Review: Joy Crookes’ ‘Skin’ is a portrait of one’s strength and beauty


Screenshot courtesy of Joy Crooke's Instagram.

Cover of Joy Crookes’ debut album “Skin.”

by Aaliyah Alexander, Opinion Editor

A beautiful story with chapters on relationships, mental health and politics is captured in London-based artist Joy Crookes’ debut album “Skin.”

Five years in the making, “Skin” was finally released on Oct. 15 with 13 songs fans can listen to on repeat.  

Known to write authentic music about the highs, lows and in-betweens of her personal life and intimate thoughts, it was no surprise this collection of gracefully crafted songs offers listeners from all backgrounds stories to relate to. 

The album begins with “I Don’t Mind,” a classic trope of a love affair — one where commitment is out of the question (much like SZA’s song “The Weekend”). Songs following “I Don’t Mind,” specifically “Poison” and “Trouble,” reveal some toxicity and co-dependence in the relationship Crookes portrays. It’s unclear with any artist whether the muse of their art is the same throughout, but for the sake of this review, we’ll assume it is. 

The love story told by this album concludes with songs “When You Were Mine,” “To Lose Someone” and “Unlearn You,” which all offer different stages of a romantic relationship’s ending — denial, bargaining and acceptance. 

An Instagram post by Crookes explains the inspiration behind “When You Were Mine,” saying she wrote the song about her first love that ended up being with a man right after their breakup. She goes on to write in her caption, “It’s a song about accepting their love, but wishing the same for myself,” which seems to be a similar theme in the previously mentioned songs. 

Besides love and heartbreak, Crookes explores her thoughts on politics, calling out social media activism with “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” the abuse of power in “Power” and being aware of social issues and using your voice in “Kingdom.” Although the political references are mainly in the context of Crookes’ Bangladesh culture and heritage, the songs “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Power” and “Kingdom” can be anthems for those advocating equality and freedom around the world. 

In her music video for “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” Crookes decides to wear a white saree which symbolizes both peace and grief, according to Crookes

“I have experienced in my culture and in my family that Bangladeshi women are often defined by the men/husbands in their lives,” Crookes wrote. “I decided to wear the white saree and do a ‘wheelie’ in front of a group of Bangladeshi men to take back that power to write my own narrative.” 

And that she did. 

The song “Power” is no stranger to fans seeing that the song is on Crookes’ EP “Influence.” However, Crookes reimagines the jazzy, upbeat song to a soulful, rich “stick-it-to-the-man” ballad. Both versions are effective, but the reimagined version definitely hits differently and fits the overall feel of the album. 

Lastly, mental health is explored in the title track song “Skin,” which Crookes wrote for a friend who wasn’t sure whether their life was worth living anymore — a feeling not uncommon in today’s generation where depression and anxiety are prevalent. 

Crookes expressed in an interview her goal for the album was to talk about identity and express “that we should be able to be loud and use our voices to say what we want, whether that’s about casual sex, or politics, or anything else.”

Experiencing the album for the first time, it’s safe to say Crookes achieved this goal by taking the listener through a narrative about coming into one’s own — realizing one’s beauty, power, strength and resilience. 

This body of work is not only relevant to this generation but will surely be influential in generations to come.