Joy Crookes’ debut album is called Skin. For a newcomer’s first major collection of songs, it’s a title that could come across as a little understated. As far as semantics go though, it can be said to be a clever wink at how effortlessly this rising singer-songwriter slips under the listener’s skin.
Listen to any of her tracks new and old alike (she has three EPs, as well as singles including a hypnotic cover of the ’90s indie-rock anthem You And Me Song), and it’s too easy to be reeled in by those husky, retro-tinged vocals. Warm, self-assured and achingly tender, her voice is an addictive hook that’s often earned her at all of age 23 comparisons to all-time greats in jazz and soul. Crookes – who grew up in South London with a multiracial background (mum’s Bangladeshi-Bengali and dad is Irish) – however, does not want to be pigeonholed.
“I sometimes feel that if I were a white artist, it’d be easier to call my music pop,” she says over a Zoom call in late September, dressed in a cap and hoodie. “I think pop is an interesting genre because it literally only means popular. It isn’t defined by where you’re from… It can feel loaded when people call me neo-soul or R&B or anything along those lines because, fundamentally, I don’t make that music. I do wonder if I wasn’t who I am, with the skin colour that I have, would I still be called those things, you know?”
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