Joyce Wrice rewrites rules of love on ‘Overgrown’

Photo of Overgrown by Joyce Wrice
Joyce Wrice Music/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

When Joyce Wrice sings, it’s like listeners are getting a melodious sneak peek into her diary. Her debut album Overgrown, released March 19, is achingly personal and nimbly nostalgic. She forgoes the current categorizable emotion of love and instead rewrites guidelines to keeping hearts whole.

Throughout the last few years there has been a resurgence and reverence of 90s and early 2000s glory, from Lindsay Lohan’s cinematic universe to low-rise jeans (God forbid). But like any other time in the world, the 2000s was really bad for women. For instance, there was Megan Fox’s crucifixion or, in music, countless songs focused on the horrifying concept of centering men. This message was pedaled to teen girls through Britney Spears’ “Born To Make You Happy” and Destiny Child’s “Cater 2 U.”

The turn of the millennium has people clamoring for a Y2K fix — a desperation Wrice doesn’t know. For Joyce Wrice, her version of taking cues from the past means making sure to assert the female voice that music producers of eras past ignored. She pens nearly every song on the album, and it’s all with a self-awareness that no one can take away from her.

The first half of the album starts off as a testing ground of different emotions. In the song “Chandler,” she understands and chastises not only herself, but other women for getting swindled by fleeting emotions. “Let’s talk about all of the things/ That women gotta endure just to get some love,” she sings softly with an intricate orchestra arrangement backing her vulnerability.

The nuances of being in love are seen in the track “Falling In Love,” despite the title’s promise of romantic musings. The enchanting rhythm guitar fills and lively hi-hats are irresistible, albeit quickly grounded with a realistic request to protect her heart through it all.

Wrice reclaims her life in “Losing” after finally seeing past the idealized version of a person. As she should, she concludes with a revelation — “Now that I know the real you, I could do so much better” — to the tune of reverb drizzled with sugary sweetness.

While the majority of her songs are strong, she inserts interludes once in a while that are misplaced in the grand scheme of her album. While Overgrown is about finding herself, in “Westside Gunn’s Interlude,” rapper Westside Gunn, like all men, makes exhausting, embarrassing proclamations. He admits that “there’s only one pussy I want to eat” and says, “I should have shot” her old flame.

She decides to ignore the hypnotic vaginal powers that Gunn refers to and focuses on self-love and growth in the last few tracks of her album. On “So So Sick,” Wrice is flourishing when she sings, “Could have whatever I want/ So I’m choosing.” And she’s choosing herself. The video’s theme is ladies’ night, with late night snacks and lipgloss at the ready — her version of armor that protects her against the threat of dusty exes and their musty Teslas.

In Wrice’s world, she knows love can be an illusion, but she often lets herself pretend it’s real for few, fleeting moments. That is, until it’s time to grow up in track “Overgrown.” Through a piano ballad with heavenly layered vocals, she’s wiping off tear-streaked makeup and reminding girls they are enough.

Even in a world that benefits from girls being scared and lost and patting on wrinkle cream fearing inevitable aging, she nudges listeners towards growth, singing “All my fears, let them be gone/ All inside of you.” She tenderly reminds us that without the mistakes of the past Joyce Wrice, the present wouldn’t be standing.

Inspired heavily by 90s R&B, her music has a nostalgic heart — the type you keep away from the hands of grimy, white Depop girls trying to gentrify crumbs of the year 2000. At the same time, Wrice has her own spin and works to make music that sounds unquestionably hers.

On Overgrown, there isn’t a sense of needing to limit herself to one version of Joyce Wrice — she’s simultaneously giddy and jaded, lovestruck and grown-up. With this album, she’s constantly growing her sound, refusing to leave anyone, herself included, in the past.

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].