TRACK REVIEW: Joy Oladokun- Shelter



Joy Oladokun








Shelter is available at:

RELEASED: March 2016



Los Angeles, U.S.A.


IT is a rarity encountering a musician who brings faith and hope...

into music.  In the sea of love-against-the-rocks-cum-my-heart-is-broken songs; it is refreshing finding someone who strays away from such obvious themes.  After the recent upheaval in the world- attacks around the globe- we need to embrace music that gives us strength and makes us reflect.  There is selfishness and self-obsession among many current-day artists.  Writing a love song- for instance- is a necessary and brave move.  After a while, the tutored listener yearns for something more fulfilling and inspiring.  My featured artist- who I shall introduce shortly- is bringing hope and faith to people.  I do not mean in an ecumenical sense, exclusively:  something uplifting in a general sense, more like.  There are not many musicians out there who use their voice and songs to promote purity, thanks and honesty.   I feel like there is much negativity and accusation in today’s songs.  I am starting to sound like a middle-aged man- I shall temper my rant- but there are masses of vitriol, pain and finger-pointing to be found.  Once in a while, we want to listen to music that has that positivity and redemptiveness; using music as a gospel, in a sense- reaching listeners and concentrating on something deeper and more profound.  Music is a tool that should inspire and amaze people:  do something primal and elicit all sorts of emotions and thoughts.  There are opportunities being wasted and too many who plague music with their own pain and opinions.  In the way politicians have the platform to make real change- and really don’t when you think about it- musicians are similarly privileged.

When I think of Joy Oladokun; I am amazed by her for a number of reasons.  I shall go into more depth, but for now, let me introduce her to you:

Joy Oladokun is a LA-based singer/songwriter who combines the sounds of roots rock, with folk songwriting and a voice that oozes with soul and honesty. Writing and playing the guitar from the age of 10, Joy has always used music as a way to make sense of the struggles and celebrate the triumph of life. In 2015, Joy self-produced and released her debut EP titled 'Cathedrals', still available on iTunes. Last year, Joy raised $30,000 in a Kickstarter campaign for the funding of her first full-length album.

Joy Oladokun has recently released Shelter, the first single taken from her upcoming debut album. As for the meaning behind the song she adds 'Shelter is a song I wrote about learning how to receive love, and fighting to give it without reservation or condition'.

Her debut album Carry is set to be released on April 29th. Joy states 'Every song stemmed from a lesson I learned, or a lesson I'm still learning. I write to process and to heal, and I sing to help others do the same. I think this past year has taught me that my voice is one of the few gifts I have, and I can use it to spread a lot of love and lift people up. That's the heart behind the album, and that's my motivation as a person too.' Joy will embark on a worldwide tour later this year to support her new material.

Again, I’m at the feet of an L.A.-based musician.  It seems inevitable to find myself in this position:  with every passing week, I swear I will wean myself from the alluring bosom of Los Angeles.  Oladokun has an arresting voice that delivers its messages with a stunning weight and authority.  When I listen to her sing; hear those tones rise and power:  you cannot help but be blown away and overwhelmed.  With such a weapon at her disposal:  Oladokun uses it to teach lessons and exorcise demons inside her.  As our heroine has already stated:  songs stems from experiences and harsh realisations; the aural projection of reality check and revelation.  Yes, you are going to get the odd line about love and broken hearts:  by-and-large, the music concentrates on something much wiser and deep.  It is rare to find a songwriter who does things differently to everyone else.  Her album, Carry, is released in a few weeks and has come about due to a (successful) Kickstarter campaign.  The fans and followers have backed the L.P. and ensured it sees the light:  clearly there is a lot of love and support for Joy Oladokun.  Music is an industry that demands relentless dedication and a- seemingly endless- supply of money.  I feel financial concerns are pricing upcoming artists out of the business.  You can have immense ambition and plenty of energy:  that can all dissipate when the issue of financing and money comes into view.  Certain people have views on crowd-funding websites.  Many consider it a bit of a cheat:  an easy way to get money for projects; not an honest way of doing things.  I disagree with this completely.  I have reservations- with regards this issue- when it comes to celebrities and big bands.  I have seen many well-off celebrities use these sites to raise extra money:  funds they surely have in their pocket?!  Crowd-funding websites are essential for musician and a way for the art-form to survive.  Was it not for the generous pockets and faithful hearts of her followers:  Carry might never have seen the light of day?  I am glad it has as it is among the most impressive and unforgettable albums this year.  Shelter is a wonderful window into a record that amazes and stuns with every listen.  I am looking at social media and seeing the reviews come through:  writers are eager to lend their praise and adulation to Oladokun’s cause.  Not just confined to L.A.-based writers:  around the world; the paen and appreciation have been flooding in.  It makes me happy to see this happen.  Joy Oladokun is among the strongest and real musicians out there:  somebody born to do this; gives music the soul and honesty it desperately craves.  I know touring dates are on the cards this year.  Whether Oladokun will come to the U.K. - let’s hope she does- is another matter.  There is a great fan-base waiting here and thousands who would come to her gigs and show their support.

