Djo’s ‘Decide’ provides synth pop splendor

The sophmore release from Joe Keery’s music project shows potential.

Atreyu Hinckley, Staff Writer

Joe Keery, known for playing Steve Harrington in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, has released his sophomore album under his musical alias Djo. His musical talents started to gain traction after his hit performance in Lollapalooza. What’s provided in this album continues to show his potential musical prowess.

Right from the start, you can hear the new wave influences that will continue in the majority of “Decide” in the leadoff track “Runner.” While it can be lyrically repetitive, it talks about the things that happen in the world that make him scared to branch out to become the best person of himself, but knows that he needs to continue to try in order to find change. 

The track then cleanly transitions to the second track, the funny and up tempo “Gloom,” which served as the second single of the album and talks about being “ready to go” and move on with his life after a spoiled relationship. 

One topic that becomes a subject matter throughout the album is adapting as people in a world that is slowly becoming consumed by technology, such as tracks like “Half Life” and “On and On,” which, respectively, talks about how being plugged into social media consumption leads to you living half of your life and scrolling continuously and mindlessly.

Djo provides a couple of ballads too like “End of Beginning,” where he reminisces about how he’s grown up when he travels from city to city, but gets hit the most when he is in Chicago. 

When it comes to highlights, it will have to be “Change” which served as the lead single for the album. The booming bassline and synthesizers that goes with the strong songwriting of struggling to interact with those he wants to be around due to the fear of changing, but learning that everything we do in our daily lives, such as stepping outside in the sun, or putting on a new jacket is step forward to change without us even realizing.

Another highlight is “Figure You Out” the third single of the album. With the soft keynotes and guitar strings that are sprinkled throughout the song, mixed with the powerful lyrics of trying to figure your own self out when it comes to self doubt. Keery provides the most emotional performance when it comes to his vocal performance, where you can tell this song meant a lot to him. All of this combined makes this track stand out the most in the album.

“Slither” serves as a fitting closer to the album, where he repetitively says that the future is coming closer under a beat that makes you feel a little claustrophobic and uncomfortable. This feels intentional because the idea of getting closer and working towards your future always has some uncomfortable circumstances along the way because the future is scary and unknown, but we gotta keep going. Midway through the song is when all the instruments come together where you start to feel a sign of hope, and the song closes with the lyrics “We all wanna be someone at the end of the day.”

Djo provided an excellent album with “Decide.” With the strong production, lyrics, and the sprinkling of charisma that we’ve grown to love from Joe Keery in certain tracks, his future in music is bright. While this album can be derivative at times since it borrows a lot of sounds from songs in the 80s, if Djo can continue his lyrical prowess while exploring new elements of instrumentation, he is going to become a successful musical artist if he hasn’t already reached that level.