After two years of leaving his fans to replay “Ballads 1” to the point of near-insanity, Joji has finally doubled his album count with the release of his sophomore effort, “Nectar.” Named after the sweet drink of the gods, the album features new collaborators for the artist paired with clear attempts to garner more radio play and a generous amount of soothing falsetto — all complemented by the same lo-fi mood that made the world swoon in 2018. Giving an overall brighter feel than his last effort, which hollowed souls with its cathartic ability, Joji’s newest effort expertly intertwines his pop ability with his mastery over despair-fueled tracks to keep his listeners from tears as they drown their concerns in the comfort of the album’s outstretched lyrics. As far as expectations go, Joji exceeds them all with the gift the world did not know it needed.
Beginning with “Ew,” Joji starts strong with a return to lyricism painfully sharp in self-deprecation, lifting souls with its falsetto chorus only to crush them with its somber end. His next track, “MODUS,” begins as though it will continue the dark trend that dominated his last release, but quickly corrects itself in altering course toward a more common downbeat style that avoids sinking too deep. The end slows back down, but contrasts with the beginning of the slightly brighter “Tick Tock,” that serves as a segue to the singles of the album.
“Daylight,” the collaboration with Diplo, gives the first glimpse at Joji’s attempt at greater mainstream success in granting the first beat sanguine enough to hope for radio play. Falling right out of the closing measures of its predecessor, “Upgrade” gives a short and smooth transition before the most popular single, “Gimme Love,” takes center stage as the three and a half minutes most likely to find their way to a frequent airplay. “Run” and “Sanctuary” then close out the singles portion with the dark voice of the former and the smooth vibe of the latter.
The third portion of the album then brings about the bulk of Joji’s newest collaborations, which becomes the closest he seems willing to go toward the more mainstream lo-fi hip-hop sound. He begins by tag-teaming the verses of “High Hopes” with Omar Apollo, briefly steps away for a slightly robotic interlude alone in “NITROUS,” before painting a fun picture of a Los Angeles lifestyle gilded with casual drug use in “Pretty Boy” with Lil Yachty. Slowing back down in the soft-hearted “Normal People” with rei brown, he closes this section of outreach with another cool piece in “Afterthought,” in which the haunting vocals of BENEE subtly dominate.
In the final portion, Joji gets less superficial and begins to tell the stories that seem the most personal to him. Spinning a tale told countless times across all genres, “Mr. Hollywood” allows for a glimpse into the isolation of the fame the artist now knows more than ever before. “777” feels faster than much of the album, but “Reanimator,” which includes Yves Tumor in the final outside appearance, throws this speed into the same dark place where most of the album resides, coming to a screeching halt for the almost balladesque homage of “Like You Do.” However, careful not to leave listeners completely numb, he transforms the chivalric sentiment into a more hopeful finale with “Your Man.”
By the end of his newest work, Joji has taken his audience on an emotional rollercoaster in the best way imaginable. Every track lands as encouragement to feel every emotion to the fullest extent: to weep in lowest valleys, to love like loss could never exist at the highest peaks and to find the peace to enjoy every part of the ride. At its darkest points, listening to the album feels almost masochistic in its uncanny ability to ignite feelings of insecurity and despair, but it makes for incredible climbs when it finds its way back to points of lighter air. By the end of the album, a person feels drained in a manner so oddly pleasing that it leaves them reaching for a cigarette before starting it again from the top.