Julianna Joy wants to comfort people with her music

The 19-year-old Chicago-born artist discusses her music and feeling like a veteran in the music industry.

If you’re good at what you do, age is just a number. Such is the case with 19-year-old Julianna Joy; the Chicago artist is now making her name known. “I’ve been in this industry since I was 15, but I feel like I’ve been in it forever,” she said.

My first impression of Julianna Joy came from one of those nights where you skip everything on Spotify, and through countless new artists I landed on Joy’s track, “Poseidon.” Something about the poignant lyricism with a voice like Alessia Cara’s screamed at me even though the song is so beautifully gentle.

In a bid to commit to a life of making music, Joy made the move to Los Angeles the same week her debut EP, Cherries, was released.

“I followed the advice that I got my freshman year, which was: ‘If you want to do music, you gotta be in L.A. It thrives there.” Now nearly a year removed from the departure, Joy is not in school — she is now working full-time to support her musical aspirations.

While the move has been one of those bets on yourself, her humility remains unmoved.

“I would say my goals have stayed the same, being in L.A. just made them more achievable.”

Having released Cherries on Valentine’s Day 2020, she currently sits at nearly 70,000 Spotify monthly listeners in addition to having well over a million total plays in just under a year of debuting on the platform.

“I’m hoping to be an important person in the music industry. I want to be touring and recording tons of music,” said Joy.

Joy’s instrumental ability spans across a variety of skill sets, including guitar, piano, ukulele, bass and even a bit of banjo. Paired with a desire to keep creating, Joy has been able to bring about something that is gaining traction online. While I have found similarities between Joy and Alessia Cara, she describes her sound as if “Lorde had a lovechild with Taylor Swift, and that child got really really really into classic rock and ‘80s pop music when they turned 16.” She furthers her point on an appreciation for older music with her dream collaborations, dead or alive. “My dream collaboration alive would have to be Jack Antonoff. Dead would have been Freddie Mercury.”

Muses come and go, but Joy says “Most of the time I write music for myself or for the person I’m trying to talk to, and for the people who find comfort in my weirdly personal stories that I choose to publicize.” Seemingly all of Joy’s tracks have a self contained narrative, but the must-listen from the young artist comes in the shape of “Cherry Bomb,” an upbeat concoction of guitar and strong percussion that could form the soundtrack in a coming of age movie.

Most recently in the blossoming career that is Julianna Joy’s, came the Spotify release of her song “Seventeen.” Its appearance on Spotify comes as a rerelease of sorts, seeing as the song previously existed solely as a YouTube video. With the song’s lyrical themes of young love, it becomes easy to remember her youth. “My age never comes into question when talking about my career. It doesn’t go unnoticed, don’t get me wrong,” she said. But when it comes to business, Joy is respected in her artists’ seat.

 “It never changed the dynamic from what I can tell,” she added. Though expectations are sometimes high for promising young stars, Joy is not feeling any rush or schedule to drop an album anytime soon.

“Maybe the next three years or so.”

Even with things still being cloudy and shrouded in terms of when live performances can be held again safely, things still look good for Julianna Joy. For the fan of indie music and soothing vocals, Julianna Joy is not someone to overlook.


Mick Jenkins spits truth for a cold crowd in his sister city

Mick Jenkins had L’Astral’s crowd chant the motto that epitomized his come-up. “Drink more…” “Water!!” It is the central theme of The Water[s], the 2014 mixtape that put rap fans on notice regarding Jenkins.

The project was acclaimed for its thick, sub-marine production and Jenkins’s thoughtful, pithy lyrics. Held together by the concept of water as a metaphor for truth, it explained that both were equally necessary. The “drink more water” line that punctuated The Water[s] urged listeners to learn more and to seek more truth. Jenkins’s confident, astute delivery made for a gripping listen, promoting water while many other rappers pushed lean. “I pray it’s never too preachy but I’m preaching,” admitted Jenkins on “Martyrs.” The mixtape remains his most popular body of work.

Jenkins rose with what is now recognized as a new-school wave of Chicago rap. His friends and collaborators include Chance the Rapper, Noname, Saba, Smino and Joey Purp. The Water[s] was significant for Montreal as well. At the time, Jenkins’s manager lived in the city, and Jenkins would make trips every few months. “I think it’s very similar to Chicago, at least on the creative spectrum,” he said in his 2015 Montreality interview. He collaborated with Montreal hip-hop veterans Da-P and High Klassified on the title track of the mixtape. Jenkins also made an anthem for the city, “514,” that became iconic for his Quebecois fans, rapping “I’ve been in the 514, my French getting too clean / Customs is routine, eating hella poutine, I think I’ma buy one more.” Since then, he has released albums and mixtapes that stay true to his standard of quality and pensive, quotable style, but failed to capture the cohesive nature of The Water[s] that had internet rap fans in a frenzy five years ago. It seems then like there are two factions of Jenkins fans, those that discovered the The Water[s] and maintain it as his pinnacle, and fans that may have missed the wave but know him as an excellent MC for his newer work.

