Caleb M.S.—Staff Writer
The pupation of Joji from YouTube personality, to unground SoundCloud musician, to a full-fledged artist with three studio albums under his belt has been an exciting arc to follow. The “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” star followed up his 2018 LP BALLADS 1 with Nectar this past month. The artist promoted the project with two lead singles, “Run” and “Gimme Love.” Thematically, Joji is preaching to the choir as he sings about love lost, love longed-for, and inner turmoil. Musically, Joji dances across the spectrum of stellar and bland. The guitar interlude in “Run” sends the listener to the stratosphere, while many of the songs in the latter portion of the album are bland, good for background listening and not much else.
The strengths of Nectar lie in the particularities, as do the weaknesses. The previously mentioned guitar bridge in track seven, “Run,” makes up for the prior chilled- out six tracks. Beats and backing tracks by and large do not feel groundbreaking or risky. The opening track “Ew,” along with lead single “Gimme Love,” share DNA with the Weeknd’s excellent LP After Hours, which dropped earlier this year. However, when these particularities shine, they do so brightly. The string outro on “Ew” sets the album up well: dissonant, dreamy, and a little haunting.
Nectar, despite its strongest moments, is underserved by the production on the project. In moments the listener is straining to hear the mumbled vocals of the artist, and then just a track later you find yourself wanting more from the backing tracks.
However, it is obvious there are moments where Joji is stretching his musical muscles. The vocal manipulation on “Tick Tock,” is a high point, as is his interaction with Lil Yachty on “Pretty Boy.” Despite the lazy and poorly mixed beat, something about the collaboration works out. Maybe it is the juxtaposition of the artists, or how Yachty sounds like he is having as much fun as he did in his SoundCloud days.
Unfortunately, the Lil Yachty feature is the only one the album where a featured artist is utilized well. Despite features by Diplo, Omar Apollo, and Kenny Beats, Joji fails to capitalize on the individual strengths of the adjunct artists. Instead, he opts to smother the features in his own aesthetic, numbing their potential effect.
As a whole project, Nectar is spotty– but has moments of brilliance. A definite improvement from BALLADS 1, the 2020 project only makes me more excited for the future of Joji.
WILL LISTEN AGAIN
Run Gimme Love Pretty Boy
Ew Tick Tock
BURN IT DOWN