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Courtesy of 88rising

October 7, 2020

TEST SPIN | Joji’s ‘Nectar’

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Joji has shown remarkable improvement with every year that he has continued to make music, and the record Nectar is no exception. His vocals have shifted from that of the king of lo-fi music to a capable pop singer’s. Controlled falsetto, thundering bass or relaxed harmonies are expelled unto the track by this miraculous voice. Whether it’s gently rapping like on “MODUS” and “Tick Tock” or singing to his ultimate capabilities like on “Afterthought” or “Mr. Hollywood,” Joji has proven himself to be an emerging icon of popular music. Additionally, the single “Sanctuary,” although released over a year ago now, has nearly garnered 200 million plays on Spotify.

Atmosphere is a key element of Joji’s music, and he absolutely kills it in this department. “MODUS” feels like a refreshing wave of energy upon impact. It’s been blessed by an intensely discernible vigor that comes from Joji’s simultaneous anguish and perseverance. Yet Joji never fails to impress and to flex about his success.

“Tick Tock” is quite possibly the catchiest song Joji has ever made. It’s an emotionally lucrative piece ripe with both nostalgia and hope, perhaps so innately effective because it almost commands listeners to recognize time as it passes. Part of what makes it so powerful is that it’s a song about a triumphant love complete with potential loss and victory regarding that love. And it talks about iced out watches, of course.

“Daylight,” his collab with Diplo, hosts proud trumpets, synths and the occasional beachy guitar chord. The song also seamlessly transitions into the humble “Upgrade,” a sort of throwback song that utilizes a chord progression similar to “worldstar money (interlude).” It uses an upgraded beat as the title nearly foretells, and the deep vocals are more immersive. In all regards, it showcases how far he has come as an artist explicitly while silky smooth lyrics and melodies ring aloud. I personally find Joji best when he makes his own beats, though.

Granted a music video upon the album’s release, “Gimme Love” is another impeccably smooth yet more pop-sounding song. “Run” is also on the album, released several months prior as a single. Both of these songs sound groovy but take quite a few listens to get attached to. Nevertheless, they’re now difficult to forget about. “Sanctuary,” the very first single of the album, is a true testament to Joji’s power when he really nails any niche vibe. It evokes Star Wars and Star Trek imagery in the music video, but relies on an unparalleled level of uplifting tones and themes in the actual song. Warbling and laser-like synths compound to make one of Joji’s most complete, epic experiences he has made to date.

Perhaps one of my album favorites, “NITROUS” is a techno-futurized, fast paced yet mellowed out rap track. It’s unique in that it captures an unmistakably peaceful air to it despite moving so fast, reminding me of more relaxed indie rappers like Dominic Fike. “Pretty Boy” ft. Lil Yachty is super retro as well and it leans more into melodic rap. Mesmerizing flutes, synths and chants usher forth an inescapable feeling of “livin’ on the West side” where “these hills, they burn so bright.” Both songs are really only rivaled on the album in replayability by “Tick Tock.”

Listeners will still find Joji’s roots wholly throughout this album. However, a pack of the tracks are slowed down much more than the rest. They’re impeccably relaxing and refined, but focus more on Joji’s whimsical side of singing. “Afterthought” ft. BENEE is a blend of electronic pop and jazz in what is the most timeless feeling of all of the songs. “Mr. Hollywood” is dreamy enough to put you to sleep yet it stays enthralling from start to finish, encapsulating a romantic vibrance that seems akin to a Disney story. The latter song in particular has what might be one of the best instrumentals of Nectar.

“777” does break this trend, lending for a simple, straightforward hype song that still somehow sounds sleepy. The beat picks up here and Joji returns to his newfound passion for coupling bright synthesizer assaults with rapid, relaxed rap. His hooks tremendously mobilize tracks like these on the album, consuming the audience in an overwhelming aura of momentary significance. “Like You Do” is a seasonal, compassionate and reflective love ballad with light piano. There is nothing especially inventive happening on this song, but the soft vocals are tearfully beautiful.

Although “Like You Do” is the second to last song on Nectar, it summarizes the album in its greatest moments. Joji focuses on capitalizing the hope that can be found in reflecting on the past and oneself. There are times to sink into both the dark and the bright, feeling the energy of pure sonic suspense from moment to moment. The album closes on “Your Man,” a track that nearly promises Joji’s fans that he will always be there for them through its cadence, lyrics and title.

Regardless of life being at a high point or low, when love is found or love is lost, Joji and his copacetic energy is eternal to his audience.

 

Cory Koehler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ck594@cornell.edu.