Columnist reviews actor and singer Joe Keery’s new album “DECIDE.”
BY THEA POSTALAKIS ’24
Djo, pronounced simply as “Joe”, is the pseudonym for actor Joe Keery, known to most as Steve Harrington in Netflix’s Stranger Things. Djo is Keery’s alternate life, where instead of a famous actor, he is a lesser-known alt-rock singer. Before going solo, Keery was in the Chicago-based rock band, Post Animal, but left the band in 2018 to focus on acting.
His solo debut album, “Twenty Twenty”, was released in 2019. After the release of “Twenty Twenty”, Keery took a three-year break from his social media and music before making a return to announce his new album “DECIDE”, which came out Sept. 16. The four singles released before the album came
out were “Change”, “Gloom”, “Figure You Out” and “Half-Life.”
I was unsure what to expect from this album: “Twenty Twenty” was impressive- it had all the qualities of a psychedelic-rock album: lengthy guitar solos, electric instrumentals and of course, Keery’s crooning vocals. “DECIDE”’s release was one no one saw coming. Keery, in his sudden return to social media, put out a 1980s-inspired “Djo” ad on his Instagram page, and shortly after released his first single, “Change.”
“DECIDE” is a much different sound from “Twenty Twenty.” “Twenty Twenty” seemed to be the first step in a long line of new age pop music for Keery, and “DECIDE” furthered that claim. But with bolder and funkier sounds, I could clearly tell that Keery took a lot more risks with this record. Using trippy guitars, explosive drums and witty lyrics, this album and reminded me of a lot of the music from the ‘80s. Perhaps Keery took a note from The Talking Heads, or George Michael, but either way, this album was remarkably reminiscent of old sounds while still keeping it fresh.
Opening with the song “Runner” was maybe the best decision that Keery could’ve made. The first sound on the album are repeating notes with the same mantra above it: “Love and hate decide/Money grows and dies/People never change/But I have to try.” And while this song might be a bit repetitive to some, and it’s certainly not the most lyrical on the album, I argue that it still is a great opener. “Runner” incorporates a lot of the different sounds that will be used on the record, as well as introducing the overarching theme that Keery portrays: the complexities of human life and how we change
and grow. “Runner” also keeps you on your toes; the beat is simply addicting.
My personal favorite songs, and therefore my recommendations to listen to are “Gloom”, “Half Life”, “I Want Your Video”, “Fool” and “Figure You Out.” All of these were more on the energetic side, and while I’m not normally an advocate for super up-beat music (my obsession with Phoebe Bridgers songs will tell you otherwise) I found myself getting bored during the slower songs on this record.
Some certain songs that fell short for me were “End of Beginning” and “Climax.” While “End of Beginning” had an interesting message, depicting Keery’s struggles with self-identity and the complexities of growing older, I felt like it didn’t fit this incredibly fast-paced album. It had a much slower beat, and while I appreciate Keery doing something different, I think it was misplaced. “Climax” had the same problem- after listening to it, I just felt underwhelmed. However, there was a plus side to “Climax.” The song featured Keery’s deep bass, and even though it was probably edited 10 times over and autotuned, it was still shocking.
The range procured on this album is simply amazing. From going from this type of bass, to falsetto in “I Want Your Video”, to a pulsing speaking voice in “Fool”, it is hard not to appreciate this type of vocal span. Additionally, oftentimes, Keery’s voice was alone, soley backed by either synth notes or quiet drum beats. Yet he still managed to create an entertaining story as well as just having fun.
That’s exactly how I would describe this album- fun. It is infinitely danceable, and I believe that even the most nonmusical person would find themselves tapping their feet along to Keery’s addicting beats.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. While I doubt that I’ll find myself looking to listen to the full album again, there were definitely some songs that I really enjoyed and have added to my playlists. I would certainly recommend “DECIDE” to others; I think that everyone should experience the album all the way through, at least once. The cohesiveness and energy found in this album is unparalleled, and it was incredibly engaging. The album was overall a different type of record than I would normally choose, but I had a great time listening to it.