Joji’s ‘Nectar’ shows growth as an artist

Zion Smith, Staff Writer

The medium of romance is often considered overplayed. It’s something everyone will experience in their lifetime, giving way to many different interpretations of what exactly building a connection with someone means. This repetitive behavior doesn’t affect George Kusunoki Miller, better known by his alias “Joji.” Joji is an Australian-Japanese Alternative R&B/Pop singer who—over the years—has made a profound world for himself in the music industry with his use of somber instrumentals and his signature melancholic vocal inflections. Joji releases music very scarcely, and though over the span of six years we’ve gotten two EP’s and one LP—of which the latter is his most recent work. Despite this, Joji manages to remain in the spotlight with his unique take on the popular genres of both Pop and R&B. ‘Nectar,’ his newest body of work, is both familiar yet distant to what he has been known for. Nevertheless, he delivers both sonically and lyrically—with this being his most ambitious release to date. 

Anticipation for this LP has been sky high from fans and music critics ever since he released the promotion track, “Gimme Love,” which was a side of Joji no one had heard before. From the lush instrumentation, composition and multiple transitions, to the cadence of his voice being the most refined version we’ve heard, many of us were excited to see what he’d present to us with the successive album. His previous work—“Ballads 1”—while not being the most critically acclaimed—was still something that showed Joji’s latent potential. Tracks like “Yeah Right” and “Slow Dancing in the Dark” highlight some of Joji’s greatest vocal performances. “Ballads 1” differs from “Nectar” because of how it was built up. The promotion of “Nectar” was one of the freshest takes on building anticipation for a body of work all year since 21 Savage’s movie trailer for the album “Savage Mode 2.” Joji, however, gave us a cinematic experience from the music videos for his promotion tracks, connecting everything together and telling an intriguing story. The professionalism and overall aesthetic seen with his promotion of the LP seemed to have worked out for him because many are calling this work his best and most “out there” piece of media yet. 

The introduction to “Nectar,” simply titled “Ew,” was a wonderful way to start off the album, as it makes use of Joji’s ability to make simplicity complex in it’s presentation. From the signature piano ballads and string ensembles to the cadence and flow he uses throughout, it all comes together to form the melancholic, gloomy and somber feel we all know him for. This is then only heightened with Joji’s writing—the most polished it’s ever been. 

“Nectar”— while showcasing some of Joji’s highest quality performances of his career thus far—often struggles to maintain this same grandiose feel. In between Joji’s masterfully composed and performed tracks, there are mediocre and sometimes oddly bare tracks that take away from the previously mentioned masterpieces. Tracks like “NITROUS” and “Pretty Boy,” while giving substance to the themes mentioned by Joji—themes such as the loss of love, and knowing when to focus on yourself—are often confusing and don’t add much to the concept Joji presented to us early on. This only becomes more evident when we take some of the lyrics in context. Lines such as “a pretty boy livin’ on the West side/ Poppin’ blue pills and sippin’ on finest, nay-ay/No more fears and no more lies/I tell myself to sleep at night” only diminish the atmosphere Joji was creating, especially when the topic of drug use doesn’t add anything constructive to what has already been established, and it doesn’t come up again for the entire album, despite taking up so much of this track’s runtime. The first five tracks on this album are some of Joji’s best to date, and while the rest aren’t particularly bad, they don’t belong in the same echelon of the first five (excluding the promotion tracks); and it’s seemingly because a lot of the material in the album just seem ubiquitously undone and poorly executed. While they aren’t horrible, it is clear when Joji’s at his best vocally and lyrically, and when he’s not. Though there are some tracks Joji would have benefitted without, most have their place within the tracklisting. This isn’t to say that all of the songs following the first five are all bad, however. “Afterthought,” is a track that appears later in the album and is the most lyrically sincere we’ve ever heard from Joji. He explains how he feels that time can truly heal all wounds, and though his remembrance was through hardships, it’s still unbearable for the listener to feel  completely forgotten by that certain someone that Joji references throughout the entire album. A standout line from “Afterthought” is: “Lately I’ve been slippin’ away from you/Can you tell me does it hurt today?/There’s no way in/To burn, there’s no flames.” This also illustrates the stark contrasts in the quality of lyrics across the album 

From lush melodies, harmonies and composition,Joji is an artist who has the potential to become a world renowned musician. “Nectar” was a unique listening experience for me, as it simultaneously cemented Joji as an artist who’s here to stay, and elevated him to heights I didn’t think were possible. Everyone has experienced loss; everyone has their own way of coping. “Nectar” was Joji at his most vulnerable, and it’s because of this vulnerability that his audience is able to find solace within the project. This body of art, while having it’s lows, makes up with highs far outshining any major mishaps within the project. “Nectar,” as its name implies, shows the sweetness of finding connection, and I’d recommend this for anyone who wants an engaging yet laid back listen.