Joie Tan has come a long way from being the fresh-faced teen who uploaded covers of Jason Mraz, Norah Jones and (yeah, really) Avenged Sevenfold to her YouTube page. The 23-year-old is about to leave home to further her studies in the United States, but not before releasing a debut album of original material, titled Joie.
I think by now everyone knows that there are some great singers to be found in Singapore. On this album, Joie makes an argument that she's one of them, what with her crystal clear enunciation and subtly melodic delivery, takeaways from her time as an acoustic cover artist. But Joie also shows she's not willing to be pigeonholed, tentatively exploring her vocal range and ability across the project – check her conversational, even perky cadence on the old school 'Just A Little Bit' and her demurely cheeky tone on 'Shore'.
What makes Joie a true leap ahead of what the young singer-songwriter has done before is Bani Hidir's masterful instrumentation, polished to a gleam by Don Richmond (Mark Bonafide, 53A, Vanessa Fernandez) and Evan Low (Zendyll Productions, Evanturetime). Joie is a consistent listen – don't expect gangbusting vocals or instrumentation – but Hidir does know when to strip it down, as he does on the standout piano-driven track 'Right Here Right Now', or make a slight left turn, as he does on the prancing, vapourwavey 'Lonesome Lover'. The sense one gets after listening to this album is that Joie could make some vocal headway into chamber pop, adult contemporary or even jazz, if she wanted to be a little more adventurous.
Joie is also a consistent listen in terms of its subject matter: that wondrous and frustrating thing called love. In that sense, closing track 'What Is Love' is Joie's thesis statement for this record. It's Joie's great, big-hearted ballad, goosebumps induced by strategic instrumentation that allows her voice to stand alone and also a soaring electric guitar solo you realise you've been waiting for the entire album when you hear it.
On 'What Is Love', Joie is a young woman wondering out loud about all dimensions of love and, importantly, trying to decide if it's worth it. After a wonderfully personal and poignant lyric ("I've known love since February 1995 / When you held me"), Joie ultimately decides against hardening her heart, and accepts the mess she has to bear. All the better for her, and for us.
Stream Joie Tan's new album Joie here: