Joji's latest release mixes pop-infused low-fi aesthetics in a way that signifies a plunge into a more accessible, mature and refined sound for his music.
As possibly one of the most influential figures on the internet in the last decade, George Miller, known now by his stage name Joji, has had his fair share of viral success. Whether it be from his infamous and remarkably successful YouTube channel, his creation of the Harlem Shake trend, or in more recent times his music, his creative authority has only been rising. Following the success and lessons learned from his debut album Ballads 1 (2018), which featured smash hits ‘Slow Dancing in the Dark’ and ‘Yeah Right’, his sophomore album Nectar (2020) was always going to be one that was heavily anticipated.
The album clearly highlights the evolution of Joji’s song-writing ability, as it sails into more mature and refined waters. The four pre-releases to this album all proved to be massively successful with the first entitled ‘Sanctuary’, the moody low-fi pop ballad with futuristic overtones, having already amassed over 190 million Spotify streams. The highlight of the pre-releases, and also a serious high point in the album, comes in the form of ‘Run’ and ‘Gimme Love’. Despite having a lyrical substance that is nothing special by Joji standards, the hook, instrumental and vocal performance make ‘Run’ a hit. With wandering guitar arpeggios that build into an explosive chorus, it displays a vocal ability in Joji that was really honed and developed since Ballads 1 which ultimately serves as a clear milestone for his musical development. Additionally, ‘Gimme Love’ features a visceral driving beat that transitions mid-way through into a gentle arranged instrumental section that features poetic lyrics as Joji rises into his upper register for a showstopping finish. Lastly, ‘Daylight’, which I have previously reviewed separately, rounds of the pre-releases with another well-received catchy pop-infused track.
In addition to the hit advance released songs, Nectar harbours other impressive tracks that offer a lot to the listener. The first two tracks on the album, ‘Ew’ and ‘Modus’ contain emotionally potent lyrics and layered instrumentals that immediately capture attention. Furthermore, the interlude ‘Upgrade’, which exhibits a simplistic broken piano beat, and the raw yet powerful ‘Mr. Hollywood’, would remind long-time Joji fans of Chloe Burbank Vol 1, which even outdates his first official ep In Tongues (2017).‘Pretty Boy’ deviates from the consistent sound of the album by providing a melancholic tone that surprisingly seems to oscillate between being both happy and sad, whilst also having an impressive feature from Lil Yachty that boosts the track and breaks up the songs flow in a very tasteful way. The impressive features list that Nectar boasts only adds to the album and confirms Joji’s rising prominence in the music industry, with distinguished artists such as Diplo and BENEE making good appearances. Lastly, ‘Your Man’ makes for a triumphant and heavily pop-orientated final track that should leave both new and returning listeners alike eager for more from Joji.
Despite the plethora of positive aspects attributed to the album, it does fall down in some places. It becomes clear that whilst Joji’s song making talent has improved, he has seemingly refined a formula that at times can come across as repetitive, most notably in the bland ‘Normal People’. With 18 songs spanning a 53-minute runtime, you get a distinct impression that some songs just don’t need to be in the album, especially when it is clear, such as on ‘High Hopes’, that a lackluster vocal performance has been put in. These songs stand in such a stark contrast to the high moments as they fail to leave the lasting impact of songs like ‘Run’ and ‘Gimme Love’ which ultimately just emphasises a great divide between the really high-quality songs and the more forgettable cuts.
That being said, the album has a much higher production value to that of Ballads 1 which makes it much easier to get immediately into. Furthermore, the album’s themes of new beginnings, the weight of fame and trying to get out from under one’s past are ones that are clearly close to Joji’s heart and are portrayed in a classy way that doesn’t feel cheap or shallow to create a consistent aesthetic theme throughout the album and its visual aspects. These themes are made clear through his currently released music videos that display a narrative of an astronaut escaping earth and seemingly starting anew on a baron planet, which is interspersed with dreams and thoughts from their past on earth. Additionally, this is reflected in Joji’s musicality as he hasn’t rested on his laurels but has actively improved his singing, lyricism and production to produce a strong album.
Overall, Nectar is an improvement on the successful Ballads 1 and has left Joji in good stead for the future. The big hits of the album as well as the hidden gems have established him as an artist with a real potential to bring their work to the next level. Whilst the album is in places inconsistent and has some very average tracks, it is worth remembering that despite the fact Joji has seemingly been around for years due to his huge online presence, his music career is still very new and it will take him time to truly hone his craft. This album is a very enjoyable addition to Joji’s discography which provides an emotive listen that should increase his fanbase and create excitement for whatever his future holds!
Nectar is available to listen to now via 88rising Records. You can watch the video for ‘Run’ below: