Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Joy Oladokun faces quiet changes on Proof of Life

"Proof of Life"

Release date: 28 April 2023
Joy Oladokun - Proof of Life cover
05 May 2023, 09:00 Written by Sam Franzini

Change is a scary, often all-encompassing emotion that’s impossible to avoid: you can either face it head-on or fumble around it, leading to stunted growth.

It’s clear from listening to singer-songwriter Joy Oladokun’s fourth album which path she chose: “Had to do it the hard way”, she sings on the aptly-titled song of the same name. There’s no absence of heart or humour lacing these soulful, healing songs, though: she opens that same song with the line “Jesus raised me, good weed saved me.”

Proof of Life battles overwhelming feelings of change with a quiet sense of hopefulness, a candle at its centre that lets one know it’ll be alright. Its opening track, “Keeping the Light On”, with slight electronic touches, sings of the struggle of simply going through life and its daily extremities and pulls. The next song, “Changes”, describes how the injustices and news of the real world can seep into one’s private life, which the narrator has trouble distinguishing between. “Newspaper says the world’s on fire / People yelling and the water’s rising,” she sings, “I’m tryna keep up with the changes.” Further down on the tracklist, the call to action “Revolution” discovers strength within oneself: “If I don’t embrace the hopeless hope of chance / I’ll never make a difference,” she admits.

As heartening as Oladokun’s lyricism can be, the main selling point is her voice, which revs into full gear during the album’s middle stretch, where most of its collaborations lie. “Friends” with Mt. Joy is a lovely ode to having people by your side, but “You At The Table” is a momentous, almost-anxious plea to a lover to come back where it’s safe. Joined by the Manchester Orchestra, she admits, “Home just ain’t the same without a roof for our heads and you at the table.” “Sweet Symphony” starts a little shakily on its feet, but ends powerfully with Chris Stapleton, resounding the initial themes of “Friends”, but “We’re All Gonna Die”, with Noah Kahan, uses every bit of its 3-minute runtime to make a statement. It’s the record’s loudest moment, and it’s a pleasant surprise Oladokun fits perfectly in here as well as her low-tempo moments.

A little too often, the record delves into power-pop ‘moments’, where a song or idea could be plucked out of 2015: “Somebody Like Me” is actually one of the strongest songs vocally for Oladokun, but its melody and theme feel too familiar. “Trying” takes a verse right out of the Lorde Bible for Singer-Songwriters (“All my friends are unhappy / All my heroes are dead”), and recounts the same theme as “Changes”, and the opening track sings of the same light that Maggie Rogers left on in 2018. The gamble of stripped-back emotional ballads like “Pride” is that, amongst a wave of songs like them, they need to be showstopping: ultimately, the poppier tracks of the record stick out more.

Oladokun’s Proof of Life is just that: a meditation on life and what it means to be alive, even when it’s not great sometimes. There’s an almost teacherly quality to it, a knowledge that she’s gotten through what she’s singing about and has lived to tell the tale. Proof of Life is a warm, insightful record, able to look towards the future without yet grieving the world we live in now.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next