For those who grew up watching the infectious videos of George Kusunoki Miller, known online as “Filthy Frank,” it’s hard to believe where the YouTube star has ended up today. His over-the-top, edgy videos were the force behind a mass reimagination of humor on the internet and its limits, sparking a new wave of YouTubers attempting to emulate his content, none of whom have since reached his level. So when I first listened to “Ballads 1” (2018), his debut album under the stage name “Joji,” I was left astonished by his level of production and professionalism toward music. It became clear that Miller was destined for more than his humble YouTube career.
Having claimed mainstream fame since then, Joji has managed to develop a distinct sound: one full of melancholy and emotional distress, yet never too depressing to lose its energy. With the latest release of his sophomore album, “Nectar” (2020), and its fittingly sweet sounds of loneliness and love, present this fantastic atmosphere to be enjoyed, though it often suffers from uncreative or inconsistent tracks by its end.
This by no means insists that the album is bad. In 53 minutes, Joji provides hard evidence of his artistic growth since his “Ballads 1” days and presents some of his best songs within this latest track list. However, throughout the second half of his album, “Nectar” is plagued with tracks featuring inconsistent levels of production, often leaving the listener bored rather than invoking genuine reactions.
“Nectar” does start with an impressive array of tracks. The first song, “Ew,” establishes the tone of the album using its intense instrumentals. The fuzzy string section combined with a heavy bass creates a lonely atmosphere, culminating in a magnificent crescendo as it leads into “MODUS.” This track continues to develop the album’s tone utilizing Joji’s signature lo-fi beats to create a catchy, yet somber tone.
Then, all at once, comes some of Joji’s finest work to date. The upbeat melody and rhythm of “Gimme Love” creates a distinctly nostalgic sound, evoking images of lively city nights late out with friends. Its unique acoustic ending also provides a stark contrast to the songs that preceded it, allowing it to stand out from the rest of the track list. “Run” perfectly encapsulates the moody distress felt when one is faced with romantic insecurities and doubts. Joji’s voice comes to a powerful crescendo as he cries, “Guess I’m not enough / Like you used to think / So I’ll just run,” before diving into a gripping guitar solo. From my first listen, “Run” became my favorite Joji song. “Sanctuary” then follows with its equally energetic lyrics and vocal performance.
Unfortunately, past the album’s halfway point, the album begins to lose consistency. Tracks like “High Hopes,” “NITROUS,” “Mr. Hollywood” and especially “Normal People” fail to stand out due to their monotonous — and oftentimes mundane — lo-fi piano instrumentals and vocal structure. These songs simply maintain the “emo” aesthetic of Joji’s earlier work without adding anything new or original to “Nectar” overall. “Pretty Boy,” featuring Lil Yachty, does include a catchy melody, but quickly loses its appeal as a result of its repetitive nature.
The album’s latter half does, however, feature some notable highlights. “Afterthought,” featuring BENEE, maintains a celestial, dream-like sound that easily complements its contemplative lyrics about the impact of breakups. “Like You Do” is the penultimate track on the album, and features a beautifully transcendent melody that perfectly emulates the essence of loneliness.
Overall, “Nectar” presents a gripping journey through Joji’s mind. From the very beginning, the listener is immersed as Joji struggles with understanding the impact of heartbreak and solitude. However, this captivation is often interrupted by uninspired tracks that have no distinguishable identities, leaving listeners bored.
Despite these inconsistencies, Joji still offers his best work in “Nectar.” In the two years since “Ballads 1,” Joji has proven to fans that his artistry is never done growing and that he will continue to provide listeners with a sound that’s undeniably sweet, sticky and smooth to the ear.