Even if you had never heard of Joy Crookes before this year’s BRIT Awards, you likely saw the photos of her arriving on the red carpet. In a dazzling yellow lehenga, the soul singer not only turned one of the best looks of the night, but also made an implicit point about representation. She had already spoken out about the fact that there weren’t enough women nominated for BRITs this year; by wearing traditional dress to the ceremony, the Irish-Bangladeshi Londoner also represented British South Asian people who very rarely see themselves at these ceremonies.
“I want to be part of a change that sees the creative industries become more accessible for young South Asian kids in the UK,” Joy explains. But while that’s a huge part of her MO, it’s far from the only reason to declare yourself a stan. Channelling the conversational lyricism of Lily Allen and the jazzy nonchalance of Amy Winehouse, Joy exudes cool whether she’s interpolating Kendrick Lamar or effortlessly singing odes to her city from the back of a convertible.
If her debut album (slated for September 2020) has more of the timeless charm of bops like “Hurts”, it’s got the potential to be a pop debut that – like 19 or Alright, Still – speaks to a whole generation of Londoners and beyond.
How did you start doing the work you do, and what inspires it?
Joy Crookes: I had a lot of troubles at home when I was younger, and picking up a guitar felt like a means of expression where I could communicate how I felt about situations in a way that I couldn’t do with words. I learnt to sing my cries.
How do you want to influence the future?
Joy Crookes: I want to make music more accessible to South Asian children, and children from difficult backgrounds. And I want to allow people to see vulnerability as power.
“I am now taking this sudden turn as a time to re-evaluate my art, go back to basics, and write from my living room” – Joy Crookes
How has the Coronavirus outbreak affected you, your work, and/or your community?
Joy Crookes: I’m really lucky in that I haven’t had a series of headline shows or tours cancelled but I have had all the live dates that were booked cancelled. I felt a load of momentum before the outbreak as I was on my way to finishing my debut album. I can no longer get in the studio. I am now taking this sudden turn as a time to re-evaluate my art, go back to basics, and write from my living room (where I used to write all of my songs).
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Joy Crookes: I’d love to set up a creative scholarship for young people of South Asian heritage here in the UK, to help them fulfil a creative project start to finish, to be mentored by fellow South Asians within the creative community, for those young people to be represented, and use my platform to showcase their work. It could help open this industry up to an enormously unrepresented community and shine a spotlight on all that talent.