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Joyce Wrice “Overgrown” Album Review

Nostalgia continues to overpower us. Overgrown, Joyce Wrice’s debut album, clearly establishes that. Refreshingly, Overgrown consistently succeeds in exploring a theme of maturity.

Interestingly, YouTube introduced me to Joyce Wrice by chance. I wanted to find new indie R&B acts, and she was the first one I stumbled upon. “Ain’t No Need” quickly became a morning staple before work.

So now we arrive at Overgrown, an album determined to transport R&B back to its basics. I’m not mad at it. I’ll be the first to admit R&B needs to be rescued from creative bankruptcy. Joyce deserves props for taking a traditional approach amidst the Trap&B movement.

The Review

“Chandler” opens up with sweeping violins and jazzy background vocal stylings. It’s an opener I’d expect from 2000s staples like Mya, Tamia, and so much more. “Chandler” has a clear goal: transportation. It drops us into a realm meant to be filled with overture. R&B’s sparse production as of late makes it an immediate standout.

“Falling in Love” continues this idea, propelling us with a slick, video game aesthetic. Featured singer Lucky Daye’s vocals blend with Joyce’s beautifully. The lyrics, “If I’m willin’ to give you all of me. I don’t wanna stay somewhere that I’m not wanted” resonate. They further establish the album’s central theme.

The single “On One” arrives just in time for those mandatory summer evening cruises with friends (or solo). It also sets up an interesting narrative. Lyrics, “We be going back and forth. Acting like you so unsure. But everytime you’re here, it’s like I’m all yours” showcase the fragility and uncertainty that come with love.

Freddie Gibbs offers a classic “2000s featured rapper” vibe. I can’t hate on it, though. It doesn’t really take away from the song, or maybe I’m just desensitized to it by now.

“Losing” is perhaps my favorite track on the album based on its lyrics alone. “I’m loving the idea of you in my head. But that’s not the real you, you could do so much better. Now that I know the real you, I could do so much better.”

Yes ma’am! *Snaps fingers*

“You” acts as a sort of jazzy refrain to “Losing.” I’m a sucker for slowed-down, jazzy production, and this hits all the right spots. It’s criminally short, serving as a sort of interlude, but it offers just enough to still satisfy.

“Addicted” feels like typical Soundcloud fare honestly. However, the track serves to showcase Joyce’s sonic diversity. The lyrics continue the theme of “I know I should do better, but…” which I giggled at. Still, it was mostly enjoyable.

“I know by now I should be better. If I’m speaking truthfully. And honestly, I’m feelin’ kinda lonely. And I had you on my mind like a million times now.”

“Must Be Nice” sounds like it was pulled straight out of the year 2005 and remixed for today. I could have sworn I heard LeToya Luckett make something similar. That’s not a dig by any means! Masego’s vocals massage the track with lyrics like, “If we take time off, we’ll never rebuild, yeah. We cannot construct with different people, no.”

“Think About You” mostly fills up space and isn’t too memorable to me. Even the lyrics, “Take me outta my head. ‘Cause I know love. And it ain’t there. You make me feel it where my heart is,” don’t offer anything substantial. However, it’s a microscopic misstep, and I’d rather stumble in a similar fashion if I had to. The production still slaps, if nothing else.

Then we get to “So So Sick,” arguably the best track on the album. Featuring a slick, jazzy “They Don’t Know” by Jon B sample, this is Joyce Wrice at her best. Memorable lyrics include, “But when I move on and find somebody new. Give ’em all the love that you could’ve had. Had to cut you off, now you got it bad. Now you so sick, I’m with somebody new.” It serves us an updated “I Bet” by Ciara, and I love it!

“That’s On You” slows everything down as we reach the credits. Featuring a mix of Japanese and English lyrics, it’s a great song (among many) to chill and vibe out to. And as someone who’s over the “vibe music” that’s not to be taken lightly.

Finally, we reach “Overgrown,” the title track. A soft, piano-driven ballad, it serves as an understated culmination of the overarching themes of the album: growth & maturity. I was impressed with lyrics, “You will be scared, unprepared sometimes. And don’t you choose to lose your faith. You are loved, you are enough.”

Final Thoughts

Overgrown triumphs as a debut album, a departure from most R&B projects that focus on crushes and heartbreak. Joyce Wrice wants to establish boundaries and expectations from the start. It’s like we’re getting a do-over of the 2000s with all the mistakes we made back then in the back of our mind. I definitely recommend a listen.

Listen to the full project below:

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Kelly Rowland “K” EP Review

It’s been nearly 8 years since Kelly Rowland graced us with Talk a Good Game. Since then, we’ve been anxiously waiting for a full-fledged album from her.

Alas, it seems my favorite chocolateer favors smaller projects over bigger ones. Ultimately, Kelly’s K EP is a delight, even though it could be so much more.

Before we get deeper into the review, let’s take a moment of silence for the absence of “Coffee.”

Got that out of the way? Perfect.

K opens up with “Flowers,” its sparse production and echoing vocals painting a haunting picture of the desperation one feels to appreciate those who are still with us. Even though I enjoyed the themes and ideas behind the track, I wasn’t blown away by any of it. In fact, I was waiting for a sort of climax that never happened.

This would unfortunately become a running theme on K. Most of its 6 tracks feel anticlimactic, as if they begin and simply lose steam.

I’m not expecting dramatic Whitney Houston-level key changes on bridges. That would probably be overkill. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that Kelly could stand to put her foot on the gas a little more.

Immediately following “Flowers” is the empowering “Black Magic.” While I, of course, loved the message behind it, I was still underwhelmed by the hook (or lack thereof). Perhaps this was done intentionally. Maybe Kelly didn’t want to put an obvious chorus any of her songs on K.

I could respect that more with production that wasn’t obviously suited for the more pop side of R&B.

That brings us to “Hitman,” a track that’s all too ready to be played nonstop by the NBA. It was a standout to me simply because of this familiarity.

I’d expect to hear it on a commercial break or in between plays at a live game. I’ll give kudos for the song not pretending to be anything more than that.

For some reason, we didn’t get an actual music video for “Crazy,” which was well…insane. Obviously a standout on the project, a Donna Summers-esque video with choreography would have launched “Crazy” into the stratosphere. Alas.

“Speed of Love” is easily my favorite song on K. It’s a gentle, acoustic number (which I’m always a sucker for) and hits all the right emotional notes. “Speed of Love” feels like a fully-realized song, which is a shame since we don’t encounter it until the end of the EP.

Finally, we bring everything to a close with “Better.” The piano-driven midtempo track adds a nice finishing touch with lyrics focusing on seeking a partner who loves you on equal terms. The lyrics, “Your partner should be a reflection of you,” in particular stood out to me. Yay for expressed expectations!

You can listen to the EP for yourself below:

While I wasn’t impressed with the project as a whole, I appreciated the messages and themes of blackness, self-love, remembering to be grateful, and so much more.

If it were any other artist, I could let many of the things I’ve been critical about slide. However, this is Kelly Rowland. After watching her navigate the music industry for as long as she has, my standards are a little higher than usual.

Plus, I ultimately want to see her continued success, and I hope she continues to release music and a fully-realized follow-up to 2013’s Talk a Good Game.

What did you think about the album? Let me know in the comments!