Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Joy Oladokun “in defense of my own happiness” is a beautifully written exploration of self and bears witness to the songwriter’s journey. The opening track, “someone that i used to be,” is a begrudging acceptance of self and personal confrontation on how hard we can be on ourselves. It’s also an opening shot that tells the listener that Joy is moving forward to a better place. So much of the music that follows focuses on various challenges that she has worked through to get to this point.
In “sunday” Joy sings of the struggles she experiences under the burden of faith and expectations. In “I see America” faith, race, and relationships help continue the theme. In “let it be me” she seems to long for acceptance from her father and God. In “let it be me,” she sings “if there's one in the city, you're willing to keep. Let it be me. Let it be me, Lord.” This beautifully expresses her desire to hang onto family and faith while trying to get a firmer grip on herself and her identity. This type of songwriting is important to Joy. In a recent GOMAG.com interview, she said, "I think I have a responsibility to little queer girls like me who are super scared, and so they turn to Christianity to try to pray the gay away.’ I feel like I have a responsibility to live a loud and happy and spiritual life so that they know it’s possible.” The final song, “jordan” is a beautiful homage to “Take Me to the River.” But in this story, redemption is found outside of the shackles of organized religion.
The relationship songs are beautiful and offer no easy answers to the complexity of love. The duets “wish you the best,” sung with Jensen McRae), and “Bigger Man,” sung with Maren Morris), both position the storyteller as the person trying to take the higher road.
The songs I enjoy the most are” look up” and “if you got a problem.” These are lovely positive lights that give the album a fuller emotional experience. Plus, I love to share these songs with people that I love. The songs are catchy and convey something wonderful.
I should say that I was drawn to Joy’s voice the first time I heard it. It is full, deep, and so emotional. Another thing I like about the album is that the album title and all the songs, except “Bigger Man,” do not use capital letters. This compliments the humility of the album. Finally, it’s important to note that the story is Joy’s, but on many of the songs, there is a team working together to create great lyrics and beautiful music.
In the end the lyrics, the themes, the production, and Joy’s voice all worked together to make this one of my favorite albums of 2021.
Update: Just bought 4 tickets to see Joy in Dallas next year. Can’t wait to write the review.