By Daniel Brennan
Joji’s ascension in the world of music is unlike that of many others who possess his skill – for years he was best known as his YouTube persona Filthy Frank, who made all those edgy videos you liked when you were 16. But he’s far more than just a young adult with too much time on his hands jumping around being silly in a pink suit now, and Nectar is the most obvious proof of that yet.
His breakthrough projects, 2017’s In Tongues and 2018’s Ballads 1 showed great promise in areas, and featured hit songs like ‘Yeah Right’ and ‘Slow Dancing in the Dark’, but also felt lacking in substance to some extent. On Nectar, that issue is more than resolved. On this project, Joji is a far more mature songwriter than on his previous albums. The instrumentals have more depth, his vocals have improved, and most notably, he’s developed a real knack for pumping out catchy, poppy hooks on almost every single song.
The most notable songs on Nectar are the singles that were released in the weeks and months leading up to the full album’s debut. ‘Gimme Love’ might just be my favourite song of the year so far, with the song’s catchy refrain being stuck solidly in my head since the single’s release in April.
The pounding bass line and drums in the first half give way to soulful vocals from Joji, as well as a gorgeous piano line, harmonised vocals and string section to bring the song to a beautiful peak. The song feels like a far more refined version of what Joji was trying to do on previous projects, with the production and songwriting being complete standouts.
‘Run’ is a complete break from the norm for Joji though, being a mix of a rock and pop ballad. His trademark falsetto vocals are met with a guitar riff and harder-hitting percussion, leading to a rather unexpected guitar solo at the end of the song. Trust me when I say that it works.
‘Sanctuary’ is a spaced-out pop banger, plain and simple. The chorus especially is another example of just how far he has come as a pop songwriter, and you’ll have “If you’ve been waiting for falling in love, babe you don’t have to wait on me” running laps around your head in no time.
The first half of Nectar is excellent, but sadly in the second half the narrative of a relationship not quite coming together gets a bit tired, as well as some relatively similar instrumentals to the first half of the project. Songs like ‘Mr Hollywood’ and “777” are good songs on their own, but overall if they were cut out, the album would have a better flow at around 45 minutes in length rather than the total 53 minutes, and the romantic story being told would progress at a more expected pace in my opinion.
The final three songs pick up the pace again both narratively and musically – ‘Reanimator’ is a much – needed change of pace instrumentally, with electronic producer Yves Tumor taking the reins. Once the drums kick in about a minute and a half in, it felt like I was loading into a Gran Turismo race in the absolute best way possible.
Penultimate track, ‘Like You Do’ is a great piano ballad and marks the first point in the album where this relationship feels more normal- No one loves me like you do. There’s an overriding feeling of dread throughout too, almost like Joji has realised too late that this was more than a fling. Joji’s vocals are the focal point here, and he gives a great emotional performance.
‘Your Man’ is the final song, carrying elements of the two previous songs – a more electronic inspired instrumental as well as a conclusion of the story – as well as tying the album up nicely; “I’ll be your man, oh man”.
Overall, Nectar demonstrates a much more musically mature Joji, whose songwriting is the shining light on this album. His improved vocals, song structure and production provide a much more substantial project than anything he’s released before, and show that he’s ready for the leap into pop superstardom. Despite the album maybe running a bit long at points, the content is so consistently good that I already can’t wait to see where he goes next.