You might know him as George Miller, maybe even Filthy Frank or Pink Guy, but I know him as Joji; I think after this album you’ll be addressing him as I do.
I’ll level with you right off the bat, if you asked me a year or two ago about Joji I wouldn’t really have given him a chance to get to this level. So what changed my mind? Joji flipped the script and dropped a pair of singles, Yeah Right and Slow Dancing In The Dark. Both incredible pieces that made the music world stop and take note and question how good Joji could actually be. A smooth flow on Yeah Right and a breathtaking, powerful performance on Slow Dancing In The Dark put Joji on another level. It’s raw, emotional and by far the best track he’s ever made. It’s not all down to a stellar production team either, a huge part of this is down to Joji’s underrated talents.
Another pair of singles were released in the lead-up to this album, Can’t Get Over You & Test Drive. Clams Casino’s lo-fi production on the former makes for a groovy bop while the latter see’s Joji merge RnB vocals with a slow rap flow, something we see often on the album. While the lyrics on all these singles may lack depth in lyricism, Joji’s delivery certainly makes up for this minor gripe.
Away from the singles and moving onto track one, Attention, is a gritty opener that is radically distorted in the most Joji way possible, it’s a marmite piece of production that I happen to love. Wanted U and Why Am I Still In LA both get a heavy nod from me thanks to mesmerising production that includes distortion times one hundred. The guitar sections on these songs are something to also praise massively: they’re both innovative and memorable, easily making for two of my favourite tracks on the entire record.
Joji enlists the help of Trippie Redd for R.I.P, providing a unique voice that goes against the soothing vocals of Joji, it’s a blend that I welcome as it keeps the album fresh, regardless of the out and out skill of Redd, it’s at the very least something that stands out.
The final two tracks on the album, XNXX and I’ll See You in 40, really just add to something I already knew: Joji’s not to be underestimated. Both tracks are as tight as they come as Joji effortlessly glides over them in an emotive and compelling way.
Make no mistakes about it: Joji isn’t perfect on this stellar debut. Often points in the album there’s a level of awkwardness in transitions between songs. For instance the change over between track four, Wanted U, and the aforementioned Can’t Get Over You, is as clunky as it gets. Another issue is that Joji isn’t ever going to be known as the worlds greatest rapper, but pure rap is not the reason I love him so it doesn’t bother me too much, but his flow does often feel indistinguishable which can attribute to a lack of layers on the record. Some tracks while being good songs could use an extra bit of something, whether that be heavier production or a more focused delivery from the man himself.
Joji completely reinvented his entire career as he transitioned from a world of comedy in exchange for a much more in depth and mature world of music. On BALLADS 1, Joji shows this transition in the very best way he can, and I feel like it shows only a glimpse of just how good he is, there’s uncapped potential here that’s going to transform Joji into an incredibly bright star.