Review: Nectar is a brilliant display of passion

Going from a YouTube shock artist to a lyrical genius, Joji takes his music to a deeper level

The album cover for Joji's second studio album, Nectar.

Photo Album of The Year

The album cover for Joji’s second studio album, Nectar.

Jennifer Le, Online Managing Editor

In the past few years, I’ve seen many YouTube favorites take their chances at a music career and some have really taken the cake. Among the few talents on the online-video sharing platform was George Kusunoki Miller, otherwise known as Joji.

I’ve watched Joji since his Filthy Frank days on YouTube and it was pretty hard for me to take him seriously until I listened to his first studio album, BALLADS 1. His music was actually very catchy and I was excited to hear that he had produced a second album, Nectar.

Initially, Joji had announced the release date as July 2020 but postponed it until September 25, 2020, in response to COVID-19. After the long wait, Nectar did not disappoint. The album had a mix of light-hearted pop songs with melancholy soul songs as well. Nectar pushes Joji forward in his music career, establishing a more serious tone.

Originally it was based on finding dead ants in my freezer and joking about calling the album Nectar after that, but I was trying to put a lighter spin on it. At the end of the day, every life form is chasing something.”

— Joji in an interview with GQ

The names of the tracks on the album are pretty simplistic, which reminded me of Rex Orange County— one-word names that appear to mean nothing until you actually listen to the song.

The opening track for Nectar was  “Ew,” and not gonna lie, the title was pretty misleading. The song starts off with a melancholy piano before introducing Joji’s more soulful voice. It’s a song about heartbreak and desire for a permanent relationship.

The first two lines, “Ooh, teach me to love just to let me go/I can’t believe that I’m not enough,” play into the album’s theme of chasing something or someone. It’s not a song I would normally listen to and far from my usual chirpy music.

Instead, “Ew” and other tracks like “Run,” “Normal People” and “Mr. Hollywood” were more sad R&B, something you’d see on someone’s sad breakup playlist. Yet there’s something so comforting in hearing his voice alluding sorrow and longing.

One of the things that makes Joji such a great R&B singer is his ethereal and soulful voice. My favorite track on the album had to be “Sanctuary,” the first song released from Nectar back in 2019. On the worst of nights, this song is a must-listen-to track. I cannot fathom why this one stood out so much but there’s something about the way Joji’s melodic, high-pitched voice just breathes off the lyrics like tears.

“Sanctuary” is Joji’s profession of love to a potential lover, continuing his cry for a permanent partner in the lines “Not anyone, you’re the one/More than fun, you’re the sanctuary.” The first time I head it, it felt relieving somehow. Listening to this song was like hearing an angel cry and it dives right into a common craving for that lasting attachment. It’s sad in the way that makes you smile in the end and reminds you that everyone’s a little lonely.

Stepping away from the depressing aspects of the album, one of the most popular tracks on the album, “Gimme Love,”  gained popularity on TikTok earlier this year after the sound was used by several verified creators on the app, including Chase Hudson aka lil huddy, Tony Lopez and Alex Warren. It’s an upbeat and light-hearted song, likely the reason why it was able to blow up. This track was a fun song to dance to, pulling the rest of Nectar out of its sorrow, all while staying in line with Joji’s message.

Nectar was a mix of tone, yet it was still Joji’s style. It’s his lightheartedness that’s able to lighten the load of heartbreak and really bring out the best of his talent. By mixing lo-fi, techno, R&B and soul music, I have yet to skip a song on the album. For now, Nectar‘s vibe is beautiful and emotionally raw.