“Nectar,” Joji’s second full-length album, is the artist’s strongest effort to date. The YouTube star turned singer-songwriter gave us a taste of his potential on his previous releases, but both lacked the finishing touches to cement the artist as a real force in the internet age. While “Nectar” doesn’t quite get him there either, the album shows his potential to leave an impression on the music industry in the future.
After delays due to COVID-19, “Nectar” was released on Sept. 25. The album is a collection of beautifully emotional tracks about topics ranging from love and rejection to fame and the desire to stay grounded. The record serves as a statement of intent from Joji. He wants to fully establish himself as an artist, and with big-name features such as Diplo and Lil Yachty, he’s giving it a real go.
“Ew,” the album’s opener, starts off with a wall of emotional vocals and strings. Driving bass and muffled percussion carry the track through a melancholic world of rejection and the desire for love. As Joji sings “Ooh, teach me to love just to let me go / I can’t believe that I’m not enough,” the feelings of self-deprecation that the artist is experiencing after a breakup are apparent.
The melancholic tones found on “Ew” are built on throughout the record. “Pretty Boy,” featuring Lil Yachty, compares the fast-paced life of music fame with the dark side of internal struggles and insecurities. The track seems like a classic trap-style song at first with lyrical mentions of popping pills and partying. However, Lil Yachty talks about the pain he feels in spite of his self-confidence. “Handsome young man, never pull up on time / Lookin’ in the mirror, lookin’ good should be a crime, crime / All this pain I’ll never let show (no) / My real thoughts, you’ll never know (no).”
While many of the tracks on “Nectar” carry somber overtones, Joji also shows his ability to write pop-influenced upbeat songs with “Daylight” and “Gimme Love.” The latter features a fast-paced beat with memorable repetitive lyrics that make you want to dance—a likely reason for the song’s rise to Tik Tok fame. The second half of the track shows Joji’s ability to switch tones, as he shifts to a wall of emotional vocal harmonies.
The contrast between tracks like “Daylight” and “Ew” show Joji’s versatility as an artist. Joji clearly has no intention to be defined by genres and many of his tracks blur the lines between pop, R&B, hip-hop and even rock.
“Run” showcases some of Joji’s rock influence. The track features the artist’s most powerful and driven vocal performance on the album, as the artist belts out lyrics about his ex finding a new lover. “I know you’re not in love like you used to be / Guess I’m not the one, like you used to think / so you’ll just run.” The song’s real rock influence begins around the 2:20 mark with a wailing, emotional guitar solo that shows Joji’s sadness.
Overall, “Nectar” is a strong album. However, Joji still has work to do to become a star. Some harsher critics, such as Anthony Fantano of YouTube fame, believe some of the album’s efforts are misguided and inconsistent. This opinion is somewhat justifiable. The album can be repetitive, and many songs, including “Ew,” “Run” and “Gimme Love,” have the same general theme. Additionally, many of the vocal deliveries lack imagination. The artist has found his favored tone, and he now seems reluctant to push himself to try something new.
Despite this, it would be criminal to deny that Joji has potential. With his genre-bending tendencies, he has the ability to steer his musical career in any direction he desires. Rather than penalize the artist for the weaker tracks on “Nectar,” it would be better to see these areas as an opportunity to flourish in future releases. Next time with a more diverse songwriting vision, more imaginative vocals and another strong supporting cast of features, Joji could become a superstar.
Listen to “Nectar” on Spotify here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Marion Walmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.