Two thumbs up for this well-branded independent artist I’m about to share with you. It took me a lot of snooping around to really prove that she isn’t signed to a record label of any sort. Her music production quality, online brand and music videos are all on point and well presented. The PR, community presence and press coverage for her music and tours are quite impressive for a home-grown indie artist. However, I didn’t need to wonder why for too long, she once was a full-time Publicist and music marketing blogger herself so I guess that explains it. We Plug To You Pittsburgh-based Singer/Songwriter Joy Ike.
For an artist whose tag line reads, “loves people, hates shoes, makes music“, it is no doubt there is a sense of carefree-ness about her and her art. Joy says of her music roots and her Nigerian heritage, “some of my earliest memories involve sitting in the living room with my family singing Nigerian choruses and finding ways to harmonize with my father’s booming voice and my mother’s soprano harmonies”. Her instrument of choice is the piano, which sits well with her Singer/Songwriter persona and her audiences range from the college crowd to a wider adult contemporary radio audience with her songs having been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Relevant Magazine’s The Drop among other tastemaker platforms. The Lilith Fair and Purple Door music festivals notably count as two of the over 400 shows Joy Ike has played while enjoying the opportunity to share the stage with artists such as Deas Vail, Butterfly Boucher, Dwele, Chrisette Michelle and Tyrone Wells among others.
Her latest album is titled All or Nothing and her sound on this record can be described as distinct and soulful. Self-described as ‘SoulFolk’, it is certainly folksy as evident in the swing of her vocal stylings, the incorporation of percussions and choppy piano arrangements and the narrative nature of her lyrics through honest interpretations of life and its issues, ranging from love to everyday relationships – poignant, honest, timeless. According to Joy in an interview with WYEP, she does not want her songs to be fluffy but impressionable and I believe that she has achieved that feat in All or Nothing. Needless to say, Joy Ike’s musical essence reminded me of Folk-Pop veteran Norah Jones with a tinge of Natasha Bedingfield. All or Nothing was released in January 2013 and it will be her third studio album and the follow-up to her 2010 album Rumors which we reviewed here. Joy worked on this album with Brooklyn-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Saul Simon MacWilliams (Ingrid Michaelson, Chris Garneau).
I closed my eyes as I let the 10 songs on All or Nothing fill my ears and affect my mind. I drifted in and out with the varying melodies and tempo of each song as it connected to the next with great arrangements and sequencing. The album’s song structure and mood are all well-fitted musically with some ballads, some upbeat songs, a guitar here, a marimba there, most with lush and full orchestra instrumentation, but not too far off the spectrum to be jolted out of a musical reverie. Most of the songs on the album are about sacrifices and selflessness, loving and living life, lyrically speaking. It is difficult to handpick a few choices off the album to represent its entirety in this article but I will go with these three selections – these are my personal preferences, “Everything You Have”, “Go” and “Promised Land”.
Percussive piano riffs drive “Promised Land“, a storytelling song about a love interest (seemingly a foreigner) who shouldn’t let Joy forget her land, her roots and origins. With staggered piano percussions in the backdrop, the violin arrangements join in the milieu and gain momentum as “Promised Land” progresses to drive the song into full gear, mid to the end of the song, with Joy’s smooth deliberate soulful vocals singing passionately about wanting to love yet not swaying away from her identity. Take a listen below:
So if you promise you’ll never let me forget my land / I will promise I’ll never let you forget your land
“Go” on the other hand, has a bluesy Gospel sound yet classical feel to it. Joy Ike’s vocals are also particularly Jazzy on this one. With classic piano chords banging a la Nina Simone style and retro-ish back up vocals and harmonies riding along soulfully – reminiscent of vintage lounge Vegas music which still holds firm residence in some of today’s biggest festivals such as the iHeartRadio Music Festival as well as several key music venues across the country. The lyrics – poetically stated – encourage everyone to “go out and get it“. The song ends with an orchestra like finish. Be inspired below…
Rightfully placed as the first song on the album, “Everything You Have” is more upbeat in tempo than what we’ve heard above, with a quite infectious Pop sensibility to it. I think I would call this the hit single of the album if there should be one and what a hit single this should be! Joy Ike’s vocal melodies and patterns ride on the clapping musical milieu driven by sharp violin infusions, thumping drums and string arrangements with a hook that’s very memorable. The lyrics are about finding true happiness, not in material acquisitions that can fall apart or fade away but in trusting in God.
I don’t want to make the world my god / Give up everything for nothing / I don’t care who you think you are / Everything you have will fall apart
Overall, All or Nothing is sure to float your musical boat if you love music that’s calm and collected while delivering strong lyrical content. This record is mellow, full of emotion, head-bopping, foot-tapping, pleasant, melancholic, vulnerable, honest and true – all in this eccentric mix. Lyrically, Joy tells meaningful stories within the songs and keeps you interested with her beautiful vocals and originality in instrumentation. Undoubtedly and without any reservations, All or Nothing is highly recommended for your playlist and again two thumbs up to Joy Ike.