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Album Review

The album cover to Fefe Dobson's third studio album, Joy, is most likely symbolic. Picturing the young performer collapsed on her own stage, it's likely representative of the five years of drama that Dobson endured after her second album, Sunday Love, was ultimately shelved days before its release and Dobson was dropped from her label. In the time that Dobson was label-less, she was certainly keeping busy, still occasionally touring and songwriting, most prominently with Disney teen prodigy Selena Gomez. Though Dobson saw her career halt and found herself forced to work with artists who can hardly touch her in terms of talent, she never gave up — and neither did her fans. After releasing two singles independently — the ever so spunky "I Want You" and the slick and spicy "Watch Me Move" (very clearly a big f-you to her former label) — she was re-signed to Island Records, and got an independent distribution deal with Universal at the same time. Dobson had gone from has-been to hot commodity. The question remains, is Joy a great album? The answer is an unequivocal yes. The album could have been a sappy collection of moody ballads, a collection of all the dark tunes that Dobson penned during her time without a label. However, if Dobson was ever not producing top-quality, charismatic pop/rock radio smash tunes, we would never know the difference. Dobson had a hand in writing each of these power numbers, which represent her strongest body of work to date. From lead single "Ghost" (co-written by Kara DioGuardi and produced by Kevin Rudolf) to the follow-up midtempo chart burner "Stuttering," Dobson proves she's on top of the pop market, with some immaculate writing and production that keep her fresh with the contemporaries who sprang up while she was away from the game. However, the strength comes in the non-singles, which slide farther from radio fodder and into a greasier, grittier set that is often too absent in pop music these days: Dobson bites back against her vices on "Thanks for Nothing" and sends a rival woman running on the Howard Benson-produced "You Bitch"; it's these tracks where Dobson's fire blazes strongest, and she catapults herself into the ranks of spitfire pop artists like Kelly Clarkson and P!nk. Not to mention, just when you think she's kept herself guarded, Dobson rips herself open on "Set Me Free," making it clear that the hardships she's endured because of the music business have truly left her scarred; it's these scars, however, that make her ballads so bruising and her spunk and charm so fresh and believable. Joy may not be such a cheerful album, but it stands to be an epic comeback for a genuinely talented pop artist who was shafted by the industry that would welcome her back with open arms, and that is definitely a joyous story.

Customer Reviews

A Truly Superb Album

I wholeheartedly, 100% believe that of all the albums I have purchased this year (an amount that is probably worth more than $1000), this is definitely the best as a whole. Every track is strong in it's own right, brings out her different abilities, and explores genres. Some criticisms fans are having are not justified at all; Sunday Love was moodier, but as a record, worse. In fact, a few tracks I adored, and some were instantly forgettable (unfortunately, Man Meets Boy was not, which definitely stunk). I don't know what's next for Fefe, and I don't know how well this album will do, but it's a truly exceptional pop/rock piece, and you'd be a fool to not buy it because she 'sold out'. By the way, Sunday Love was made with Island Def Jam. Half of Joy was made indie. Unless you want to delude yourself into hipster paradise, this album is the album Fefe wanted to release. And it's truly magnificent.

Dobson's "Official" Sophomore Follow-Up Certainly Is A "Joy" To Behold

The road to pop stardom has been a difficult and hard road for singer Fefe Dobson. With a distinct flair to her pop personality, Dobson's moderate successes with her debut album (including single "Take Me Away") prompted enough interest to quickly work on a follow-up. That album, tentatively called "Sunday Love", was shelfed at the last minute by Dobson's Island Records. That's a shame, because for fans who seek out the album online (which isn't too hard to find), they'll discover one of the most engaging and coherent portrayals of teenage angst on an album ever. It's a gritty, realistic, and honest artistic expression of one singer at one period in her life. Dobson's hopeful sophomore album had proudly placed her into her own unique brand of hellcat. If only it was released...

But time heals all wounds (7 years to be exact), and Dobson has made amends with Island Records to finally have an “official” sophomore album: “Joy”. That's a fitting album title because Dobson has plenty of reasons to celebrate. Evolving out of her rebellious teen years, Dobson has crafted a slightly more mature and universal pop record. Spanning different styles, eras, and genres, “Joy” is that kind of universal pop record that appeals to pretty much everyone. With a sound a little more sophisticated than the Disney stars, but not too risqué to offend others, “Joy” is a superior presentation of pop music that's crafted completely for the radio.

It's no surprise then, that the album opens up exactly on Dobson's songs going in and out of radio receptions. They're crafted for instant play. The first single and opener “Ghost” is a testament to that willpower. Using her favorite trademark, the girlfriend scorned, Dobson purrs then outright roars with contempt. “Does she know you'll never treat her right?” Dobson coos in a voice sounding more like a threat than a question. Wailing and hollering loudly on the chorus, “Ghost” hooks you fast and stays with you long after.

The following song, “Thanks for Nothing”, may just be the best of the album. Wasting no time to grieve over a breakup, Dobson counts all the reasons why she's better off alone. She opens up the song preaching “The best part of my life since you've been gone/is to sing as loud as I want in the car”. With utter glee and relish, Dobson holds a breakup anthem full of swagger, it makes you want to be single immediately.

The album continues to hold it's own unique key while playing with musical variations. She goes for full-on 80's ballad in the aching “Can't Breathe”, starts a cat-calling, Avril Lavigne-esque game of wits on “You Bitch”, and delves into familiar, strong punk roots with “I'm A Lady” and “Watch Me Move”.

Beginning to end, “Joy” is a jewel to behold. It's catchy, honest, and fun throughout. It may not have the resonance as “Sunday Love” does (so few albums do), but it certainly does hold the key to radio prominence. What's the most refreshing, of course, is that “Joy” is a pure celebration – forgetting old scores to focus on the music. Just listen to the title track, an ode to relationship bliss – is it so absurd to think Dobson might just be addressing herself and you the fan, one on one? 7 years is a long time for fans to wait. Luckily, this second round of sophomore effort is still strong. With “Joy”, there's much to cheer about.


Love Stuttering!


Born: February 28, 1985 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Fefe Dobson was a young Toronto-based songstress who brokered demo recordings and a series of solid industry showcases into a deal with Island/Def Jam, which issued her eponymous debut in October 2003. The album showcased Dobson's brassy vocals over a pop-alternative, radio-ready groove skating between styles and incorporating plenty of electric guitar dynamics. For her part, the 18-year-old cited vocal and songwriting influences ranging from Judy Garland to Kurt Cobain. As lead single "Take Me Away"...
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Joy, Fefe Dobson
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