Album Review: Nectar by Joji
Filthy Frank. George Miller. Japanese-American singer and ex-Youtube star Joji has lived almost three lives with these three names. His unique career path has led him from eating toenails for Youtube subscribers to being featured in legendary journalist and respected music critic Gregory Martinez’s album review. Joji’s highly anticipated sophomore album Nectar was released September 25, 2020, after a two month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Charting in many countries, the album was well received by professional critics and the general public. But how will it fare against a high school student’s scrutinous eye?
The eighteen-song album opens with “Ew,” a dreamy track that shows off Joji’s impressive vocal range, with soaring highs and drawn out notes. “Ew” sets the tone for the album, by punctuating slow segments filled with longing with beat-infused emotional segments. Closing with a violin solo, “Ew” draws the listener into the musical world Joji has created.
Nectar continues with “MODUS”, a more hip-hop oriented song. Joji’s producers strut their stuff here, as Joji’s melodic rapping is overlaid with a thumping beat. A smooth blend of pop-like vocals with a beat that certain rap enthusiasts might call “fire,” it showcases Joji’s versatility as an artist. After an admittedly forgettable “Tick Tock,” Joji sprinkles in his first single, “Daylight.” Featuring world renowned DJ Diplo, the song embodies the break up feel all of Joji’s music has. Heartbreaking lines like “And I've been a hero, helpless / I'm in hell / And I've cried up and down in these hallways / Blamed myself” and “Sun's up, I don't really wanna fight the daylight / I don't care if you moved on” really get the listener to reminisce.
After a short but impactful “Upgrade”, Joji goes into the fast-paced track “Gimme Love." The song feels frantic and desperate with the repetition of the line “gimme gimme love” displaying Joji’s yearning for a lost lover’s affection. The lyrics are pained and desperate, concealed behind fast delivery and a drum beat. But the real highlight is when Joji slows it down. At its peak, he makes one last call to his departing lover. “Look into your heart and let me know / Do things turn black and gray as they go?” he cries, begging for some acknowledgment of past feelings. His final “But I can’t let you go” is devastating,. The evolution of this song from a fast and exciting opening to a soulful and longing ending is remarkable, and really deserves a whole paragraph in this review.
If you, mysterious reader, thought the “Gimme Love” review was unnecessarily lengthy, “Run” is going to give you nightmares. The second single off of Nectar, this track showcases Joji’s voice. He effortlessly jumps from long, drawn out notes to swooping highs, blending beautifully with the slick guitar lines in the background. The song is excellently constructed, as the drums add a great touch to Joji’s more staccato verse. Incredibly, though the guitar solo that finishes the song has no relation to the main melody (besides probably being in the same key), it still sounds great and fits perfectly with the rest of the song. It provides almost a break from the melancholic, yearning lyrics, providing the listener with a chance to take a breath and reflect. “Run” is Joji at his finest, combining great vocals with a soulful beat and nice guitars.
The last single to appear on the album is “Sanctuary,” a track that garnered immense popularity before the album’s release, with over two hundred million streams on Spotify alone. By this point, however, the album’s main flaw becomes clear—it gets repetitive. While the song offers more excellent vocals from Joji and more smooth instrumental sections, Joji’s niche sound starts to sound too constrained. While the song is good, in conjunction with the album, it is forgettable and almost boring. After “Sanctuary,” there are five feature-heavy tracks, where Joji collaborates with Omar Apollo, Lil Yachty, and rei brown. Like “Sanctuary,” they are fine songs in their own right (“NITROUS” is a highlight), but they seem like filler.
Despite a mediocre middle, the album picks up steam towards the end. “Mr. Hollywood” is another personal favorite, as it thrives in its melodic simplicity and great lyrics. Here Joji describes to someone how he won’t leave them despite newfound fame and money, which is a great message. The song brings variety to the album, and yet still stays within Joji’s niche. “777” is another energetic song, with a nice change of pace from a songwriter evidently sensing the same issue of repetition. “Like You Do” is superb, slow and soulful like the best Joji songs. The soft piano throughout keeps the song light, and yet, emotion-packed at the same time. Alas, the album can’t end on a high, as “Your Man” sounds strangely like a club song and too dance oriented for Joji’s style.
Overall, the album is good. As one would expect from an 18-track album, the songs vary in consistency and have some down points. Joji’s main issue with Nectar, and arguably with his previous album Ballads 1, is repetition. Joji has a very specific sound, soulful and beat heavy. It’s what sets him apart from other artists, and what made him break into the mainstream with his 2018 release “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK.” This album stays within this range and does well, but struggles to maintain variety in a seemingly limited space.
Final Rating: 8/10
My Top Three:
1 - “Mr Hollywood”
2 - “Gimme Love”
3 - “Run”
Not 4 because this is a Top Three but still really good - “Ew”