Nectar encompasses all the feelings of heartache and what people are willing to risk for love. In this album, Joji sings of bitter emotions in sweet-sounding melodies.
It’s been about two years since Joji released his debut album BALLADS 1, and the release of Nectar was long-awaited. The original release date was in July 2020, but the album was postponed due to the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests and COVID-19.
Nectar was released on September 25, 2020, and the variety of melodies, engaging lyrics, and an array of different instrumentals make this album a cohesive cinematic piece. Joji is known for his ballads about heartache, and he delivered the same theme in his sophomore album while including different tempos within each song. Nectar showcases Joji’s musical growth by including both fast-paced tracks and soft melodies that expand on his emotions. Because of the variety of tempos and production style, this album harmonizes R&B and Indie-pop perfectly. The unique production style and storytelling lyricism are what captivate fans into listening to the album from start to finish.
George Kusunoki Miller, better known as Joji, was born on September 18, 1992. The half-Japanese and half-Australian artist grew up in Osaka, Japan, and eventually moved to the US at 18 years old. Before his rise in music, Joji was better known as aliases Filthy Frank and Pink Guy, where he produced comedy hip hop music on YouTube and spread a viral dance known as the Harlem Shake. Joji announced the retirement of his YouTube personalities in December 2017 to focus on his music career. In an interview, Joji revealed his interest in music began when “A Milli” by Lil’ Wayne came out, and he recreated the beat in 6th grade to show his friends. Ever since, Joji has been producing, writing, and recording his music.
Track by Track
The album opens with “Ew,” about Joji wanting to find someone who can stay in love with him forever, instead of continually leaving and causing heartbreak. He sings, “Teach me how to love just to let me go/ I can’t believe I’m not enough.” The song may be titled “Ew” because he dislikes temporary relationships and yearns for a solid one. The last-minute of the song finishes with orchestral melodies that gradually increase in heaviness to show Joji’s strain in relationships.
“MODUS” is the second track of Nectar, and it is presumed to be short for modus vivendi, which is a Latin phrase that is often used to mean an agreement that allows conflicting parties to coexist in peace. The central theme of the song is internal conflict. Joji sings about one part of him not feeling good enough and wanting to try harder to be perfect. He illustrates this idea by singing, “I need to live a thousand times/ I cannot stop. I cannot cry.” The other part of him is feeling burnt out and wanting to slow things down, “I don’t feel the way they programmed me to feel today/ Some pieces falling from the waist up.” The internal strife carries on throughout the song, and by the end of it, there still isn’t an explicit agreement of Joji’s two selves being able to coexist in peace.
“Tick Tock” is a unique track because it starts with a guitar strum over a simple beat, and then comes the “Oh/Aw” adlib sample from Nelly’s Dilemma. This song is about a toxic relationship because both people want to be together, but aren’t putting in the full effort they both deserve due to their different lifestyles. Joji sings, “You and I, we are one in the same/ Loving in pain, loving in pain.” This song is titled “Tick Tock” because by staying in this unhealthy relationship, they are wasting each other’s time.
The fourth track is “Daylight,” which features Diplo. This song is about Joji living a party lifestyle and his desire to transition from staying up all night to living in the daylight by being in a relationship with his previous lover. He reminiscences about his past relationship and disregards how she might have moved on, “I don’t care if you moved on/ I’m not layin’ in bed with a fucked-up head.”
“Upgrade” is the shortest song of the album, and it is about Joji wanting to be in a relationship with a girl, even though she still might not have moved on from her last lover. Joji wants his love interest to upgrade into a better relationship with him or even keep her options open. He sings, “Won’t you upgrade? I know it hurts/ You deserve it, I know your worth.”
“Gimme Love” starts with a fast-paced drumline, and the song is about Joji beckoning to receive affection from his past lover. He feels pain when he sings his pieces of heartache and asks for affection even though the relationship might have ended, “When I’m far too gone, can you show me, love?” In the middle of the song, it switches into a soft ballad and finishes off with Joji confessing his unrequited love.
“Run” is a blues-inspired ballad about being in a relationship and noticing the other person’s indifference. Joji sings in the chorus of the song, “I know you’re not in love like you used to be/ Guess I’m not the one like you used to think.” Although Joji knows his partner doesn’t love him anymore, he doesn’t want to face the truth and instead, runs from his relationship and feelings. The last-minute of the song finishes out with a powerful guitar solo that perfectly illustrates his heartache.
