Joy Williams – “Venus”

Date Thu, June 18 2015

Thanks to One2One Network, I’ve had the chance to listen to Joy William’s new CD, technically her first solo venture.
I was previously unfamiliar with Joy Williams, but I was the exception. As it turns out, Joy was one half of the duo The Civil Wars, which has a tumultuous breakup several years ago. Both Joy and her previous musical partner have kept mum about what split them up, but neither gave up their love of music. Thus, Joy Williams has released “Venus,” her coming-of-age album.

While The Civil Wars had an indie feel that focused on the emotion of two combined voices, Joy Williams seems to have turned the page and tried on some new influences and sounds, most of which are a bit more polished.

Let’s start with the lead single, “WOMAN (OH MAMA)” because, of course, we have to start there. The video is below.

Not only is “Woman” a far cry from the music that Joy used to make, but it’s also not a good example of what you’ll find on “Venus,” sadly. A lot of people have accused her of cultural appropriation and some other less-than-flattering offenses with this song. Whether I agree with them or not, I think this was a poor choice for a first single and, perhaps, a song that shouldn’t be on the album at all in terms of sound.

However, “Woman,” does explore the themes of being a woman, struggle, love, finding oneself so on and so forth that the listener would expect from a coming-of-age album such as this, and the theme is present in every song in the collection.

For example, my favorite song is “Until the Levee,” below.

It seems I’m not alone because a number of comments on the video indicate that this should have been the first single from the album. It’s poppy enough with hooks but also genuine. In it, Joy sings about standing until the levee on her heart breaks, a metaphor with which we’re certainly all familiar.

Another song that I quite like is “Before I Sleep.” It’s a great example of how Joy can use her voice in varied ways with depth and flexibility. I’m sure there’s a better way to say that, but it’s not flat in the least! It’s also right in line with her self discovery, when she sings:

I’ve got miles and miles to go before I sleep

Before I can feel anything

Before I’m free

Joy has really got the singer-songwriter thing down with “Venus,” and it’s worth a listen if you especially liked her voice or like female musicians like that. I’m thinking along the lines or Sara Bareilles or Ingrid Michaelson; although, I’d be surprised to hear anything from “Venus” on the radio. It’s still got some of her indie roots!

On “Venus,” Joy isn’t afraid to be bare and vulnerable. That’s all too clear in “One Day I Will,” a beautiful and clear but sadly powerful song that I can’t listen to on repeat lest I I cry! Joy talked about writing this honest song in a recent Q&A. She talked about Matt Morris, who told her:

You are so afraid to say anything wrong that you are risking not saying anything at all. You’ve got to be brave. If you’re feeling mad as hell, then we’re going to write a mad-as-hell song. If you’re feeling broken beyond measure, we’re going to write a broken-beyond-measure song.

“One Day I Will” was born out of that, with Joy writing line after line. She descibed how “It was literally me, just talking, one line at a time. And that’s pretty much how writing the rest of the record went after that.”

Even if the process differs between songs, there is an honest reflection and a sense of self-discovery on “Venus” that I think many people will be able to appreciate, so check it out on iTunes and Amazon.

You can also follow Joy on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

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