Like fine wine, this artist’s music has been getting sweeter and better over time. Nearly a decade after I unexpectedly stumbled across her music, my love for her thought-provoking lyrics, diverse artistry, and God-sent voice have only increased. Now don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite songs from her was released back in 2008, but with each new album she releases, I’ve added more songs to my global top 100 list (It’s hard for me to choose just one favorite. Hehe).
Joy Ike is a Nigerian-American multi-talented singer-songwriter and performer who plays the piano and ukulele while also intermittently clapping her hands, stomping her feet, and at times making unique sounds with her mouth. Her music could be categorized as a fusion of pop, soul, and jazz. She’s been making music for years and nearly five years ago, she took the plunge and quit her 9-5 job to pursue music full-time. She tours the country, performing at different venues with a full band (sometimes having her sister, Peace, play the drums or djembé). Two KickStarter campaigns, three concerts, five albums, and nearly ten years later, my love and respect for Joy and her work have multiplied. Earlier this month, Joy Ike recently released her most recent album – Bigger Than Your Box, and I saw her perform live during her album launch in DC this past weekend. Below I’m sharing six of my favorite Joy Ike songs both new and old.
This song is from her previous album – All Or Nothing – and the lyrics of this song are so simple, yet poignant. I’ve listened to this song while living on three different continents and in each new country, the lyrics took on a new meaning. I’m a sucker for slow, sad songs that make me feel and reflect. On top of that, the concept of home for me is something that I’ve reflected on for a majority of my life. For me, it is independent of a specific physical location, rather it is something that is fluid and shaped primarily by myself and those in my life. I remember when I attended one of her shows in DC in 2015 with at least three Joy Ike ‘converts’ and remember feeling a sense of home. Take a listen here.
2. Promised Land
The first time I heard this song I was shouting “Yassss” and laughing, because it’s relatable AF. In this song Joy Ike explains:
“My Father Says I Cannot Marry You. Says He Forbids Me. Says He Will Ship Me Back To His Land. My Mother Says Shame On You For Trying To Use Me. Don’t You Know She Worries That I’ll Forget Her Land.”
If you’re African, Asian, or from another immigrant group, you might be able to relate to this as well. I have seen Joy perform this song live three times and each time she explains the hilarious inspiration behind the song: a Nigerian man, whom one of her family members tried to set her up with, had called her on the phone and Joy was not having it. Although this song is lighthearted and has a unique sound created by her ukulele, it holds an important message: never forget your identity.
3. Ever Stay
This song is from Joy’s recently released album earlier this month, and it has quickly become a new favorite. The song is about an everlasting type of love – the kind that sticks around through thick and thin. The lyrics are so powerful, and remind me of the type of love that I continuously receive from special people in my life and that I hope to give back in return.
By My Side
Sink Or Swim
If I Die
Ever By My Side”
4. Give A Little
This is another song off of her new album, and the lyrics are sooo relatable. For years, Joy has been engaged in social change campaigns, so I could see how this song ties into the work community engagement that she does alongside her music. Here’s a short excerpt:
“Honestly I’m A Little Nervous
Not Practiced Or Polished Or Perfect
But Maybe We Can Trade Anxieties
I’ll Talk To You If You Will Talk To Me
Won’t You Love A Little (x3)
Won’t You Love (x3).”
Something else that really stands out to me in this song is the instrumentals. One can hear an accordion playing in the background, which gives the song a quintessential French vibe such as that of classics sung by the likes of Charles Aznavour or Georges Moustaki. She performed this song during her album launch in DC this past weekend, and I love how she encouraged everyone in the audience to clap and sing along.
5. I Don’t Know Anything
This song, another one from her most recent album, actually reminds me of Bez’s ‘The Good, The Bad, The Ugly’ where we’re made to focus on ourselves instead of others and realize that we’re not better than anyone else:
“I Live My Life As Best As I Can
Try To Give Respect To Every Man
But That Don’t Make Better
I Thought That Made Me Better
I Don’t Know Anything.”
This is one of my all-time favorite Joy Ike and overall songs of life! ‘Happy’ is from her previous album – All Or Nothing. In this song, she goes through a list of people whom she hopes are happy with her and the life that she’s chosen to live. As a fellow Nigerian and first generation immigrant, I definitely relate to her wish to please her parents while also living her life for herself and outside of rigid cultural pressures and societal expectations. This is another song that I’ve seen Joy perform at all three shows, which I have attended over the years. I love artists who perform their songs differently from the album version, and Joy never disappoints! She is an excellent performer, and to be honest I prefer her live versions of her songs over the album edit. The way she performed this song this past weekend in DC was very jazz-inspired and gave it a new dimension. Y’all it actually blew my mind. Being able to see Ms. Ike in concert is always a joy (no pun intended), and I’m looking forward to the next time she’s in town. Until then, I’ll be listening to her albums on repeat, at least for the next couple weeks.
If you know Joy Ike, list your favorite song below in the comments. If you’re only hearing about her for the first time, no worries! Feel free to share your favorite artist(s) with me as I’m always on the lookout to add to my list of amazing artists.