After delaying the release date from June 12 to Sept. 25, 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, Joji is finally back with his sophomore studio album Nectar. One word to describe the 53-minute journey: melancholy. Covering a range of topics like relationships, pressures of fame and self-esteem, Nectar never strays far from themes of heartbreak, sorrow and regrets through Joji's use of lyrics, production or a mixture of both. Joji was not afraid to be vulnerable with his emotions, and this authenticity bleeds into all of his songs, making Nectar the perfect album to listen to in bed late at night and get lost in your feels.

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One thing I especially appreciated about this album in comparison to his first studio album, BALLADS 1, was how much Joji’s voice was highlighted in each song.

I was pleasantly surprised by his voice’s rich strength in songs like “Ew,” “Mr. Hollywood” and “Like You Do.” While his sweet, slightly raspy falsetto was nothing new for long-time listeners, the smooth tenor timbre of his voice was extremely soothing to listen to and showed a different dimension of Joji’s voice that we haven't really heard before. In BALLADS 1, his vocals were more or less hidden behind the production, but in Nectar, I thought Joji really found his voice — no pun intended!

With an extensive 18 songs in the tracklist, it was hard to narrow down my favorite to just one song, so here are my top five picks:

1. “Like You Do”

“Like You Do” is an emotional and soft ballad where Joji sings about wanting to hold on to his lover — but knows they are heading in different directions. His soulful, somber tone is nicely complemented by the simplicity of a single piano pattern repeated in the background for most of the song. While my favorite part of the song is the chorus, lyrics in the verses like “When everything’s so pure, can it be aimless? Painless?” and “If you ever go, all the songs that we like will sound like bittersweet lullabies” also hit different. “Like You Do” is the perfect song if  you’re looking for a song to listen to with your eyes closed, reflecting on the lyrics.

2. “Afterthought” (feat. BENEE)

I recently became a fan of BENEE’s music, so I absolutely loved the concept of this collaboration. Her clear, light voice was a stark contrast to Joji’s darker, thicker tone, in a way representing the opposite perspectives couples might have on problems in their relationship. “Afterthought” is a super chill song that I personally find great joy out of just playing on repeat.

3. “Ew”

As the opening track to Nectar, I thought “Ew” really set the tone for the rest of the album in terms of his raw and authentic display of emotions. Joji sings of his past relationships that have all been fleeting, leaving him in heartbreak. The overarching message of not being enough for someone, with lyrics like “Teach me to love just to let me go. I can’t believe that I’m not enough. Not enough,” is extremely relatable and one of the main reasons I enjoyed this song so much.

4. “MODUS”

In “MODUS”, Joji describes the pressures of the music industry for him to fit into this mold of a pop star. In this honest reflection, he reveals feeling tied down by it all and his wishes to be his own artist with creative freedom. My personal favorite lyrics in this song are: “I don’t feel the way they programmed me to feel today.” With this line, Joji makes a vulnerable, yet powerful statement about not conforming to influences around him.

5. “Mr. Hollywood”

Throughout this song, Joji calls himself “Mr. Hollywood” in reference to his quick rise to success in the music industry, especially after his single “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK.” He promises to see beyond the fame and stay true to himself and remain grounded in what’s important. More so than the song itself (which is still a bop), I was drawn in by the message behind it, which was a nice change from the many sad love songs in the album.

If I had one point of criticism, it would be the length of the album. While Nectar shows a new side of Joji’s artistry, frankly, I thought it was just too long. It was an ambitious project, but at a certain point, it lacked depth. I found that as I progressed through the album, some of the songs in the middle blended together for me. Listening to the album all at once was great to just simmer in my thoughts and emotions late at night or even while doing homework. But since Joji never escapes the realms of sorrow and melancholy, I thought songs like “Upgrade,” “High Hopes” and “NITROUS” got lost amid the catchier, more memorable songs and faded into background music.

Overall, I felt like this album was a large step in the right direction for Joji in terms of growth in songwriting and vocals, and also solidified his confidence as a serious artist. While I felt like the album could have been made stronger if more focus was put on a shorter tracklist, there were still many bright spots in Nectar. Joji was also able to show off his versatility across genres and creativity through songs like “Sanctuary,” introducing an upbeat, more poppy and catchy side of Joji, and “Reanimator,” a collaboration with Yves Tumor, known for his experimental electronic music.

During a time of social isolation and remote learning, I’ve been in more of a mellow mood lately. This album came at just the right time and mood for me. With vulnerable lyrics and Joji’s smooth vocals, Nectar will take you on an authentic, introspective journey.

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