Joy Denalane - Born and Raised
Denalane’s first UK release (2002 debut ‘Mamani’ did good business in her home country of Germany) absolutely reeks of expenditure. The credits and thanks take up nearly as many pages as the lyrics do. She clearly has some record company backing; ‘Born and Raised’ features a multitude of participants and guest appearances. Raekwon turns up early on (though his potty mouth tendencies jar the tone) as does Lupe Fiasco. But nothing can really divert the listener away from the fact that ‘Born and Raised’ is a rather dull, unadventurous piece of work. You can see what it wants to be : it wants to be an earthy, part-modern, part traditional slab of soul. But it’s the material that weighs the whole enterprise down. Denalane’s theme, as much as there is one, seems to be ‘I’m a strong survivor, don’t mess’, tempered with ‘I do so love my man’. Mmm. The music, more importantly, is unimaginative and predictable, mostly nudged along in the by-now-standard r’n’b meter. Towards the end a couple of tracks spark up a bit but they’re a long time coming. The voice – deep, warm, unshowy - is fine, but again, nothing special and not likely to stand out in an over-crowded market.
Ultimately, Denalane is not nearly interesting enough to command attention. Comparisons to Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys are way off. Both are superior songwriters and performers, and both have done, to some degree, work (‘The Miseducation of …’, ‘The Diary of …’) that has that all-important portrait-of-the-artist foundation. I know little more about Joy Denalane than I did before I heard her album - a crime for a record that appears to promise quite the opposite.