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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

‘DECIDE’ is Djo’s latest and greatest album release yet

Under the stage name “Djo,” Joe Keery once again proves that he is more than just an actor with a new album release.
The album cover for “DECIDE,” by Joe Keery. (Photo courtesy of Spotify)

Joe Keery is probably best known for his role as Steve Harrington on the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things,” but outside of the show, he puts on a different persona as musical artist Djo. On Sept. 16, he released his sophomore album “DECIDE,” where he explored a new sound and proved that he is much more than just an actor; he’s also a musician whose talent shines through. 

Keery released his first album “Twenty-Twenty” under the moniker Djo in 2019. The first time I listened to the album I had never seen “Stranger Things” and I had no idea that the “Djo” I was listening to was an actor on the series, but I instantly fell in love with his music. His tracks display influences of psychedelic pop artists like Tame Impala and Post Animal, which Keery drummed for in the past. 

Going into “DECIDE,” I was expecting the songs to sound similar to his prior releases, but I was quickly proven wrong. The first song “Runner” sets the tone for the entire album. It starts with Keery singing “People never change, but I have to try,” referencing his willingness to change both as an individual and as an artist. This lyric repeats as the music shifts and builds from a light beat to a deep bass carrying ‘80s techno-inspired pulses. The combination of different styles in this song shows what Keery is going to bring us through in the rest of the album and demonstrates his ability to experiment with different sounds. 

The seamless transition to the second track “Gloom” was almost too perfect. You are immediately transported to a world of high-energy funk rock. The vocals on this track are completely different from anything heard on Keery’s previous work. 

“Half Life” is a personal reflection on the way that Keery feels technology has taken away an element of living. “Plugged in, half life” he sings, commenting on the way that social media and technology affect us. The next song, “Fool” takes this commentary a step further. The lyrics are about putting on a performance to please those around you, something that Keery has likely struggled with as a mainstream actor. Keery contrasts the emotional nature of these lyrics with a danceable beat and rhythm.

“On and On” also mentions the hold that social media has on our generation. “On and on and on and on, scrolling on and on and on,” evokes an image of the desensitized nature of social media netizens consumed in their virtual worlds. He goes on to sing about the tragedies posted on social media and the “digital candles” people sent before scrolling on. This is by far my favorite song on the album, not only because of its incredible lyricism but also because of the layering of synths, keys and acoustics that elevate the track. 

In “Climax,” Keery returns to the realm of self-reflection that he effectively used throughout “DECIDE.” With voice-altering sounds in some parts of the song, Keery has a conversation with his future self about opening a new door to reach the current version of himself. Another tonal shift occurs at the end of the song as deepening bass leads us into “Change.” The song is both a look into the past and Keery’s way of telling us that he does want to evolve and grow into “the man that I could be.” This song is second only to “On and On.” Its meaningful lyricism along with the shifting instrumentals are elements that work together to create another track that will make you want to sing along. 

“Is That All It Takes” follows, a 20-second clip of the phrase repeated eight times that leads into the bass drop at the beginning of “Go For It.” This song is the most experimental on the album. The vocals are raw and relatively unedited, and the drums are a standout. Keery has spoken in interviews about how Charli XCX is one of his idols and inspirations. That influence comes through in the house music feel of “Go For It’s” introduction, the stripping down of Keery’s singing and the dance-music element of the song. 

After listening to this album once, I listened to it again. Later on that same day, I listened to it for the third time. Keery has clearly developed immensely since the release of “Twenty-Twenty.” There are so many moving parts to Keery’s sound that differentiate it from anything else in the genre. His desire to distinguish himself as more than just another actor who wants to create music has definitely been a success. Releasing music under “Djo” was a bold move that proves that his excellence doesn’t only compare to other actors, but to other musicians as well.

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