Originally known for his outrageous characters, Filthy Frank and Pink Guy, from comedy sketches on his YouTube channel, Joji and his new album Nectar are a far cry from his early days. Originally slated for release on July 10, Joji pushed his album back to the end of September due to the pandemic. Though it didn’t quite match the level of anticipation Frank Ocean gained when teasing his latest release, over time expectations rose. The “Harlem Shake” creator turned alternative music star offers easier listenability and mass appeal on Nectar, but some will yearn for the moodiness of Ballads 1.
With each of Joji’s new projects comes a more sophisticated sound than before. The first track in Nectar, “Ew,” is an elevated production compared to the roughly synthed “sadboi” aesthetic of his past work. The track is not a departure from his hip-hop-influenced, genre-bending tendencies, but rather shows tighter mixing, which adds to his strong appeal among Gen-Z listeners.
Going into a new Joji album, I expected tracks about hopeless romantics alongside some more commercial hits. He delivers on both of these expectations, but not quite in the way veteran Joji fans are used to. Darker tracks that took up a lot of runtime on Ballads 1 are disappointingly given a smaller role on Nectar.
Features from Diplo on “Daylight” and Lil Yachty on “Pretty Boy” are some of the most exciting moments on the album, brightening up what are otherwise darker songs. “Pretty Boy” really shows how much Lil Yachty’s voice has evolved since his early days, with some nice swinging vocals, heavily auto-tuned and reminiscent of T-Pain. “Daylight,” on the other hand, might be the most well-rounded song of the bunch, pairing splashy guitar chords with a robust chorus and relatable lyrics. My personal favorite Joji song, “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK,” remains that for me after Nectar’s release: It’s the pinnacle of his dreamy voice, presented in full force, split up by high-hatted beat switches.
Joji’s music has always come from his willingness to experiment, and Nectar does not differ in this regard. A common critique of Joji’s work is a lack of lyrical depth. He is not impervious to the tropes of bedroom pop love songs, and his writing can feel predictable and cliched more often than I’d like. As he’s said in many interviews, Joji is more invested in his beats and the overall vibe of a track: he doesn’t make music for critics to dwell on every last stanza in search of some deeper significance. You play his music on long bus rides, somber late night walks and solo listening parties in your dorm room. While Nectar is better suited for your car’s speakers, it’s also more versatile than anything else we’ve seen from Joji before.
Favorite Tracks: “Daylight” feat. Diplo, “Sanctuary,” “Mr. Hollywood,” “Like You Do”