By Holly Smith
Revolutions are noisy, but there’s something quietly resolute in Joy Oladokun’s music; her voice may be gentle, but her words carry an unmistakable weight.
1. Keeping The Light On
3. Taking Things for Granted
4. Somebody Like Me
5. Friends feat. Mt. Joy
6. Purple Haze
8. You At The Table feat. Manchester Orchestra
9. Sweet Symphony feat. Chris Stapleton
10. The Hard Way
13. Revolution feat. Maxo Kream
14. We’re All Gonna Die feat. Noah Kahan
Love, loss, heartache. The well-worn themes of country music and its sibling genres require that their most successful artists perfect the art of finding new ways to say old things. So it’s rare that someone comes along with a truly unique story to tell. Enter Joy Oladokun.
She’s described her new album, Proof of Life, as “evidence of how I live - it tries to capture the human experience”. Whilst that is surely the aim of anyone who puts their story on paper, this one stands out because it details a human experience that is, unfortunately, rarely told in the genre. “Being a queer black person growing up in Arizona is unique to my story”, Oladokun explains.
This excellent album, which draws on country, soul, R&B, blues and even electronic music on opener ‘Keeping The Light On’, ponders the big questions of life through the finer details of Joy’s own. Both personal and accessible, searching and life-affirming, above all, it’s an enemy of cynicism and a lesson in hope.
Joy is either remarkably charitable to those who would wrong her, or someone who is able to bear life’s cruelties by finding an explanation for them, singing “Those who try to cut you down are scared of their own truth / it’s easy to forget that they are people just like you” on the stunning piano ballad ‘Pride’.
That recognition of the humanity at the heart of us all is present across every song, whether she’s appreciating the power of platonic love on the spiritual ‘Friends’, missing someone on the mournful ‘You At The Table’, pondering the challenge of keeping up with uncertain times on the intimate ‘Changes’, or telling it how it is on the singalong chorus of ‘We’re All Gonna Die’, featuring Noah Kahan.
The natural softness of her voice is not to be mistaken for vulnerability. Whilst some people might be daunted laying down a vocal next to Chris Stapleton, Joy takes the opportunity to let her voice rip open alongside his across the soulful guitar and strings of ‘Sweet Symphony’.
In the face of constant justification of her own existence, Joy is determined. “I’m a revolution, I won’t deny it, I’m just trying to make it better”, she sings on the smooth and rousing ‘Revolution’. Revolutions are noisy, but there’s something quietly resolute in Joy Oladokun’s music; her voice may be gentle, but her words carry an unmistakable weight.
8.5 / 10
Joy Oladokun's 2023 album, Proof of Life, is released April 28th via Amigo Records / Verve Forecast / Republic Records. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below:
For more country albums released in 2023 and their release dates, head here.
For more Joy Oladokun, see below: