By Erin Howatson
Joe Keery reminds the world that he is more than just an actor after the release of his second solo album DECIDE under his musical persona ‘Djo’.
Following the release of the highly successful fourth season of Stranger Things, Keery attempts to differentiate himself from his performance of high-school jock Steve Harrington in the hit Netflix show and proves through a well-crafted album that there is more to him than his character.
DECIDE builds upon Keery’s already established synth-pop influence which was demonstrated in his first album Twenty Twenty released in 2019. In DECIDE, Kerry is more adventurous and plays into an almost sci-fi feel that works in his favour and helps create extremely danceable tracks often disguising heartfelt lyrics.
Fans of the actor were highly anticipating the release of DECIDE after an almost exactly three-year wait and the general reaction on social media appears positive with many fans claiming the release was worth the wait. I would have to agree.
Each song is perfectly crafted, often leaning toward the influence of 80s bands like Talking Heads. a style that is becoming increasingly popular following the recent releases of heavily 80s-influenced media like Stranger Things, IT or The Babysitter.
Keery clearly does this intentionally, and he makes this clear with the album cover – a silhouette of him in his signature on-stage wig holding a magic 8-ball that faintly reads ‘DECIDE’.
‘Change’ is arguably the strongest song on the album. It is obvious why Keery chose this as the lead single for the album – the song is a heavily pop-influenced, almost psychedelic, synth track that anybody would find catchy.
In the lyrics, Keery states that he has come to realise change isn’t a bad thing after the subject of the song has come into his life: “I thought that change was bad but you have changed my mind and put my heart at ease”.
The upbeat melody distracts from the personal, heartfelt lyrics which isn’t a bad thing, as it allows listeners to discover new meaning with every listen – giving the track a more personal feel. Keery is an expert at producing crowd pleasers and this is evidenced by ‘Change’, as he has created a memorable song that encapsulates the vibes of the whole album.
The melody in ‘Figure You Out’ is remarkably similar to ‘Life on Mars’ by David Bowie, and it’s hard to tell whether this was an intentional nod to his 80s influence or just a simple mistake. Either way, the Bowie likeness works in Djo’s favour, by helping to create a captivating song that tells the story of Keery trying to set his mind straight while battling existential dread. While the lyrics do become repetitive as the song closes, Keery makes it work in his favour by providing a strong beat and conflicting backing vocals that keep things interesting.
As a whole, the album is very strong. However, some songs do sound very similar to each other until your third or fourth listen which doesn’t lend itself to new, more casual listeners.
I think with each new release Keery improves his sound and finds his footing more and more which is extremely promising. Hopefully, in time, Keery will build on the foundations laid by DECIDE in his future ventures, so he can attract the audience his music persona deserves.
Check out Djo’s new album DECIDE here.