Having long since transcended the cliché of a ‘Youtuber-turned-musician’ after the release of his commercially acclaimed debut album, Ballads 1, Joji’s sophomore album Nectar reigns as his most assured musical endeavour. Armed with top-grade pop production at one holster and features from an ensemble of industry giants in the other, Nectar is an album that pulls no punches in its artistic ambitions.
Persisting with his trademark lo-fi aesthetic fused with the sad-boy R&B formula, the album floats atop the same dark swirling pools of malaise that Joji previously evoked in Ballads 1. And yet, Nectar feels fresh; Joji’s familiar crestfallen piano hooks are now offset and emblazoned by soaring string accompaniments that add heaves of gravitas to his sound. Both the opening track ‘Ew’ and the following track ‘MODUS’ flit seamlessly between musical styles with ease, effortlessly pivoting from melancholic piano arpeggios to fully inflated orchestral moments grand enough to fill a moderately-sized opera house.
Joji’s vocals, despite the occasional aimless morbidity in his lyrics – ‘I can’t believe that I’m not enough / Not enough’ – have also seen a decidedly commendable evolution since Ballads 1. Both of the album’s singles, ‘Run’ and ‘Gimme Love’, feature vocal croons that cradle a genuine sadness, before divebombing into an outpouring of cathartic wails.
Though Nectar’s experimental spirit is the cause of many alluring production choices, such as the anarchic eruption of screams and sirens in ‘Pretty Boy’ that add to the song’s anthemic sense of chaos, some left-field choices fail to stick their landing. ‘777’ suffers a clunky blend between its pre-chorus and chorus that leaves the song feeling unpolished and disjointed, with other songs such as ‘Reanimator’ feeling half-baked despite its experimental beat.
Despite Joji’s reach often exceeding his grasp, Nectar nevertheless outruns his previous efforts in terms of both quality and maturity. Though far from being the most ground-breaking music Joji is likely yet to release given his obvious potential, Nectar succeeds in showcasing a collection of head-nodders that fit Joji’s familiar hazy, nocturnal R&B sound. If consumed horizontally, well into the later hours of a dull evening, most fans of Joji’s after-hours vibe should find few complaints with the album.
Header image: Joji. Credit: Damien Maloney via Billboard.