Soul singer Joy Denalane is from 21st-century Germany, but by her music, one might think that she was from Detroit half a century earlier. Signed to Motown, the record label that made its name cranking out soul and pop hits from that city from the early 1960s onward, Denalane’s latest single “Forever,” from the upcoming deluxe edition release of her album Let Yourself Be Loved, unmistakably recalls the groovy soul and disco hits of the mid-70s.
From its opening rubbery notes on bass and clavinet – the bass keyboard used for the riff in Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition – flurries of hand-drums, and vibraphone chords, “Forever” immediately harkens back to rich-textured soul-funk of the 1970s. Even with this killer groove growing stronger by the second, Denalane takes center stage and holds it from her very first note. Her singing is poised, polished, and effortless, with a smoothness and restraint perfectly suited to the retro style. This affect furthers the song’s themes of romantic devotion, tying up statements of affection in a familiar and reliable sound.
When Denalane reaches the pre-chorus, the song blossoms into a full-blown dancefloor jam switching into a classic disco drum beat and adding fluttering flute and swirling violins. Joined by a choir of backing vocals low in the mix, Denalane commands the exuberant chorus, yearning with all of her being for a love to meet her where she is ready for an unending commitment.
The song moves with an unstoppable groove that wraps the listener up and refuses to let go, but at the same time never stays in the same place for too long, bringing the most out of the transition from verse to chorus and back again. Denalane’s performance holds it all together; she makes use of her tremendous vocal skills, but never treads into the realm of showing off, her restraint making her vocal runs all the more meaningful when they do appear.
“Forever” will appear on Let Yourself Be Loved (Deluxe Version), due out on September 3 via Motown Records.