Culted Sounds: Joy Crookes talks adidas Sambas, switching off and subcultures

Culted Sounds: Joy Crookes talks adidas Sambas, switching off and subcultures

by Ollie Cox
8 min

Joy Crookes’ neo-soul-infused R&B hits tackle the ups and downs of young adulthood with a gripping relatability, dealing with love, heartbreak, and dodgy exes. After the success of her debut album Skin, released in 2021 which reached number five in the UK Official Charts, the 25-year-old South Londoner is on to the next one. In 2022, the singer/songwriter was nominated for the BRIT Awards’ Best Pop/R&B Artist and her songs reached hundreds of millions of streams. 

Long days in the studio are the norm for the self-confessed overthinker, but thanks to a tried and tested set of rituals, which include watching Arsenal and a trip to the pub, Crookes manages to unwind. Outside of music, she is a history buff whose style is inspired by subcultures – which has led to her love of Wales Bonner and its sell-out adidas collaborations.

@joycrookes ©

Joy has recently been named an Original as part of adidaslatest campaign, celebrating the Samba, Superstar and Gazelle. With the Samba being one of her favourite silhouettes, working with adidas made sense, thanks to its deep connection to music. We caught up with Joy to chat about all things songs, Sambas and Lime bikes. 

Hey Joy, how are you? What have you been up to today? 

I’ve been skrr skrring around London trying to get here on time. If you want the truth, I had a therapy session at 8 a.m. because I’m really proactive about my mental health, and then I skrr skrrd here. 

How does it feel to be working with adidas on such a huge project?

It came about probably through an email, if you want the truth. Working with adidas is incredible because it’s such an iconic brand, a brand I have always associated moments of my life with. 

The campaign focuses on three of adidas Originals’ most iconic silhouettes: the Samba, Gazelle and Superstar. Out of these, which is your favourite and why? 

The Samba. Because you can dress them up or you can dress them down, and I’m a woman of versatility, so that’s why I like them. 

I’ve seen on your Instagram that you have worn both Wales Bonner x adidas and Gucci x adidas collaborations. What is your favourite adidas collaboration, and why? 

My favourite adidas collaboration is Wales Bonner because she SLAPS. It slaps every time. She never misses. It looks beautiful on people, it looks beautiful on people with brown skin – the colours she uses, the brown tones, the green tones and the colourways of the shoes. Easily, I will have to say, Wales Bonner. 

People don’t realise that the secret with the tongue is that you tie your laces over them so they don’t look like they’re trying to speak all the time. They’re quite a flappy shoe.

@joycrookes ©

adidas has always had a strong presence in music and has been seen on the feet of some of the greatest to do it. What do you think it is about the Three Stripes that attracts so many musicians to the brand? 

The first person that popped into my head when you asked that question was one of the Gallagher brothers. It’s just got so much cultural and historical relevance to British culture. And I’m a huge fan of British cultural history, our music history, not so much of the ugly sides of British history but the subcultures in Britain and how adidas has literally played a part in some way in all of those subcultures.  

What would your dream trainer collaboration be? 

That’s such a good question. I’m thinking because I want it to be really hard. Obviously, Wales Bonner is sick. If adidas did something with Ferragamo, that would be nuts. 

Not that adidas has never been chic, it obviously has had very chic moments, but I think Ferragmo and adidas would be a lot of black and red, and it would be f*cking cold. And I would wear it a lot. 

I know you’re working on the second album, can you talk me through a typical day working on the project? 

I wake up, I feel like I’m on top of the world. By three o’clock, I haven’t eaten, and I’m having an existential crisis. By four o’clock, I’m doing the best backing vocals that I’ve ever done. By five o’clock, I want to redo the lead vocal. By six o’clock, I wonder if it is going to be any good overall and by seven o’clock my stomach is rumbling and my mum’s called me three times and I’ve missed every single call, and I want to go home and cry. By eight o’clock I’m like, “this is f*cking fire.” 

You’ve said in previous interviews that you’re an overthinker. How does Joy Crookes switch off? 

I switch off by going to the pub. I switch off by engaging in very intense situations like watching football or supporting Arsenal, which is a great way to switch off from music. I also disengage by weirdly just listening to music for no other purpose than just enjoying it. 

I also switch off by sleeping… sometimes. Sometimes, everything follows me into my dreams. 

If you had to describe your style in three words, what would they be? 

Hepburn. Rihanna. Jewellery. 

You’ve previously said that your favourite subject at school was history. What is a bit of history that you think the world should know more about and why? 

I think people should know more about colonisation. There was a survey, and I think a really large percentage of people thought that colonisation was a positive thing because they had obviously been ill-educated. I actually don’t think ignorance is necessarily an evil thing if you live in a country where the curriculum doesn’t necessarily tell you all of the details. 

British colonial history and imperial history is probably something that [people need to know more about], as someone who grew up in Britain and is from two immigrant backgrounds that have been colonised or have been the product of decolonisation, I would probably say that. And also, it is really important to understand how decolonisation then played a huge part in subculture.

It’s horrible and tragic and deeply gory, and there are always going to be beautiful things that are born from places of pain. You can take British history and relate it to some of the more positive moments in British culture and be the influence that the Windrush generation had on Britain, or be the influence that South Asian people had on Britain, Tower Hamlets – like it just contextualises the melting pot that is London I think.  

Does history inspire you musically? 

Definitely, history also inspires my style, I think I’ve always been super obsessed with subculture. 

I had a vintage dress phase and learnt about Kate Nash when I was 12, and the Northern Soul big dress type of thing. 

I really got into the French Liberation phase when I was 16 and moved out. I just wanted to be in trousers and loafers and be a very serious and very 1950s French woman but Brown type beat. 

And then the beauty and world around Audrey Hepburn, the pathetic fallacy of Hollywood and then Mod culture and the way that girls would dress during that period of time. And then Caribbean women in the 1970s. 

I’ve always associated fashion with culture and history, and I don’t think people remember that history is such a huge part of the reason why people dress the way they do. That’s probably why I like Wales Bonner and adidas because it feels really reminiscent of a time and culture in Britain. 

Now, just some quickfire ones. What is your top song to Lime Bike through London to? 

I do love “Mercy Mercy Me” by Marvin Gaye, when the sun comes down, that’s such a good song to Lime Bike to. But also “Loving You” by Kiki Gyan.

Go to food when working long hours recording?

My Mum’s house. 

Finally – what does the future look like for Joy Crookes?

I’d like to make music less sh*t. That’s it. There’s no explanation. That’s all I can give you right now.

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