JOY DENALANE is regularly cited as Germany’s top soul singer (but just how many are there?). Whatever, on the evidence of her almost two decade career we wouldn’t argue. We were mightily impressed with her first English language studio album – 2006’s ‘Born And Raised’ and since then she’s released a couple more LPs – both in German, but they were impressive enough to convince Motown to sign her. Consequently Joy became one of a very select few European artists to have been signed to the iconic label and indeed Motown was the imprint for her lovely ‘Let Yourself Be Loved’ set. Do we need to mention that the album enjoyed sales and associated streams of over 10 million?
Ms D’s latest album is ‘Willpower’ and it’s already winning praise right across the soul media. Even a quick listen will confirm that the media hacks have got it right. The 12 tracker is a tremendous set , inspired, in places, we’re told, by the passing of Joy’s father. Her mother died many years ago and Joy says: “The formative events on the road to “Willpower” are interconnected. The death of my father had such a serious impact on me .The grief doesn’t go away, it lingers. My mother passed away 20 years ago. Now it feels strange to be all alone in the world, even at my age”.
Thus the album offers plenty of poignant, reflective moments like the sweet ‘By Heart’, the gentle Good Times Better’, the building ‘Revolutions’ and the somewhat sombre title track. The most personal song though is the shuffling, dramatic ‘Happy’. Joy says: “I wanted to dedicate a song to my father,” but it was important to me that it didn’t sound like a traditional mourning song, but that it transported the many happy memories of him. I had a wonderful life with my father.” The song comes in two iterations – the “original”, the other with input from Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah.
Away from the drama, the album offers plenty of sweet soul like ‘All Of Me’, the crisp ‘Fly By’, the jazzy ‘Far Cry’ (shades of Rotary Connection) and the melancholic ‘True (Soweto)’.Like most of the tracks, it’s an intense affair even the happier sounds have a reflective quality.