Photo Credit: Jeaneen Lund
George Miller, professionally known as “Joji”, has had one of the most interesting transitions into the mainstream music industry. No stranger to fame, Miller started out on the Internet in the early 2010s with the alias “Filthy Frank” and quickly escalated into meme culture for his in-your-face sense of dark humor. This kind of journey from an Internet comedian to a serious musician is, without a doubt, unusual. This is a guy who used his alter ego “Pink Guy” and made an unhinged comedy song that had the lyrics “Shut the f*ck up, you’re a f*cking c*nt”, on a loop! Yet, the transformation in character and content has been an extravagant one to watch.
Being an artistic endeavor containing 18-tracks, Nectar turns out to be a drag if the listener is able to observe how moderately impactful the album tends to be. It is certainly an improvement upon his previous venture Ballads I that came out over two years prior. With upscale production and a departure from his usual choice of vocals in a few tracks, Joji has his moments to shine on Nectar. Given the loyal fan base Joji has, his audience is mostly the people who have followed him through his transition, while they themselves made the leap of witnessing this artist-in-the-making. And, to his credit, he has an artist still working to find his true voice. Truly, the transformation from a YouTube comedian to a full-time R&B artist is rare. And, in his case, it’s a successful one. With respect to his body of work so far, these set of songs have their good and bad moments in equal measure. Creating the same tropes that he has been known for so far; the high-pitched, monotonous vocals combined with R&B, hip-hop and electronic music, the singer-songwriter has carved out a unique musical style.
The first track, “Ew” starts off with descending piano melodies that set up a nostalgic, melancholic mood similar to “Slow Dancing in the Dark” from about three years ago. Here, the first half falters compared to the second, as the high-scale vocals tend to inconveniently intersect with the somber mood. As the second half approaches, the musical direction tends to favor a little more when the minimum drumbeat crosscuts with the piano like a well-edited scene in a movie. The strings in the chorus complement the trajectory the producers take, improving upon the convoluted thought process behind the first part. “Tick Tock” sticks out as a sore thumb in the chapter of the usual glossy outlook of the album, deprived of inspiration in terms of production quality. This is the most polarizing track, with the ballad carrying the usual haunting and dark mood with a combination of groovy guitar and drum beat usage. The vocals turn out to be stale throughout the song, even though the beats created make for a good mind-numbing track. Hence, it turns out to be fun in only parts, while we linger for the full experience.
One thing you will notice throughout the album is the use of drumbeats, soaring guitar strings and intermittent piano, complementing the vocals that carry almost precise perfection. This little observation is a shout-out to the overall elevated production Joji and his team deserve. The fourth track, “Daylight” turns out to be one of the best in his career. He is louder here than his usual songs, and the piano tends to level up along with the vocals as well. Collaborating with Diplo, there are evident signs of innovation with the instrumentation he provides throughout. However, “Upgrade” seems to be a downgrade in terms of a follow-up track as it disrupts the flow of the musical narrative from within. On the other hand, we see a departure from his grim vocal undertones into a more upbeat atmosphere, he surprises us by producing a short, one-versed acoustic melody. This in turn establishes the potential longevity of the artist credited to the uniqueness he carries in his creation.
As for the best track on the album, ”Run” serves as the top contender. The vocal is loud, and not low-fi, which serves a surprise as he opts in for a different style change yet again. The periodic guitar is highly effective when expressing the bleak undertones of the album. The instrumentation on this track is arguably the best and quick fluctuations in the vocal dynamics from high-to-low provides for a refreshing festival for the listeners ears. From a narrative standpoint, we are able to feel the changes combined with the drumbeat. Overall, Joji’s full potential is displayed over this song, which establishes that this might be one of his best-produced tracks. However, some of the tracks on Nectar that stand out in musicality but not in the other categories are “High Hopes”, “Sanctuary” and “Mr Hollywood.” “Mr Hollywood” clearly aims for impactful trap instrumentation, which carries the somber tone of the album with grace. “High Hopes” has guitar riffs that set up the foundations of a song that never seem to get realized by the second half. While “Sanctuary” falls in the trap of generic music and uninspired vocals, with the chorus seemingly interrupting in key moments that make for a rather unsatisfying track; one that should have never been on the album in the first place.
The song “Your Man” turns out to be his most mainstream pop-like sound, built around a driving synth line. In appearance, it is more similar to any 2010s pop song than the usual R&B associated with the album. This proves to be the final experimental track on the album since the rest of Nectar has run the risk of becoming a snooze fest, considering a rather declining attention span from listeners. Despite its many inconsistences, Nectar triumphs in showcasing the willingness to improve and innovate constantly. In this series of mostly forgettable tracks, there is upgraded production value to the album, alongside three or four tracks that certainly justify the absurdity and the maturity in his lyricism. There is maturity in the lyricism that resonates with the people whom he tries to indulge. If his bold reinvention soars the way it did throughout this, then we will be witnessing the rise of one of the most bonafide artists in the industry.