Joy Crookes’s Introspective Soul Digs Deep Beneath Her ‘Skin’

LONDON – Joy Crookes knew she was making a statement by calling her debut album “Skin”.

“It’s one of the strongest parts of our body,” said the 22-year-old singer-songwriter. But “in every other way, socially and externally, it is used against us,” she added in a recent interview in her London apartment, on the sofa with the Kama Sutra and a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, which is on a sparsely filled Shelf can be seen nearby.

Due October 15th, Skin makes a passionate statement about their British-Irish-Bangladeshi heritage. “The thing about mixed races is that there is so much projection,” she said. “My identity is entirely my responsibility and my choice, and I don’t need anyone’s permission.”

In her music, Crookes offers listeners a nuanced and open exploration of their multiethnic identity. At a time when much of the conversations about race in the arts and calls for change have only recently begun, Crookes’ dedication to vulnerability in her storytelling has helped her connect with a growing – and loyal – fan base.

Listening to Crookes’ soulful, intimate music can feel like joining in a private conversation or opening a journal and placing it alongside introverted British artists like Arlo Parks and Cleo Sol. “Don’t you know that the skin you are given is there for life?” She sings on the album’s nude title track with a plea in her voice, quoting words she spoke to a suicidal friend over simple piano and strings Has. Other songs address her experiences of sexual assault and speak directly to the British Conservative Government: “No kingdom if tomorrow is ready for the children,” she sings on the sharp-tongued, retro-tinged “Kingdom”.

Growing up, Crookes – who turns 23 on October 9 – bought CDs from Marvin Gaye and Kate Nash and taught himself to play guitar and piano and later to produce. She was first contacted at 15 by a music manager who saw a YouTube video of her and a friend covering “Hit The Road Jack.” At 19, she signed a Sony Music label.

In the past four years, she has released three EPs and several singles, was featured in a Beats campaign and was shortlisted for the 2020 BRIT Rising Star Award, given to the British act set to make it big next year .

“Every now and then there is someone who is phenomenally talented, incredible in their emotions and how they process the world around them,” said Blue May, a producer who worked on “Skin,” who believes Crookes has the potential To be “a voice” for their generation. “

The process of writing “Skin” unearthed strong feelings about her family’s history. Crookes’ Irish father and his Bangladeshi mother split turbulently when she was two years old. As she navigated her diverse cultures, she felt that she “cannot be a by-product of one or the other” considering “how much war that would have caused,” she said.

Some trauma left even deeper generational wounds. “All the men in my family were killed in front of my great-grandmother,” said Crookes, referring to Bangladesh’s bloody struggle for independence from what was then West Pakistan. “The effects of that war live on today.”

On the album, Crookes leans on her Bangladeshi roots and sings the slang Bangla phrase “Theek Ache” – translated as “it’s OK” – to shake off the nightly escapades of drinking and dating. She also carefully examines her family’s experiences as immigrants living in London. “I’ve seen the things that you’ve seen / you don’t speak, you leave your mark,” she sings to her Bangladeshi relatives in the dramatic, soulful “19. Stock ”, named after her grandmother’s apartment in the public housing estate in south London, where Crookes spent much of her childhood.

Crookes also immortalizes her family history in her music videos. The clip for “Since I Left You” is based on a photo taken in her family’s village in Bangladesh and shows the musician tearfully in front of a corrugated iron hut with clotheslines blowing in the wind.

For camerawoman Deepa Keshvala, working with Crookes on the video was the first time in her seven years in the music industry that she saw someone proudly flaunting their South Asian heritage.

“She was 19 when we did this,” she said in a telephone interview. At this age “it’s pretty amazing to have a strong sense of who you are”.

Crookes said her music is therapy that keeps paying off. “That’s how I let things out and it’s just my job,” she said. “I think it’s a building block for me as a person and learning about myself.”

Leave a Comment