Joji – Nectar, Album Review

After delays and numerous singles, Joji's full length follow up to "Ballads 1" has finally arrived.

Release Date
September 25, 2020
Genre
Alternative
Label
88rising Music/12Tone Music

Joji’s second album is something I’ve been waiting quite some time for. I reviewed “Ballads 1” pretty positively back in the day and a lot of those songs have never left my rotation. (“Slow Dancing In The Dark”, “Wanted U”, “No Fun”) Since I heard “Sanctuary” and Joji’s contributions to his label’s compilation albums, I had a feeling his next album would be something special. The singles that followed only fueled my anticipation to grow. So I’m thrilled to say “Nectar” is finally here. Let’s dive in.

The highest and most consistent praise I can give “Nectar” is that from start to finish, everything feels leveled up. Compared to the charming minimalism of “Ballads 1”, “Nectar” is often theatrical. From the opening track “Ew”, the production value sounds massive. Even the smaller scale tracks like “Tick Tock” or “Upgrade” have a polish to them. “Like You Do” is nothing but a piano and Joji’s vocals, and it brought me to tears. The presentation is outstanding throughout this album.

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Especially when it really indulges in itself. Like with Diplo’s tuneful production on “Daylight” or the dark presence of Yves Tumor on “Reanimator”. The repetitive poppy start to “Gimme Love” followed by the gloomy pulling of the veil that ends it. So many moments in this album, big or small, are grand.

But no song on this album, maybe no song I’ve heard this year, elevates its sound scape better than “Run”. “Run” as a whole is Joji’s magnum opus. “Run” is a ballad more than anything on “Ballads 1” or any of Joji’s previous work could ever be. Joji bears all vocally and emotionally on the song and does so over a powerful guitar-fueled instrumental that pairs with him like a match made in heaven. Dare I say the guitar solo at the end is Mike Dean level. It’s flawless. Though there isn’t another moment that held that level of impact on me, “Nectar” is a very consistent album. The production isn’t the only thing that sounds sharpened. I would say that compliment applies even more to Joji’s singing on this album.

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Joji’s older work has a very clear lo-fi influence. It’s an aesthetic that fits him well at the time, but there’s only so far it can go. His subdued vocals blended in with the atmosphere but what he does here is. next level. He switches up his vocal tones from song to song and crafts his best hooks ever. Songs like “Sanctuary” or “Mr. Hollywood” shows off not only Joji’s range but a fair amount of mainstream potential. Not to say it’s derivative, but “777” is a better Post Malone song than most of “Hollywood’s Bleeding” offered.

Joji could’ve easily carried this album on his own and mostly he does. There are only a handful of features and they’re all decent additions to the songs they’re on. Omar Apollo was the only one I found disappointing sadly. I think he’s a great artist and could’ve gotten a lot of exposure from being on this album. But his verse on “High Hopes” isn’t memorable at all. (Except maybe the odd re-purposing of Drake’s “Toosie Slide” flow)

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The other features match up with Joji far better. I was worried when I saw Lil Yachty’s name on “Pretty Boy” but I think he gets in his bag on that song more than Joji does. (Though the song as a whole has grown on me with more listens) I wasn’t familiar with rei brown but apparently he has history with Joji. The chemistry is definitely there on “Normal People”. Both of them do more with less on that song in a way that brings Joji’s past work to mind positively. Benee shares a similar level of chemistry with Joji on “Afterthought”.

Overall, “Nectar” is Joji evolved. Big name producers bringing higher scale production to pair with Joji’s enhanced vocal chops. While it slows down a little in the second half, “Nectar” is a grandiose listening experience and a consistent pleasure. Joji showcased the versatility necessary for him to progress even more as an artist from here. He had great potential before, now it’s through the roof. In the meantime, “Nectar” is sweet as honey and a record that I’ll be delighted to come back to.

Joji – Nectar, Album Review
Production
8.7
Songwriting
8.4
Vocal Performance
8.9
Favorite Tracks
"Ew"
"Run"
"Like You Do"
Least Favorite Tracks
"High Hopes"
"Pretty Boy"
8.7
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