I have seen commentators and reviewers who share the same opinion:  Joy Oladokun is an artist who sounds like a veteran; someone who has been producing albums for many years.  The truth is, this young artist has been playing for a few years- she has many years in front of her.  Shelter is the latest cut from one of the most prolific and impressive musicians around.

   MJ was released near the end of last year and is a heart-stopping and tender thing.  A curious and wonderful song:  you start to picture the scenes and get to the roots of its mysteries.  Backed by guitar- a beautifully raw and rumbling string- that voice swoons and seduces.  Praying for peace and answers; “We’re no more than strangers” is a coda that causes emotional reaction and curiosity.  Whether documenting a broken love or falling friendship:  our heroine is not going to kick and scream; not beg and let things get her down.  That strength and resilience overrides the mood and shows incredible fortitude and strength.  Even from such an early track; you hear that authority and conviction.  Sounding seasoned and completely in-control:  the song makes an enormous impact and shows the heroine in entrancing mode.

   Falling Stones was released shortly after (MJ) and is a similarly-paced song.  If anything, there is a softness and gentleness to be found.  Perhaps the finest and sensitive song from Oladokun:  it is a pure Folk song given a modern twist.  Finger-picking guitar backs a song that tackles demons and investigates the issues of loneliness.  The heroine turns the lights out and closes the door:  the floor’s writing is being read; she falls asleep and thinks about life.  Here is a song that has maturity and wisdom at its heart.  Our heroine looks back at hearts she’s broken:  how life has thrown obstacles and the struggles she has witnessed.  There is no sense of guilt and anger to be found:  just a woman that wants to make things better and learn from these lessons.  Each new occurrence/pain makes her stronger and more determined.  This is reflected in a song that gets inside the head and makes you think about your own life.

    Little Runaway is perhaps the most haunting song from Joy Oladokun.  The voice is at its most shivering and shimmering.  The song’s subject is running and affected by liars and the deceitful.  The heroine is singing to him/her and wanting a safe return.  Maybe they (the runaway) wants a dream life and something safe:  not quite what they have right now.  As the song progresses, it seems like a call to a lover or friend.  Oladokun will do anything just to be with them:  the chance to sit with her and put down their weary head.  It is a scintillating song that explodes with emotion and declaration.  One of the most direct and urgent songs you can hear:  that bare-naked, exposed voice is a thing of beauty.  It cracks and holds; it coos and strikes- so much pain and heartache come through in some moments.

Given the varied and consistent catalogue shown:  it seems Carry will include a few of these tracks.  I would love to see all the aforementioned included:  the songs show the different sides to Oladokun and just what she can achieve.  So confident and cemented in her early days:  few musicians have that sort of ability and quality at such an early stage.  Not only will her album show what an amazing talent we have:  its reception and reviews will (one hopes) give her the confidence to keep making music- to grow and do what she loves.  A lot of artists seem rather cautious in their sapling recordings:  Joy Oladokun is one of the boldest and determined musicians I have ever heard.  Long may she continue!

