In Review: Tony Njoku - JUSTINE

Nigerian-British singer/producer Njoku continues to avoid generic classification with a svelte 4-track EP that seamlessly glides between neo-soul, trip-hop, electronica, and everything in between.
Posted: 18 June 2020 Words: Alex Orr

Rising star Tony Njoku is back with the follow up to a rather successful 2019 that saw him scoring slots on the line-ups of tastemaker events like We Out Here Festival before releasing Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama in October to a strong critical reception. The 24-year-old singer/producer’s latest release JUSTINE adds another entry to his growing catalogue of genre-hopping soundscapes that have become so lauded by critics and crowds alike.

Title track and album opener ‘JUSTINE’ eases you into the listening experience, with synths and beats giving way to Njoku’s smooth, saccharine vocals that shimmer and soar as the songwriter croons about the titular subject. In fitting with his music, Njoku takes a more abstract approach to lyric-writing, evoking emotional reactions with sentimental phrases on encouragement and perseverance. The track’s tempo speeds up as we near the brisk 2:10 end time, finishing with a light crescendo that fades back into the calm the song started with.

A robotic pseudo-interval of sorts leads us into ‘BSD YRSLF’, a considerably darker and more aggressive affair than the preceding track that fits more into the trip-hop side of Njoku’s generic affinity. It’s another short-but-sweet entry, showcasing solid production skills with ghostly vocal effects and driving beats anchoring the song’s identity within the record. ‘100% 4 BEAUTY’ once again changes up tone, vibe and atmosphere with a wistfully melancholic contemplative piece. This is perhaps the most intensely the spotlight has shone on the young songwriter’s vocals, which hold up well under this self-designed scrutiny.

One sticking point with this EP is a lack of cohesion; Njoku is known for avoiding iron-clad classifications with his music, often working to his advantage by showcasing his versatility in song-writing, production and vocals. On JUSTINE however, it feels more like an amalgamation of singles than a cohesive four-track record. All four of the songs work well as stand-alone pieces, and the transitions between them aid somewhat in offering a sense of unity. With an artist like Tony Njoku though, one can’t help but expect a little more in terms of an overarching experience when listening to this EP. 

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JUSTINE is out Friday (19th June) via Silent Kid Records.

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