George Miller — better known as Joji — first gained attention as a crude YouTube comedian. He was the progenitor of the Harlem Shake and behind characters like Pink Guy and Filthy Frank. But comedy wasn't always the plan. "I've always wanted to make normal music," he told Pigeons and Planes in 2017. "I just started the YouTube channel to kind of bump my music. But then Filthy Frank and the Pink Guy stuff ended up getting way bigger than I thought so I had to kind of roll with it."
Soon after, Joji released his debut album, BALLADS1 in 2018. The record garnered critical acclaim, for its unique take on bedroom, lo-fi pop. Despite being an au courant culmination of sad boy music, BALLADS1 felt decidedly fresh. And features from Shlohmo, D33J, Trippie Redd and Clams Casino, cemented the Japanese-born artist as a bonafide musician.
Now, Joji's released his anticipated sophomore record, Nectar. Shedding the DIY charm of his debut effort, Nectar sees Joji push the boundaries of genre, his vocal acumen and his abilities as a performer. But the most exciting part of the record is watching Joji marry his two passions — comedy and music.
When Joji burst onto the scene with his breakthrough hit, Slow Dancing In The Dark its orchestral crescendos were underscored with an unexpected comedic flair. At face value, the song is a tale of heartbreak but the seasoned comic brought the visuals to life with his physical comedy.
And he's brought that inimitable ability to his sophomore album. But this time the songs are richer, the guest features follow his lead, and Joji is unanimously the star of the show. Without anything left to prove, he's having fun with things.
Genre-agnostic is a phrase that too often gets thrown around, but Nectar is an exercise in pushing the limits. Joji tosses away binary concepts and twists every moment into something new. On Tick Tock, he eschews his whispery lilt in favour of an unfamiliar baritone. Meanwhile, he manages to slip into a sing-song rap flow on tracks like Modus and the rei brown-assisted Normal People.
Though while this is an exercise in experimentation, that doesn't mean he hasn't some friends along for the ride. Heavyweight guests include Diplo, Lil Yachty, Yves Tumor, and BENEE who perform the function of a featured artist perfectly. They never outshine Joji, nor can than they. The stage is set for the Japanese-Australian artist lead, whose effortless nonchalance couldn't feel anymore practiced, honed and ultimately mastered.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to come from Joji's work is the gentleness of his music. Despite clashing opposing ideas — comic and sad boy, hip-hop and pop, diaristic odes and melodrama — the 28-year-old finds a way to fit these concepts together.
It's not something that can be learned, but much rather a talent which serves as a common thread throughout all of his work. Joji understand duality at a level that just works, and Nectar is his case in point.