“Sanctuary” is the turning point in Nectar, and it is an innocent song about being infatuated with someone. Joji’s love interest is his sanctuary because he feels safe with her and wants to be with her. He sings, “Not anyone, you’re the one/ More than fun, you’re the sanctuary.”
“High Hopes” features Omar Apollo, and the song is about being afraid of ending a relationship and having high hopes that it will work out in the end. The song opens up with an acoustic guitar, which then melts into low-fi beats. This song is a melancholy sequel to “Tick Tock” because after realizing that the relationship is heading towards its end, Joji is still optimistic out of desire.
“Nitrous” is a charming love song that offers a sweet side to Nectar with an upbeat and bubbly melody. This song is about Joji feeling ecstatic in his relationship and is probably still in the honeymoon phase. He sings, “And the love makes me wanna sing, sing/ And the high makes me wanna sing, sing.”
“Pretty Boy” features Lil’ Yachty and the song is about living a lavish lifestyle while also covering up internal struggles. Joji sings about living in Los Angeles and publicly showing that he is okay, “I’m a pretty boy livin’ on the Westside/ Livin’ so loud, you could never hear me cry.” Lil Yachty’s second verse sings, “All this pain I’ll never show/ My real thoughts, you’ll never know.”
“Normal People” features rei brown, and the song is about Joji’s love interest only showing up when things are deviant within their personal life. “The devil came back/ He’s dancing in your path/ So you’re acting as you need me now, hey.” In this song, Joji wants a normal and healthy relationship where both people wish for each other for genuine reasons, so he sings, “We can pretend we’re normal people.”
“Afterthought” features BENEE, and the song includes soft piano chords over a simple beat. The song is about Joji reminiscing about his past relationship and the good times they had. He sings, “So lost in these diamonds/ So lost in this paradise.” While treasuring the memories, he also wonders where things went wrong in the relationship.
“Mr. Hollywood” is a tribute back to the hit song that made him famous, “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK,” and Joji admits that although he may have this fame, all he wants is love from his previous lover. Joji knows the love he craves isn’t from a functioning relationship, though he sings, “We don’t gotta love each other right/ We just gotta make it through the night.”
“777” is about having a ‘no-strings-attached’ relationship with a girl that wanted more. He sings, “We were never the same, are you outta your mind?/ I don’t like strings, no, no ties.” This song has an 80s techno-pop sound, which a lot of famous pop artists have used as well.
“Reanimator” features Yves Tumor and the first half of the song is a mysterious and futuristic melody. The song is followed by Joji’s short verse and Yves Tumor’s whispery tone. The song is about Joji being in a relationship and getting reanimated by his intense feelings for his love interest. His feelings are so deep, he can’t control them, and he sings, “It’s not up to me/ But it’s alright if it makes you feel good.”
“Like You Do” is the longest track of the album, and Joji sings about a pure relationship hitting a dead-end because both people are going in different directions. Joji still yearns to be in the relationship, but questions the purpose of it. He sings, “When everything’s so pure, can it be aimless?”
“Your Man” closes Nectar on an upbeat and charming note. The song has the same theme as “Upgrade,” where Joji tries to comfort his love interest after an initial breakup. He sings, “Don’t be down when it’s over, baby, yeah/ I’ll be your man.”
Nectar is described as “a sense of urgency but calm” by Joji. This album is precisely that and more with the harmony of different genres, unique production style, and deep lyricism about heartache. Overall, Joji’s sophomore album represents his growth as a musician because it is a cohesive piece that shows his artistic abilities as a songwriter and producer. I think this album is a mature take on relationships, and Joji proved with Nectar that there could never be too many songs about unrequited love. The cinematic lyrics in Nectar allow Joji’s fans to feel the heartache he went through, and that’s why the album is so powerful. My favorite tracks from Nectar are “Ew” and “Gimme Love” because they both show different sides of the album, while still keeping the central theme of feeling indifferent. The final takeaway from Nectar is that Joji did a phenomenal job at creating an album that many people can relate to, while also showcasing his growth as a musician.