In 2015, Joy Oladokun accomplished more than many musicians could hope to do in an entire decade. She self produced and released a debut EP, Cathedrals, and successfully raised $30,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to fund her first full-length album. This is quite an astonishing feat in a time when music is readily available for free and only the biggest names in music see chart success. Even some of the popstars dominating the radio have remarked that the money just doesn’t come from the albums anymore – it’s more from the tours and shows. Oladokun’s ability to generate such a large amount of funding for her to pursue her musical goals speaks not to the music scene; people still aren’t willing to pay for music like they would in years past. Rather, this speaks to Joy’s talent, from her strikingly beautiful lyrics to her skillfully produced instrumentals, and to the sheer positivity that seems to radiate from her as a whole.
With Carry, Oladokun makes all of her Kickstarter backers proud, putting her best foot forward and creating a wide-ranging album that proudly showcases her artistry. From the opening track, “Fight For It”, Joy sets the tone for Carry with a lively and toe-tapping song that captures her underground essence. The bridge is a rousing instrumental that would no doubt be a highlight of Oladokun’s show when she embarks on a worldwide tour later this year in support of Carry.
On “Shelter”, Oladokun’s old soul shines through on a heartfelt track that beautifully illustrates the yearning for true love. “Just say the word, baby, and I’m yours. I’ll be Shelter, keep you safe and warm,” she sings, fiercely imploring the one she desires to open up and let her carry them through the rainy days. It’s hard to listen to Joy’s music without feeling some type of emotion – her songs, like “Shelter”, are all too relatable for both sides of the coin — whether you’re the one to whom Oladokun is singing or you find yourself in her shoes trying to prove to your true love that you’re their destiny.
A sizzling production on “Young” is what I imagine Oladokun’s stamp on Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” sounds like. Lyrics about being young and in love carry both songs. Oladokun infuses a much more modern twist, with a powerful bridge. Her voice remains pure even with the gritty and seductive backing track.
The second single from Carry, “Poison”, uses Oladokun’s soulful voice to take her painfully honest lyrics and turn them into a cathartic release from a relationship that’s run its course. She sings, “Like a dagger draped in jewelry, the closer you get to my heart, the more it hurts.” Lyrics like these aren’t something easily conjured out of thin air; Oladokun’s music is from life experience, and her emotions are palpable. “Poison” has the remarkable ability to both break your heart and mend it simultaneously.
When it comes to the album’s titular track, Oladokun expands on her message from “Shelter” but from a more intimate perspective. If Carry tells a story, then on “Shelter”, Joy had an awakening with a new love; it made her open her eyes on “Poison” to the toxic relationship she was in, and with “Carry”, she finds herself with fresh eyes, ready to more certainly pursue this new love. “You and I have storms we’ll face, but every cloud is lined grace … You and I have dreams to chase, we got lives to lead, no time to waste.” She’s consoling her potential love, assured that any turbulence they face will be momentary in the grander scheme of things. A touching song about a relationship being about both partners lifting each other up. “We were made to carry each other, and I’m here to carry you.”
The Top 40 would devour “Bread + Wine”, arguably Oladokun’s most mainstream sounding track, as Joy sings about fulfilling desires on a soft-rock beat. “I’m not saying we were heaven made, but our maker gave me the wisdom to know you’ve got what I’ve been missing. We’ve all got an itch we need to satisfy. You satisfy mine.” Oladokun’s dabble in a more provocative and sexual-charged song is done with sheer class, perfectly describing primal attraction but never coming close to feeling crass. “Bread + Wine” is a standout on Carry for its ability to stay authentic while exploring more mature subject matter.
“Charleston” and “Cold As Fire” strip back the tempo and find Joy at her most pensive and introspective. On “Charleston” she ponders the bigger questions like what heaven is like – but on “Cold As Fire” she taps into a raw nerve of emotion. “Poison” was just a taste of the ability Oladokun has to bring the feeling of heartache to life. She paints a depressingly sad picture of a love intense but icy. “I’m surviving losing you one day at a time…. No, I’m not getting over you.” “Cold As Fire” gave me goosebumps, and I felt my heart in my throat as Oladokun all too perfectly described the process of getting over a relationship that doesn’t just leave you in tears, but one that crushes you to your very core, breaking you apart. You have to put the pieces of your heart back together again solo, and Joy’s song is all too comforting to those going through the struggle of managing to finally feel “just okay” as opposed to “completely and utterly heartbroken.” In one word, powerful.
Oladokun ponders life after love dies on “Say You Will”, and Carry‘s closer, “Animals & Angels” ends on a more positive note with Joy ready to learn about a new lover and confessing her greatest fears.
Joy Oladokun’s Carry is a powerful and moving album. Just one listen will have you feeling and thinking about its beautifully crafted lyrics for days. Carry covers a wide range of lyrical material, and it does so with ease and precision. There will be times in life when it will be hard to listen to songs like “Cold As Fire” without crying your eyes out. There will be times when you wouldn’t even want to play that song because life is going so wonderfully. Songs like “Poison” and “Cold As Fire” are so powerful and raw that I hope you don’t have to listen to them often but take solace in the fact that they will be there to comfort you when you are going through some of your hardest struggles with love. While Carry is at its strongest when Oladokun is at her most fragile emotional state, the album is never too dark or dreary. Standouts like “Bread + Wine”, “Shelter”, and “Carry” are wonderful tracks with a much more positive outlook. As a whole, Carry comes together to be a strong debut that is certain to elevate Oladokun’s star presence to new heights.