Before sitting down to listen to this album, the only Vance Joy song I’ve ever heard was "Riptide." Based on how much I liked that song, I was excited when I saw Nation of Two show up in my Release Radar on Spotify. However, after listening to it all the way through, I have to say it was one of the most mediocre albums I’ve ever sat through.
I say mediocre not because I really tolerate any of the songs, but because he has a nice voice and the production quality of the music is good. For me, those are the only redeeming qualities of the album. I can safely say I will never listen to another song from Nation of Two again, unless a friend of mine is going on and on about his musical talent to me and I don’t have the heart to tell them my opinion on the matter.
First of all, Joy uses musical clichés constantly. Nearly every one of his songs ends by repeating a lyric over and over until the song fades out, which is such a lazy way to finish a song. 45 seconds of Vance Joy saying “I’m thinking ‘bout coming home, babe” is the last thing I want to hear.
He also has to throw in clips of him singing “oh” in various styles in so many of the album’s songs. Recently, this tactic has been a trend among folk–pop artists, and I just want to say, stop. It’s boring. These artists aren’t showing off their vocal skills during these segments of the songs, or even coming up with a creative beat without using words, they are just filling space up in the track. That seems to be what Vance Joy is best at doing, with the repetition at the end of the songs and full choruses of “ohs.”
His lyrics are also clichés, with gems such as comparing a woman to a “bird who can’t take flight,” wanting her to be “the first and last thing [he sees],” and telling her that she was his tree. Furthermore, all of his songs tend to be about women, but it’s never a specific woman, or even a specific situation by which the girl of his affection could recognize the song was about her while listening. All of his songs are in the same style as boy band songs or early Justin Bieber.
That’s what's most offensive to me. Vance Joy doesn’t seem to make music because he’s passionate about it, he seems to make music to make money. Vance Joy is nothing but a hipster version of a boy band, singing about unnamed, undescribed women in meaningless situations. That way all of his listeners can picture the objectively handsome Aussie singing about them.
One Direction used this tactic in many of its songs, most notably in “What Makes You Beautiful.” In that song, the boy band told an unnamed girl that what made a girl beautiful was the fact that she didn’t know she was beautiful. Well, in Nation of Two, Vance Joy does the same thing, he tells some woman (possibly you!?) that “you’re beautiful but you just don’t see it sometimes.”
After hearing this lyric, the “oh–oh–oh–oh–ohs” started sounding more like “na–na–na–na–nas,” and his music felt even less authentic. All of the songs are the same, and they are all in that boy band style, all except for “Little Boy.” This track, Joy says, is his “most autobiographical song” and gives his listeners “little details of his childhood.” You'd think this would be a pivotal moment from his childhood, since it's the only song not about some vaguely romantic setting. Nope. The song is about the time he fell off his bike and had to go to the hospital with his parents.
Maybe I should cut Joy some slack. How would I know if it was a pivotal moment for him or not? Well, the song offers no insight into who he is as a person, except for the fact that he is an "emotional man." Funny how that’s the kind of man much of his audience seems to be looking for. Almost like he’s marketing himself to be more attractive.
There is nothing wrong with liking this kind of music if you want to pretend your favorite artist is singing some love ballad to you (or if you like sub–par tunes). However, I don't think Vance Joy should be praised as an artist bringing something new to acoustic and folk music. One reviewer wrote that "It seems like almost an impossible feat to break through the sea of lookalikes and become successful in your own right. Vance Joy...broke through." No. He's doing the same thing as everyone else, and it's boring.