Music

A Track-By-Track Analysis of Joji’s “Ballads 1”

George Miller is a man of many names.  Starting out as the viral Youtuber Filthy Frank, he gained popularity through his sketch comedy-based content, which was put to a halt in December 2017.  Simultaneously, he dabbled in music composition through his alter ego Pink Guy, which was retired at the same time as his Filthy Frank era.  Now, he’s Joji, a formerly elusive, more serious music persona signed under Asian music label 88rising. Earlier this year, he released a deluxe version of his debut EP In Tongues, and on October 26, 2018, Ballads 1, his first studio album was released.  Joji has made waves in the music scene through some of his most notable songs like SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK, Will He, and YEAH RIGHT.  Joji’s Ballads 1 is a passion project telling its listeners all about the multifaceted realities of life and love.

 

Track 1: ATTENTION

The album starts off with a short but sweet melody with great flow and rhythm.  ATTENTION tells us a story of a woman Joji likes who refuses to give him attention and directs what Joji covets so much to other guys she’s chasing.  This song shows Joji’s prowess for songwriting. Since this song was truly well-written, it was difficult to choose my favorite lyrics, but they were narrowed down to “I don’t smile for the camera / Only smile for you” and its pre-chorus:

 

Now would you hate me if I said goodbye
So quick you could eat my dust?
Now would you hate me if I ran like hell
In the wind from dawn ’til dusk?

 


Track 2: SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK

This is probably the first song that comes to mind when you hear the name “Joji”.  With more or less 42 million streams on Spotify, this is one of Joji’s most notable songs for good reason.  Listening to this (or its even sadder acoustic counterpart) is extremely cathartic. In SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK, Joji’s star-crossed narrative is continued with the metaphor of slow dancing in the dark alluding to a relationship falling apart–a slow dance wherein your partner’s face cannot be seen.  We can infer that his relationship with the person this song’s dedicated for is intimate yet impersonal. SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK provides an out-of-body experience very few songs can give. Blame it on the harmonious melodies or melancholic lyrics. My favorite lyrics have to be:

  1. When I’m around slow dancing in the dark / Don’t follow me, you’ll end up in my arms
  2. Give me reasons we should be complete / You should be with him, I can’t compete

 

Track 3: TEST DRIVE

The final single from Ballads 1, TEST DRIVE tells us about yet another failing relationship.  Unsurprisingly, the unifying metaphor of the song involves driving, which alludes to how the song’s protagonist is seeking out a serious relationship, while his partner just wants to, well, test drive.  Chill and upbeat, you probably wouldn’t immediately catch that TEST DRIVE is yet another melancholic Joji song.  You can watch the music video of TEST DRIVE here.

 

Track 4: WANTED U

Starting off with a melody reminiscent of BROCKHAMPTON songs, WANTED U sounds intentionally muffled at first, but it clears up by the chorus, which is an intelligent and symbolical move for the song since it tackles Joji’s late realization of his feelings.  At first, the song insinuates that he’s unsure of what he feels, but by the chorus, we’re told that “I’ve been waiting my whole life / To know I wanted you”.  The flow and instrumentals of the song are lovely and perfectly complement the soulfulness of Joji’s voice.

 

Track 5: CAN’T GET OVER YOU

Aside from SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK, this song was one of the main reasons why I was drawn to Joji’s music.  It’s significantly more whimsical and soft than most of Joji’s songs, but that doesn’t diminish its quality. For a change, Joji explores the power of love at first sight and the foolishness it so often unleashes.

 

Track 6: YEAH RIGHT

Yet another single off Ballads 1 and one of the songs Joji has thoroughly annotated and explained on Genius. YEAH RIGHT tells us a story of partying all night in attempts to get over a rough breakup. There isn’t much variety in the lyrics, and we can infer that it’s because Joji only wants to convey one message: I’ma f*ck up my life.

 

Track 7: WHY AM I STILL IN L.A.

Three words: Big Joji energy.  Very melancholic with hints of rock and metal.  This song’s more driven by its almost deafening instrumentals rather than its lyrics.  The story this song is trying to convey is pretty self-explanatory: Why is Joji still in L.A.? He insinuates aspects of his unhealthy lifestyle induced by the L.A. scene, which should be enough for him to leave, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t.

 

Track 8: NO FUN

NO FUN tackles Joji’s loneliness caused by his friends leaving one by one in a whimsical and upbeat manner, which is pretty admirable.  An easy bop, you’ll almost immediately find yourself singing and dancing to this song. After all, we’ve all related to the lyrics “And I keep to myself / Fuck with no one else / And I know it’s my fault / But I don’t care” at one point in our lives, right?

 

Track 9: COME THRU

“And I don’t really like people, but you’re better by default.”  

In COME THRU, Joji tackles his insecurities and his self-discovery via his lover.  In the first verse of COME THRU, Joji utilizes vampirical and demonic imagery, probably to allude to his inner demons.  As previously stated, the all-encompassing message Joji’s trying to convey in COME THRU is that he’s drowning in insecurities in attempts of finding himself and making himself more appealing to his lover in the process.

 

Track 10: R.I.P. (ft. Trippie Redd)

Arguably one of the most profound songs on Ballads 1, R.I.P. talks about the sacrifices Joji and Trippie Redd would make for their lovers, going so far as to repeatedly saying “I would die for you”.  The song is more driven by its lyrics and the messages they convey. As short as it may be, it gets its message across quite effectively.

 

Track 11: XNXX

“Hard to think about you anymore (‘Bout you anymore) / But I keep you in my mind always (Always)”

No, not that XNXX.  While it shares a name with a pornographic site, the eleventh track of Ballads 1 doesn’t talk about sex and sexuality at all.  Chill yet upbeat, you’ll find yourself bopping your head to this immediately, as the song itself is pretty short.

 

Track 12: I’LL SEE YOU IN 40

The final track of Ballads 1 starts with muffled voices and soft string instrumentals.  It tells a story of Joji’s relationship with an ex-lover. It’s important to note that the song’s first lyrics are “Please don’t come around” and that the song ends with similar soft string instrumentals and the lyrics “I will find myself / And I still love you”, which tells us that while Joji wanted his ex completely out of his life at first, there’ll always be a part of his heart that belongs to her.

 

All in all, Joji’s Ballads 1 is a carefully crafted masterpiece that serves as a gift from Joji to us.  However, at times, it fell short for the reason that a good amount of its best songs were already released prior to the album, which made the album as a whole feel a tad bit underwhelming.  Nonetheless, the greatness of the aforementioned best songs and the overall quality of the album make up for its shortcomings. After numerous identity changes, it’s safe to say that George Miller has found his home in Joji, and it looks like he’s not going away any time soon.

 

Image via Joji’s Twitter

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