Explore Issue 01 of LOOP Magazine

Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

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Joy Crookes Makes An Impact With Her Stunning Debut Album , “Skin”

We first saw Joy Crookes make her stamp in the music industry in 2016, when she released her debut single New Manhattan at age 17. Since then, she’s released two EP’s in the forms of love letters to her hometown of London, become a Brit ‘Rising Star’ nominee, and was even handpicked as the support slot for Harry Styles (before the minor issue of a pandemic set in). It’s been a long time coming, but finally, 2021 saw the release of Crookes’ debut album ‘Skin’, which beautifully delves into stories of female empowerment, mental health awareness and political downfall.

The record kicks off with sultry and soulful I Don’t Mind which Crookes has admitted was initially written for an ex-partner to understand the decline of their relationship. The British-Irish-Bangladeshi musician reflects on the physicality in her past relationship, a pivotal point for other women of colour, as Joy recalled in an interview with BBC “I’ve spoken to a lot of brown women who’ve said it was empowering to hear someone talk about their body and sex like that. And I was like, “Well, I mean, it’s important, but also it’s just like an everyday thing, isn’t it?””. And it’s not this side of female empowerment Crookes explores, she exposes the ‘power’ men think they hold over women in the poignant 2021 rendition of her 2018 track Power as she hisses “you came here through a woman, show some fucking respect”.

Growing up in South London, it’s fair to say Joy Crookes has seen a first hand account of political tumult as well as the aftermath captured on the streets of London. Channeling the feelings of generational trauma, Kingdom takes on a vibrant 2015-esque indie energy, written just after the Conservatives were re-elected in 2019. Following track, and FIFA 22 banger, Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, explores similar political themes which focus on ‘cancel culture’, written in the perspective of someone who doesn’t speak up and spreads awareness as much as they know they can. The track is a perfect onomatopoeia, animated basslines partnered with proactive lyrics in the verses, whilst the choruses develop on the character’s failure to be a genuine ally, and that’s where the indigent yet incredible strings come in.

The album offers a key to unlock Crookes’ intimate storytelling which often remains behind closed doors. The songwriter describes a constant argument with a family member in Trouble, where sticky riffs and lines go hand in hand with creative metaphors, “I’m Villanelle to your Sandra Oh”. Brass section heavy and Ebo Taylor inspired When You Were Mine is a candid story into an ex-partner who ended up being gay, with an undeniable backdrop of Crookes’ beloved Brixton.

Capturing the album artwork within her music, Crookes doesn’t shy away from some of the most delicate and emotional subjects which centre around ‘Skin’. Unlearn You see’s Crookes show off her soprano vocals, whilst gracefully singing about an abusive relationship, which so many women can relate to in different scenarios, “I didn’t ever wear a dress / In case you thought I was asking for it”. With only strings and piano as means of music, it really is Joy’s spotlight moment.

For a title track, it doesn’t get much better than Skin; Joy Crookes creates a piece of music that is John Lewis Christmas advert standard. The song is centred around a friend who’s life they thought wasn’t worth living, as the musician admits “I wrote this song for a loved one last year who was at a stage where he thought his life was no longer worth living. I hope the song offers something to everyone battling with their demons and the people around them who are supporting them.”. With noticeable and understandable cracks in her rich vocals, Crookes sings “Don’t you know the skin that you’re given was made to be lived in / You’ve got a life / You’ve got a life worth living”, even the toughest of people would be hard pushed not to have a lump in their throat after listening to the track.

Painting a skyline of her life belonging in London, Crookes turns her head to a darker side and a Portishead influence in 19th Floor. In another breath, the musician takes on similarities to early Adele and Amy (Winehouse, to state the obvious) in To Lose Someone, a track which begins with a haunting string section divulging a conversation about heartbreaking with her Bangla mother. A gorgeous ballad which is rich in soul with rippling and deep piano chords, before and after Crookes eloquently professes “To love someone is to lose someone”.

Delving into some of the rawest subjects in such a lucid manner, Joy Crookes approaches ‘Skin’ with relatability, whilst maintaining an openness which is nothing but admirable. A debut which deserves to be hailed as one of Britain’s finest.

Words by Izzy Sigston

Posted On 4 October, 2022