Standing at a solid six foot five, Mick towered over the crowd while hitting the gas on the mic and never easing off. Photo by Simon New

It was clear that both groups made it out to L’Astral last Monday the 28th, surely more of the latter than the former. When Jenkins came out after opening California R&B rapper Kari Faux, he was visibly frustrated in the face of the crowd’s applause; after having technical issues and fixing them with his DJ, he tore into some of his new material. Standing at a solid six foot five, he towered over the crowd while hitting the gas on the mic and never easing off. Hearing his aggressive, labyrinthine flows thoroughly backed by his full, deep voice was truly impressive. Watching his new Kaytranada-produced single, “What Am I To Do,” felt like watching his COLORS episode unfold in front of you. All of this was over live drums and bass. Jenkins was accompanied by his DJ, a drummer, a bassist and frequent collaborator theMIND, for vocals and a feature song. The result sounded like butter, but it’s hard to rap in a vat of butter, and Jenkins often drowned in the instrumentals. In a rap show that focuses on a vibe or on the crowd yelling the words, that wouldn’t be an issue, but Jenkins can be hard to keep up with on record. His potent lyrics were stunted by the venue’s sound. This caused a disconnect between Jenkins and the crowd. He kept his movement to a simmer for most of the demanding set, putting energy into his voice over his body. His mid-tempo instrumentals don’t quite lend to dancing either. Fans who know his material were awestruck, while less hardcore fans were low-key about lyrics that weren’t quite clear. The divide in the fandom was never more apparent than when “514” dropped. The anthem by a Chicago rapper for a city that rarely gets mentioned in hip hop got a lukewarm enough reaction that Jenkins stopped in the middle of it to hype the crowd up. “Are you sure y’all know this?” he said, and motioned to cut the song to his DJ. He started it again and diehards rapped along, but couldn’t overpower the Monday-night energy that took over the casual listeners in the audience. It was gutting to watch the crowd go limp on the climax of the set: a song about their city. Near the end of the set, chants for “one more song” turned into “514.”

Mick found diehard fans in a spaced crowd. Photo by Simon New

Mick tried to level with the crowd. He demanded silence and got a drunk yell from the back. He got ahold of the audience and closed with “Social Network,” which finally put the crowd in the kind of frenzy that had me scared for my camera.

It seems evident that a blasé crowd can keep a good show from being great. Indeed, the few hardcore fans that dotted the room bounced and yelled the words to “514” and were still unsuccessful at getting the room moving. But Jenkins was ultimately unable to crack the subdued atmosphere that started with his earlier tech frustrations. He chose his lyrical integrity over getting wild and animated, like we expect of rappers. While we can’t know if Jenkins upping his energy could have won the crowd back earlier in the set, there was a certain pretension and expectation of reverence for his lyrics that, while justifiable, wasn’t elevating the mood. Bad crowds are plentiful, and it was hard to deal with one as divided as L’Astral’s, but in the face of divided attention, Mick powered through for a show that impressed but didn’t connect with the room. From a musical perspective, Jenkins put on a rock-solid set with a truly impressive performance, but the preaching tone held back what could have been a party in the 514.


McGill’s production of Chicago is a killer

A talented ensemble cast and sweeping jazz score charms all

Are you ready for a night filled with sex, murder, and “All That Jazz?” McGill’s Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society (AUTS) has taken a leap of faith with its latest production, the wildly popular Broadway musical Chicago—and the risk definitely paid off.

Set in the mid-1920s in (you guessed it) Chicago, the musical tells the story of Roxie Hart, who murders her lover and winds up in jail. Little does she know, her crime could be her ticket to stardom. Unfortunately, she has some competition in fellow inmate Velma Kelly, who has her own eyes set on vaudeville fame.

The live band set the tone for the show, transporting the audience back in time to a jazz lounge of the roaring ’20s and taking the production to a whole new level.

The stars of the show, Natalie Aspinall as Velma Kelly and Vanessa Drunsnitzer as Roxie Hart, were exactly that: stars. Both women exuded charm and sex appeal on the stage, with powerhouse vocals and on-point dance skills to boot. Their shining moments are too numerous to mention. In fact, the female ensemble was full of very strong performers, giving the men a tough act to follow.

These strong female players were the reason artistic director Debora Friedmann wanted to tackle the show in the first place.

“We have so many incredible, strong female performers, and I really wanted to find a show that I knew would showcase that,” said Friedmann, a fourth-year anthropology student. “I thought it would be the perfect show to really both showcase the incredible female talent that we have here at McGill and at the same time send out a more distinct message than some other musicals.”

Friedmann, also the show’s choreographer, drew a lot inspiration from Bob Fosse’s original  choreography. She even took some cues from watching videos of Beyoncé, as well as from her own personal street dancing background.

One of the stand-out moments of the night was the “Cell Block Tango.” Over the years, this song has become one of the show’s most ubiquitous tracks, as well as an anthem for powerful (albeit murderous) women.

So how did the AUTS ladies compare? They killed it—no pun intended! The entire performance was fuelled by a fiery passion, each actress upping the ante, one after another, as the women of “Murderess Row” shared the tales of their heinous crimes. Suffice it to say, by this point in the show I could already predict that the production was going to be a hit.

The women don’t deserve all the credit. Olivier Bishop-Mercier gave a heart-warming performance as the charmingly oblivious Amos Hart, and Kenny Wong’s take on the cocky, scheming Billy Flynn stole the show. His hilarious rendition of “We Both Reached For The Gun,” which, for those not familiar with the musical, features the ensemble as journalists being controlled like puppets as Flynn speaks through Roxie like a ventriloquist dummy, was executed perfectly. A scene as ridiculous as this one could have been a disaster, but with such strong choreography (and an even stronger cast), it turned out just as humorous as the original.

The show wasn’t without its mishaps, as is expected with the debut of any production, but a couple of flubbed lines and technical difficulties here or there are hardly anything more than a small scratch on a massive success.

Chicago is being presented at McGill’s Moyse Hall from Jan. 22 to 24 and 29 to 31. For ticket info, check out

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