Joji – Ballads 1
Released October 26, 2018
Ever since releasing two songs in secret from the rest of his Filthy Frank fanbase, singer/rapper/comedian George Miller has been gaining fame slowly but surely under his Joji alias. Heavily influenced by lo-fi and R&B music, he made melancholic, intimate, ambient songs that were rarely longer than 2 minutes and had vague, non-linear lyrics about love and heartbreak. After continually releasing these songs with the promise of the “Chloe Burbank Vol. 1” tape on the way (which never happened), Joji went quiet, until last year when he joined the 88rising label and released his debut major label EP, In Tongues. A continuation of his piano-driven, rainy style, it felt more focused and even though it wasn’t as good as those first two tracks he released in 2015, it made many, including me, excited for his album debut. Critics called In Tongues simplistic and pretentious. They were, of course, right. His music was pretentious, and it was all very, very simple, but it was incredibly evocative and emotional. It sounded like Joji really was attempting something new and original. And in the end, that’s what music is really about.
Which is why BALLADS 1 feels so… out of place? From the singles, it was clear that Joji was heading in a more poppy, polished direction. And it sounded really good. From the huge improvement in singing Joji displayed in “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” to the catchy, bouncy beat on “CAN’T GET OVER YOU,” it appeared like the new album was a completely new sound, in a good way. Then “TEST DRIVE” came out, a watered down, boring track, and I thought it was just a fluke. In some ways it was. What ended up being the full album sounds like a weird halfway point between Joji’s repertoire of internet music and his new commercial endeavors. A clear example of this is the intro track, “ATTENTION,” which features a downright bad piano part that sounds like a stock loop on GarageBand. This then leads into a gimmicky bassline and boring lyrics, and then… ends. After that, the singles are good still (except for “TEST DRIVE”) but other than that I came away feeling very neutral to the album, and very unsure as to what Joji wants to sound like, let alone what he actually sounds like. Because for now he’s kept the simpleness and lyrical weakness of his old tracks and paired it with the boring and bland production of a lot of pop music today.
Best Tracks: “SDITD,” “Yeah Right,” “CGOY,” “Wanted U”
Worst Tracks: “Attention,” “RIP,” “Test Drive”
All in all, I liked more of the tracks than I disliked them, so it gets a 4 out of 7 from me. In the future, I hope Joji can commit more to one sound (especially if it’s like Chloe Burbank) and really try to develop as an artist because this new project doesn’t feel like a step forward.