Joji improves on every front with “Nectar”

Joji+improves+on+every+front+with+%22Nectar%22

Nectar is the sophomore album of Internet meme lord turned RnB superstar George “Joji” Miller. 2018’s Ballads 1 saw Joji experimenting with a new sound, one that combined alternative RnB, baroque pop, and lo-fi music; an experience that left me somewhat disappointed. Occasionally on this album, however, Joji displays a ton of potential. Songs like Slow Dancing In The Dark and Yeah Right showcase the sheer vocal talent and emotion Joji can so cleanly pull off. I Can’t Get Over You, produced by Clams Casino, offers up an adorable piece of lo-fi electronica, one where Joji is delicate, even shy, on the vocals. But for the majority of Ballads 1, it’s a sloppy, at times boring, mess. 

The lead up to Nectar was filled by occasional singles, each one different from the last, each one great in their own respect. The upbeat, super poppy Sanctuary was the first of these and showed off a more accessible, catchy side of Joji. Sweet vocals, trap drums, RnB chord progressions, a great music video, and a stunning finish made this one of Joji’s most successful and interesting songs yet.

 The following, Run, sees Joji singing his heart out over a gorgeous Guitar ballad. It sounds straight out of the 70’s Hard Rock scene, while still incorporating elements of modern hip hop production. The single really sounds larger than life. The subsequent Gimme Love, however, couldn’t quite live up to the standard of the first two. The song kicks off with a driving dance groove, bouncy, generic drum patterns, and a nauseatingly annoying hook. 

The verses show Joji underperforming vocally, but his voice does fit over the instrumental in a unique way. However, the second half of the track finds Joji suddenly switching the song to a ballad, that overwhelms with beauty, and shows off some serious vocal restraint. The last single, Daylight, had Joji singing a millennial-pop flavored Diplo beat. The song works. I’m not head over heels for it, but it’s a very fun listen and a super well put together track. Needless to say, The lead up to Nectar left my mouth watering. I couldn’t wait to see what else Joji had in store for us. 

The album kicks off with Ew, an orchestrally backed piano ballad, full of clunky, discordant pianos, juxtaposed with gorgeously harmonious string sections and Joji’s soaring falsettos. Some vocal inflections sound like their right out of Pure Imagination, and the song somewhat overstays its welcome, but all things considered, Nectar starts out really promising. 

The second track, Modus, is a dark, trap flavored RnB song, with some catchy flows, sweet vocals, and a super lowkey, depressing vibe. It’s extremely simple, but effective. Tick Tock’s plucky beat and pitched down, demonic vocals make the hook of this song feel like an old Tyler, The Creator song. Other than that, however, this song doesn’t really stand out, an attribute that sadly takes up too much of Nectar’s tracklist. 

Songs like 777Nitrous, and Normal People are some shining examples. These tracks are overly generic and severely underwritten. High Hopes and Reanimator were huge disappointments for me, as the featured artists Omar Apollo and Yves Tumor were seemingly no-brainers to hop on Joji’s very moody flavor of RnB. However, both of these tracks are just plain boring.

 High Hopes sees Joji and Omar exchanging some of their worst vocals yet over an overly sappy orchestrated chorus, and horrifically mixed stripped back vocals on the verse.

Reanimator kicks off with an echoing, drony synth that actually sounds really cool. However, this synth takes up more than half the track. Joji and Yves barely leave an impression. 

The song Afterthought feels like the name suggests. The pretty vocals that Joji and Benee bring to the song can’t compensate for the utterly forgettable beat and subpar, corny lyrics. Despite these tracks, Nectar has some amazingly high highlights. 

The track Upgrade might be a short interlude, but it’s rumbling, ragtime pianos that quickly transition into a bedroom-pop-style ukulele ballad are one of the most personal and compelling songs on the whole album. Something about its homespun feel really grabs my attention for the brief minute and a half it’s on. Pretty Boy is a simply bizarre, whacko world trap banger. Filled with discordant, close vocal harmonies, and bustling, creepy vocal samples, this track really feels like it’s from an alternate universe. 

Lil Yachty lays a super unsettling, yet extremely fun verse on the second half. Mr. Hollywood shows off Joji’s impressive vocal range. This track is simultaneously stunning and heartbreaking, and a huge standout. Mr. Hollywood almost feels like a sequel to Slow Dancing in the Dark in the best way. Nectar’s final moments are some of it’s best. Like You Do is a gorgeously arranged piece of baroque-ish pop. It’s a true stunner, the washed-out pianos and subdued, watery guitar licks serve perfectly as a backdrop to Joji’s jaw-dropping, spotlit vocal performance. It feels quaint and vintage, like a classic piece of somber pop from the ’60s.

 The final track, Your Man, feels like a better version of what Joji tried to do on Gimme Love, with electrifying dance grooves and repetitive hooks. This song almost feels like something off the Weeknd’s After Hours, with it’s swelling 80’s synths, and driving bassy grooves. Your Man is a sweet, genuinely enjoyable send off to Nectar

With Nectar, Joji continues to show an extreme amount of potential. While it contains some of his best material to date, a lot of the music on here is just forgettable. The ones that stand out, however, really stand out.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed this album more than I disliked it. If Joji cut the fat and just made Nectar a super-strong EP or even a short LP, I could see this being a much better project. However, in its current state, Nectar is sloppy, even if it highlights are some of my favorite songs of the year so far.