The reason I am typing is to review and investigate Shelter.  Given the weight of love and degree of consideration the song has been granted already- what can I provide?  Starting with a combination of gentle piano- carefully paced and elliptical- we hear some far-off, wordless vocals:  the earliest moments cause you to lean into the speakers and inside a dreamy and peculiar sound.  Emotive and distant; direct and mysterious:  there are contradictions and conflicts to be discovered.  Some people might get an impression of Adele in Oladokun’s voice.  There are similar tones and conviction, but for my money, that is where the similarities end.  Oladokun has far more gravitas and variation to her sound:  it is a deeper and more fascinating vocal.  The early words are from a woman that is trying to mend fences and talk things through.  Her sweetheart is walking out the door; ignorant and blind to the issues in front of them.  Things need to be discussed and reconciliation arrived at.  Our heroine is patient but keen to get the dialogue started.  Shelter was inspired by- in Oladokun’s words- the need to fight for love without reservation; learning how to receive love.  Looking at indiscretions and faults- the hero has negative and is not perfect- there is not that need and desire.  While many songwriters are angry and short-tempered when it comes to the imbalance in love:  here, there is that need to maturely discuss things and make the relationship stronger and purer.  With only one demand- “Promise you’ll be honest”- you cast your imagination inside the song and are sat alongside the two lovers.  Oladokun keeps the composition slight and bare:  the piano is fleet-footed and punctuating; it is the rich and emotive vocal that is given the spotlight here.  Without pretense and pressure; without force and demands:  this relationship can only grow and succeed if they are on a level plain.  Showing compassion and maturity:  the duo needs to work through things and come together.

There is positivity and faithfulness that rides through the entire song.  There are never any regrets and harsh words:  the heroine is a safe haven and shelter for her man; she will protect him when needs be.  Before too long, the vocals layer and augment:  the song starts to build and the narrative changes direction.  It takes a while to make a “house a home” it is said:  things will not improve and be wonderful in such a short time.  A tense and spattering beat joins the mix as the song accelerates and kicks up.  With energy and fresh impetus:  Shelter transforms from gospel-like investigator to motivated soul jam.  Oladokun brings that chorus back in and it has gained fresh relevance:  sounding bigger and more memorable than the first time around.  Many songwriters have covered similar themes- learning from hurt and changing the past- but few with such a conviction and originality.  At every stage, that deep and entrancing voice ensure each lyric is given huge meaning.  The song’s hero has been scarred before and seems reluctant to lend his heart freely.  Our heroine understands this and is not looking to rush things.  What they both need- that desire coming through- is a strong and safe love.  Mutual indemnification if you will:  it may not sound like Romeo and Juliet but it is what both crave and need.  The hero has his wounds and gone through hard days; our heroine promises safe arms and a secure foundation.  If the hero is lost and in need of a shelter:  Oladokun is going to be there and will not run away from things.  I know our heroine has reflected on real-life events, but it makes you wonder.  Is this relationship- the one being investigated- still going?  Shelter seems like such a logical definition of Carry:  the purest and honest song you can ever hope for.  The album is sure to feature different angles on love, faith and support:  Shelter is the most evocative and beautiful example of this.  By the final seconds, you are powerless to resist the power and potency of the chorus.  Oladokun layers her voice- some wordless coos in there- and ensures her intentions and promises are heard and understood.

When things do end, you smile and take it all in.  Shelter has a contemporary sound- I have mentioned the likes of Adele; perhaps an apt comparison- but looks at the soul and folk of the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Those legends of the genre- from Tracy Chapman to Aretha Franklin; to Marvin Gaye- might come to mind but you cannot overlook the singularity and personality of Joy Oladokun.  Here is a singer that does not want to be compared with anyone else and has her own way of working.  There are not many musicians that write such positive and inspiring songs.  Shelter is one of the most overtly hopeful and fighting-against-the-odds songs.  When I review similar tracks- that try to build a relationship- the outcome is always the same:  things hit the rocks and there is blame left in the air.  Not the case here.  That strong ethic remains throughout- talking things through and just knowing (our heroine lets it be known) there is comfort and safety to be found in the storm.  With that in mind, you cannot help but fall for Shelter.  The terrific production values allow Oladokun’s rich and expressive voice sit at the top of the mix:  unimpeded and at its most striking.  Few songs this year will leave such an impression in the mind.

