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Well before you hear her delicate, soaring voice, an admirable aspect of Joyce Wrice’s career is her ability to be a highlight in a room full of undeniable talents. After landing collaborations with Dom Kennedy, Blu, Jay Prince, and others in the early to mid-2010s, Wrice’s light would soon brighten. In recent years, she’s landed tracks with Devin Morrison (“With You”), Free Nationals (“The Rivington”), and Westside Gunn (“French Toast”). Her contributions were always the sweet icing on an already tasty cake, a delicacy that slowly drew more interest towards the supporting act with each release.
Finally, Wrice has delivered her main course to the world with her debut album, Overgrown. Unlike most love-focused R&B debuts, which often present youth and naivety as accompanying attributes in relationships, the LA singer’s body of work seemingly arrives after this stage in life. Experience and the wisdom to learn from it all find Wrice more prepared to begin the trek towards a committed lover who’s just as mature as she is.
While the end goal on Overgrown is indeed a partner who meets her standards, that’s only half of it. On the album’s title track, which doubles as the project’s outro, Wrice shares what could be documented as her “above all else” mantra. “But don’t you lose all that makes you you,” she sings. “You will be scared, unprepared sometimes.” The heart will always want what it wants but altering its best and most foundational aspects to attain that will bring a result that’s not nearly as satisfying as one imagined.
This very thought process is why on “Losing” she makes her insufficient lover not only aware of their sub-par contributions to their growing relationship, but her irreversible decision to find something better. The song’s swift-moving drums and giddy guitar strings capture her nimble sidestep in dodging the bullet of an unsatisfying love. “Must Be Nice” also echoes the mantra she introduced on the album’s outro, and despite a counter for Masego to continue to flow, Wrice stands firm on placing a pause on their nighttime fun for the betterment of herself. “But it’s just something about the things you do to me / You keep me places I know I ain’t supposed to be,” she sings, adding, “I’ve got rules when I’m with you I don’t follow / I’m wishing you were a phase.’”
Wrice’s insistence for a companion that checks off all her desired boxes stems from being deprived from her close encounters of just that. This picture-perfect partner who absorbs her attention by simply breathing is her muse on “Addicted” and “Think About You.” The once too-good-for-you singer finds herself swept up on a love cloud that unfortunately fails to bring her to her desired location. The former accounts for her inability to turn her dream lover into a reality over an electric ballad while the latter is a dreamy affair that sees her putting the ball in their court with the hope that they make the easy layup.
Overgrown is the LA singer’s way of letting both new and old interests know that immaturity and indecisiveness are not welcomed in her world. It’s clear Wrice has had her fair share of that in the past and its return is the last thing she needs. While some might use their debut to document their growth, Wrice takes her opportunity to show that she is grown. Whether it’s falling in love, falling out of it, or just avoiding it altogether, Overgrown tells and shows listeners that through it all, she’ll present her best self and push forward with it as nobly as possible. If you’re going to wear your heart on your sleeve as she does, the least you can do is protect it from heinous outside forces. For Wrice, this protection not only comes in the form of self-preservation but also through strict warnings that promise undesirable consequences if ignored
Overgrown is out now via Joyce Wrice Music. Get it here.