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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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VanJess “Homegrown” EP Review

If ChloeXHalle had a younger set of sisters, it would be Nigerian R&B duo VanJess. The pair certainly started out in a similar fashion, though VanJess is in a musical lane of their own.

Enter their latest project, Homegrown. As the name suggests, thematically the album centers around the duo’s journey from home recordings to being signed to label RCA.

For such a short record, Homegrown is so full of depth you’ll feel satisfied by the end of it all. The duo still has room to grow, but the arena is theirs for the taking.

A fun note about the album artwork: VanJess used inspiration from 1970s Nigeria.

This is where we come from,” they said in a recent interview regarding the album’s title. “This is our essence, this is our soul, but we’re not going to exploit it. When we were coming up with our album artwork, we were inspired by the idea of what it would be like to be quarantined in the 1970s in Nigeria.

“Come Over” certainly does a fantastic job of conveying the latter theme. The song makes its entrance as an immaculate blending of 70s disco (especially the groovy bassline) and 90s vocal stylings. Specifically, I heard so much of T-Boz of TLC that I had to check and make sure they weren’t featured on the track.

We then slip into “Slow Down” with the “Darkest Night” by Lafayette Afro Rock Band sample, also famously used by Wreckx-N-Effect on “Rump Shaker.” The ladies are at their best here, their vocals in near-perfect sync throughout the entire song.

I particularly enjoyed the lyrics, “I like it when you’re simple. Treat me like a lady. Do things with a purpose. Do things with intention.” You better let these dudes know!

From there, we slide into “Roses,” which serves a more dancehall mood. It’s not their most sonically cohesive track, and much of their message gets a little muddled and difficult to understand at first listen.

However, I do appreciate the shift from “You better come correct” to “I can be vulnerable if you’re ready.”

The chorus, in particular, further illustrates this with, “You got to be sensitive with roses. Fragile but open if you want this. Never been lost in someone this fast. Gimme love, all of me is yours to take.”

“Curious” is an obvious standout and finds the duo in their “Trap&B” bag, musing about an encounter with two presumably shy men. This track is appropriately feature-heavy, with the duo joined by Grammy-nominated R&B singer GARREN and Hip Hop artist Jimi Tents. I’m a huge Destiny’s Child fan, so I immediately caught the “No, No, No” similarities.

Still, I wasn’t a huge fan of the lyrics on this one, which included: “You just my type. Definitely in my mind. Passed me by again. And you looking right. We thinking the same thing. So why you acting shy? It’d be better if youJust come up and say hi, hi, hi.”

“Dysfunctional” steeps us into a more groovy electronic vibe with the duo returning to the “respect my love and my time” theme. This was also a return to a more cohesive sound that was easy to digest.

The rejection of toxic love rings true with lyrics, “I don’t wanna play, yeah, no games. I’m just tryna stay, yeah, yeah, yeah. Don’t say “Hey” in the light, but you’ll pull up Wednesday night. It’s like this every time.”

“High & Dry” featuring KAYTRANADA gives us more of the same sonically with the Trap&B aesthetic. I’m not a fan of their vocal stylings on these kinds of tracks, but overall “High & Dry” pleases way more than it offends.

Lyrics such as, “Something in the water, that’s why you can’t wait to taste it. Tip-toe in the garden of my Nubian oasis,” offer clear picture of the duo’s desire for sexual liberation, which is a nice change of pace.

Oddly, though not my favorite track, it has the best lyrics on the entire album.

“Caught Up” sees a return to another groovy alternative wave, reminiscent of many early 80s hits.

With the lyrics, “Heavy breathing, as I’m sinking. Know what it means. In too deep and suffocating. You’ve captured me. I’m in misery without your company,” I notice a trend for VanJess to jump back and forth between similar ideas and themes.

It’s not too much of a distraction, but it does become a little redundant after a while. Still, it doesn’t completely deflate my enjoyment of this particular track.

“Boo Thang” sends us back to the early 2000s with its pop leanings. Devin Morrison’s vocal stylings are right at home with the production. I could instantly picture myself as a teen at the skating rink, waiting for my crush to cruise on by.

The lyrics, especially, remind me of my adolescence with, “I think about you in the morning. I think about when I’m yawning. They think I’m phony, all of your homies. Tell you I’m playing but they don’t even know me, uh.”

Lastly, we arrive at “Part II” with “Come Over Again.” We get a much more slowed-down, baby-making rendition this time around. Once again, it’s trap heavy, but this is the first instance where I feel everything fits perfectly. It’s a great finisher to wrap everything up neatly.

Listen to the full project below:

Final Thoughts

VanJess shows incredible depth and promise as an R&B act. Few seasoned artists offer as much potential as they do, which is highlighted on Homegrown.

Though it has its fair share of lyrical missteps and strange sonic quirks, overall Homegrown serves its purpose. It proves VanJess has plenty of potential.