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Djo refuses change in sophomore album ‘DECIDE’

Djo refuses change in sophomore album ‘DECIDE’

Djo refuses change in sophomore album ‘DECIDE’
October 09
13:00 2022

“Stranger Things” actor Joe Keery released his second album “DECIDE” on Sept. 16. Under his stage name Djo, the artist explores anxiety, identity and change in his solo synth production.

The 13-track project is a fun, choppy collection of psychedelic sound. The album’s style carries on trends from Djo’s first release, “Twenty Twenty,” in which new wave blares back haunting vocals and lyrics. Keery’s production evidently displays love for his musical inspirations like Todd Terje and The Strokes.

The opening track “Runner” kicks off the album with a poppy start. The speedy tempo mimics Djo’s fast-paced, obsessive thinking. The lyrics, albeit repetitive, reflect his anxiety about change. He finds his personal need for it can be daunting in a world full of cyclical and familiar constants.

The second single from “DECIDE,” “Gloom” gives further insight into the role distress plays in Djo’s own daily cycles. Its punchy tune helps visualize how these stressors are slowly, but surely, beating him down.

Djo says he sees these effects, both outwardly in his social environment and inwardly beyond his reflection in the mirror. He wants to escape these feelings but mentally can’t push himself beyond the static point of suffering through it. That’s life.

Rather than looking inward to find his true thoughts, wants and needs, Djo puts on a mask. Much like a role or stage persona, he moves through life as an inauthentic character. It’s all a game of make-believe to keep up appearances in the face of delayed growth and development.

These feelings reach their peak in the album’s first single, “Change.” Pitchy backing beats mix with Djo’s low, muffled vocals. This echoes the contradictory, consuming feelings he relates to the change surrounding him, his atmosphere and his identity. 

The lyrics illustrate how Djo still avoids making efforts to stop such thoughts. Despite the stress and suffering, Djo believes it’s easier to refuse change than it is to succumb to it.

Djo’s controlling, anxious sentiments are further amplified across the album’s track. Songs like “Figure You Out” and “Climax” once again use repetitive lyrics to demonstrate the artist’s inability to move on. While his lyrical prose has not yet been perfected, Djo makes his efforts and intentions clear.

With almost a Talking Heads-like approach, he attempts to craft quirky tunes that invoke anxious and near melancholic feelings from the audience.

Additionally, the artist uses a variety of tempos to further stress the ups and downs of his self-discovery journey. This helps encapsulate what his words cannot. While a song’s speed at times seems insignificant to a listening experience, Djo goes to extremes to emphasize a track’s vibe. Slow, reverbed parts on the album reflect his emotional lows, while energetic, rapid sections stand for his restless peaks.

Overall, these lyrical and production-based approaches prove successful for Keery, who hopes to differentiate his stage persona from his beloved Netflix character, Steve Harrington. 

These differences reach beyond the outward appearance of Djo, a ‘70s bowl cut-wigged, sunglasses-wearing weirdo. While the looks set him apart, the music is what really does the job. It reveals a deeper, inner look at who the artist is as a person.

These effects help Keery confess and connect to audiences in ways his “Stranger Things” role cannot. In a world where it’s difficult to separate an actor’s side project from his main work, Keery does the impossible.

From visuals to sound, Djo is almost unrecognizable when standing next to Hawkins’s ‘80s heartthrob. By overcoming this obstacle, Djo can ensure at least some of his audience follows him for his musical talents rather than his acting chops.

Although the production isn’t necessarily bulletproof, Djo emphasizes he’s still on a journey of self-discovery. As Keery begins expanding work outside of TV gigs, the artist lets audiences know he’s nowhere near the end of his solo beginnings. In the meantime, audiences will just have to wait and see what paths he’ll decide on. 

Sam’s rating: 3.5/5

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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