‘Ballads 1’ Marks a Solid, Yet Flawed Debut for Joji

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Published October 30, 2018
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"Ballads 1" marks Joji's studio album debut. Photo courtesy of 88rising

George Miller, better known by his stage name Joji, is a Japanese-Australian singer-songwriter. He first rose to fame as a YouTube personality by the name of Filthy Frank whose comedic style was often described as crude, dark, offensive and outrageous. As Filthy Frank, he is best known for starting the Harlem Shake dance trend back in 2013.

Miller first began making comedic hip-hop under the pseudonym and character Pink Guy in 2012, but also made serious music under the moniker Joji, which he kept a secret from his YouTube fan base.

As Joji, Miller made hip-hop and R&B music, often falling under the category of lo-fi music. In 2015, Joji’s true identity was revealed and his music soon began to collect more streams and plays.

In 2017, it was announced that Joji had signed with Asian music label 88rising, releasing various songs through the label and his debut EP “In Tongues” in October of that same year. Two months later, Miller announced that he would be retiring from YouTube due to serious health concerns and to further his career in music as Joji.

From a production point of view, “Ballads 1” is an improvement over Joji’s previous work, especially that of “In Tongues.” That project faced criticism for having too generic of a lo-fi sound, in addition to having songs that sounded too similar to each other. “Ballads 1” offers a much wider variety of different sounding tracks.

The album is supported by mostly slow, melancholic tracks, such as the piano driven “Attention” and “Test Drive.” The project also features more upbeat sounding tracks, such as “Can’t Get Over You” and “No Fun.” The track “Wanted U” separates itself from the rest of the album by providing a grungy, punk sound reminiscent to the music that took over mainstream music of the 1990s.

The single “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” which serves as the highlight of the entire album, is an emotional power ballad, providing great production from Patrick Wemberley, and one of Joji’s strongest vocal performances.

The album ends on a high note. The closing track “I’ll See You in 40” features some of the most creative and colorful production work, transitioning between different tempos and instrumentation of recorder and ukulele.

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Joji’s album “Ballads 1” was released on Oct. 26. Photo courtesy of 88rising

However, this album still possesses a good deal of imperfections. For instance, the tracks “Attention” and “Why Am I Still in LA” contain random moments of sound distortion that don’t benefit the songs at all and come across as just plain awkward. The quick-paced, upbeat “Can’t Get Over You” may feel like a breath of fresh air in an album embodying sadness and heartbreak, but it cannot help but feel strangely out of place due to its placement in between the tracks “Wanted U” and “Yeah Right.”

Some songs also fall under the category of simply forgettable. The track “XNXX” unfortunately does not stand out as anything special. The track “R.I.P.,” featuring rapper Trippie Redd, is completely taken over by Redd to the point where Joji’s contribution is made to seem minimal and is instantly forgotten by the second half of the song.

Despite these flaws, “Ballads 1” is still a solid effort. The music and lyrics are perfect for self-reflection and getting in your feelings. His debut project may not be perfect, but Joji proves that he is certainly stepping in the right direction and growing as an artist.

He still has much to learn, but “Ballads 1” shows listeners that Joji has a bright future and much more in store for his loyal fan base.

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