Shelter has resonated with a lot of people over the last few weeks.  Since its release; I have seen so many reviews come through that say the same things.  The positivity and adulation cannot be overstated:  a singular moment that cannot be faulted or diminished.  There are a lot of promising solo artists that each has their own sound.  I am hard-pushed to compare Joy Oladokun with anyone else.  A heartwarming and joy-seeking artist:  how many musicians look for the positives in life?  I feel we are becoming unevolved and going backwards somewhat:  so many aspects of society are regressing to past days.  With violence and uncertainty rising; political turmoil and horror- the unstoppable force of the monster Trump- we all need a common grace and light.  In the past, music used to provide that.  I am not sure what it is but things are starting to disintegrate and fragment.  Fewer trailblazers and emerging; the captivating spirit of Rock is weaning; the surprise and originality are coming out of music (to a degree).  When I look at Joy Oladokun I see a musician from a different time.  She has elements of the soul greats of the past:  when the likes of Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone used to rule; the Folk goddesses like Tracy Chapman reigned.  Essentially, we have a musician that is bringing the good and virtuous back into music.  Someone who is promulgating positive messages and baring her soul with it.  Shelter is a gorgeous song that gives thanks for this love; it does not pour cynicisms and scorn on it.  There are those who use music to portray the tragedy and heartache of love:  being duped, dumped and infected by something wholly regretful.  Oladokun is not your average songwriter, sir:  she gives love without reservation; ensures her heart and soul is received with no malice and prerequisites.  Who can argue with such a force of nature?  If more musicians were like our heroine then the industry would be in a much better position.  It is not just the words and ethics that impress me.  That central voice is undeniably raw and wonderful.  You get shades of Soul and Folk greats- bits of Chapman seep through at times- but such is the originality and flair of the voice.  It is hard to take it all in for one reason:  it is a pure and very real sound.  Artists- not all, but many- ululate and project too much they disguise their personality or mimic others; they lose focus and control.

Oladokun is one of the most direct and natural singers I have heard.  There are no added ingredients or needless showiness:  just a passionate young woman who wants her music to inspire and uplift.  The sermon-like songs are having an effect and making their mark around the world.  When Carry is released, it will show Oladokun at full flight and full force.  I cannot wait to get inside the album and revel in its many sides and emotions.  If Shelter is anything to go by; we are about to witness one of the most essential and impressive albums in years.  I will end looking at Oladokun’s future and how she fits into the current scene.  I have talked about her tour dates and plans- taking the music around the U.S. - but surely a stop-off in Britain is on the agenda?  The U.K. holds so much love and affection for one of music’s most promising stars.  I know a few London venues that would host Oladokun and see the bodies pack in.  With summer approaching, it seems the perfect time to have her come to London:  seduce and amaze the audiences with that singular and mesmeric sound.  From there, who knows?  Carry is the result of crowd-funding faith and a lot of demand.  Once the dust settled and the record has been received; where does the L.A. musician head?  There is no telling how far Joy Oladokun can go.  She has said herself- on a Twitter post from a couple of weeks back- you can be red-hot one moment; forgotten the next.  Love, as she attests, will outlast everything.  As a musician, the parable is relevant indeed:  there is fickleness that means the very best can be buried and overlooked for no reason.  Putting faith, love and acceptance into her songs; trying to lift the listeners and provide guidance:  I find it hard to believe Joy Oladokun will ever be forgotten and passed by.   Whilst I type, I am listening to Shelter (again) and letting it do its thing:  washing into the subconscious and soothing the soul.  It also- clever little thing- hits the heart and provides immediate reaction.  I wonder how a song can do that, but when it comes to Joy Oladokun there is…

A lot more where that came from.


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