by Kiara Tynan
The week I lost my virginity, Joji released the “In Tongues” EP and perfectly articulated my heartbreak. Every lyric to “Bitter Fuck” applied to me and my ex, as my heart bled out and I soaked in every track.
In September when “Nectar,” Joji’s second album, was set for release (and my life was only semi-okay), I was terrified of listening and being transported back into a heartbroken mindset. But, alas—I listened and I have absolutely no regrets. The gratitude I felt when I went through my first full listen of “Nectar” is unmatched. Joji’s melancholy leaks through synth-pop instrumentals in a way that I can pretend that I’m not listening to music with lyrics that would otherwise send me into a tailspin.
“Nectar” explores the plights of Joji’s newfound mainstream fame and delves deeper into heartbreak. The opening track “Ew” ends with dark instrumentals that prepare you for an album that details the hopelessness of your situation, in love or the music industry.
“MODUS” and “Tick Tock” use fast beats and machine imagery to fold you into the high speed of the music industry that has laid pressure on Joji in the past few years and pulled him from those he loves. Mid-album, Joji rolls out all of the previously released singles that give pop power ballad energy. “Gimme Love,” which caught TikTok’s attention this summer, perfectly models the album as it voices desperation for love under a fast tempo beat until the song reaches its climax and slows to make his final cry for his ex-lover to stay as he skyrockets to fame. This running theme is exhibited in the multiple music videos in which Joji launches to space in a literal rocket and finds himself at odds and isolated.
The album is interlaced with features from artists like Lil Yachty and Omar Apollo that supply a fresh compliment to Joji’s laments, but turns these artists to similar sad themes. While Lil Yachty may be well known for his upbeat rap hits, on “Pretty Boy” he connects with his own struggles with fame. On a song that discusses using a confident exterior to cover inner sadness, Yachty claims “all this pain I’ll never let show. My real thoughts you’ll never know.”
The penultimate track “Like You Do” stands out as my favorite on the album. Joji struggles with the hopelessness of knowing you and the one you love are on two different paths. He expresses the certainty of his love and knowing “no one loves me like you do,” while understanding that their time together is running out. “Mr. Hollywood” relates these feelings from the perspective of the lover he leaves behind as she begs him to come back followed by his desire to be with her.
In a far departure from his retired, satirical alter-ego Pink Guy, “Nectar” relates the bittersweet aspects of fame and his isolation from the one he loves. The album displays his growth as a musician as he concurrently writes lyrics in line with his previously established depressing themes while fluidly leaning in to his propensity for genre-twisting hype hits. This album covers the full scope of the Friday night after a breakup. It’s loaded with hits you can dance to with your friends at the pregame and lyrics that catch you at quiet moments and almost make you cry because you wish you weren’t going home to an empty bed. This is music that tricks you with its energizing instrumentals, makes you obsess over the one you can’t have, but makes you keep coming back for more.