.
Words By Nadia Clasper
Photo Credit: Toast Press/Sony Music UK