Joji’s flawed debut “Ballads 1” pulls though

John Bricker, Staff Reporter

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Joji’s debut studio album “Ballads 1,” released on Oct. 26, is an inconsistent, but fulfilling journey through his eclectic collection of musical ideas.

After George Miller gained a dedicated online following through his absurdist YouTube videos and outrageous parody rap, he overhauled his persona in 2017 by adopting the Joji name and releasing his debut EP project, “In Tongues.”

Although his expressive vocals and somber production made a good first impression, Joji’s progression into more simple songs and lazy vocals failed to prove his value as a serious, unique musician.

Although “Ballads 1” is more ambitious than “In Tongues,” not all of Joji’s stylistic detours and experiments create complete, engaging songs.

“Why Am I Still In LA” begins with an ominous blend of distorted guitar and gentle falsettos, slowly building up to the track’s midpoint, where propulsive bass, relentless cymbal crashes and rough power chords deliver an instant burst of adrenaline.

This sudden grunge detour is a fantastic climax, but afterwards, the track merely repeats the song’s first leg, failing to fully explore the track’s instrumental ideas.

On “R.I.P,” featuring vocalist Trippie Redd, easily outshines Joji with his pained, autotuned vocals. Despite Trippie’s emotive performance and impressive range, Joji’s lackluster chorus makes this track one of the album’s most disappointing cuts.

Despite Joji’s underwhelming tracks, when his daring production choices and evocative vocals on “Ballads 1” pay off, he delivers his best songs yet.

Joji distances himself from sleepy R&B with his most stunning track yet, “Slow Dancing In The Dark,” delivering some of his most subtle and passionate vocals over a mix of pounding bass, crisp percussion and watery synth arpeggiators. When the track’s chorus hits with a massive wall of bright synths, Joji pushes himself further than ever before, effortlessly shifting between dreamy falsettos and forceful cries.

Over a sweet blend of warm keys and lo-fi drums, “Test Drive” creates a spacious soundscape through distant synth tones and Joji’s Post Malone-esque ad-libs and harmonies that fill the space between his lyrics. Although “Test Drive” uses a fairly conventional palette, Joji’s unique, emotional intonation elevates it, making it one of pop rap’s most polished, catchy songs today.

Although “Ballads 1” has its missteps, Joji proves he has a unique artistic voice and if he continues to grow and mature, he can change the face of pop forever.

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