Recently featured as Billboard Pride’s Artist of the Month and on Spotify’s physical billboard on 12th Ave as you head into Nashville’s downtown, Joy Oladokun is not only an artist to watch but possesses a voice and perspective that gracefully demands to be listened to.
In a time of sleekly-branded pop artists overly focused on image rather than on authenticity, Oladokun is truth cutting through corporate soundwaves.
She released her mostly self-produced record in defense of my own happiness (vol. 1) on July 17th, her first full length since 2016. I absolutely love the title not just for its encapsulation of her experience in these times or the implications of songwriting serving as a constructive method to achieving joy and fulfillment, but because it also implies there will be more.
The album opens with “smoke,” a song that just sounds like its in transit. As we walk to work or drive across town or just stumble through the day, the only way to clarity is through “all of this smoke.” There’s a line in this song that says: “sometimes I feel jealous of Jesus for falling asleep in the middle of the storm.” I love these kinds of cryptic lyrics where I know what it means and its resonance to me personally, but I would never confirm with the artist as sometimes songwriting is intentional and sometimes it just happens to you.
If beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, meaning is in the hearts and minds of the listener.
Oladokun released “sunday” as a single in 2019 and it quickly became one of my most streamed songs of the year. She struggles with the generational shame of sexuality in the context of spirituality. It’s a raw, impassioned and permeating standout.
“bad blood” is a beautifully self-aware song of resistance against resentment and shame and I love the transition of its ease into “unwelcoming,” which is both appropriately unsettling in the best way and the kind of darkness you want to tap your foot in. “lost” is a welcome Don Henley/Peter Gabriel reminiscent track, with a wide open chorus filled with shimmering, anthemic guitar strums and a four on the floor beat.
The transition to “mercy” is intentionally seamless and its lyrics “the devil’s not in the details, he’s on the front page” is a chillingly accurate proclamation.
in defense of my own happiness (vol. 1) closes with a pair of sparse confessions in “breathe again” and “too high” and a soulful reflection in “younger days.” Joy’s voice intentionally clips toward the end as she pleadingly insists to us, and I can only assume to herself, that she wouldn’t change a thing about her younger days. All the smoke she’s weathered and the Sunday wrestlings have made her who she is today.
in defense of my own happiness (vol. 1) does a beautifully necessary job of walking the cusp between grief and hope, between longing and accepting.