Joji really shouldn’t exist. The singer, whose real name is George Miller, was previously known as Filthy Frank- an obscene youtuber/rapper/comedy act that who garnered so many followers in the early 2010s. Whilst there have been no traces of this legacy in the work of Miller under the name of Joji it is clear that whilst listeners had an admiration for hits like ‘SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK’ there was a nostalgia for the man that wrote the lyrics “your girlfriends always sucking on my dick like a Slim Jim stick”. However it is only with Joji’s latest project, ‘SMITHEREENS’ that he is able to establish himself as someone entirely separate from his old persona and, whilst it highlights a distinct emotional growth, it is not a sign of growth in musical quality.
The undeniable standout is ‘Glimpse of Us’, a heart wrenching ballad about missing a former lover even though he has tethered himself to a supposed perfect partner. The simple piano accompanied with a heart-breaking, tender vocal performance from Miller as he details the emotions of “passing time in her arms, looking to find a glimpse of us”. Throughout there’s only a minimal inclusion of the reverb and other vocal augmentations that plague Joji’s music, only really making themselves present on the bridge to create a collection of soulful vocal harmonies, as though its allowing the listener to sit in the pool of tears they’ve generated through listening to the song. Regardless of the quality of the rest of the project, ‘Glimpse of Us’, written by the members of before you exit, is a highlight on the album and a genuine testament to Joji’s strengths as a singer.
However, whilst some would listen to the song that serves as the opener for the album and expect to spend the next 20 minutes lying in a pool of their own tears, what Joji actually delivers is a collection of scraps and half-finished tracks. This has been a problem that has plagued all of his projects with Miller always having a tendency to front load his albums but to have extremely underwhelming second halves. However this problem is more pertinent on ‘SMITHEREENS’ due to the short length of the album- at only 24 minutes you would expect a relatively tight and controlled release form Joji, only displaying his strongest musical ideas but all he delivers is an underwhelming collection of half-finished collection of demos. The song ‘NIGHT RIDER’ appears to be entirely discarded after the first chorus simply repeating the pre chorus of “I’m too precious” a few more times before abruptly ending. There is also a notable similarity between some of the songs - note how recent single ‘YUKON (INTERLUDE)’ sounds immensely similar to the song ‘ATTENTION’ off of Joji’s 2018 album ‘BALLADS 1’.
Whilst the music and wider work that Miller created under the title of Filthy Frank was often immensely vulgar and deeply offensive, often intentionally on the part of Miller, there was a recognition that he was genuinely trying with the work he was making and it showed - he still has an enduring group of fans who only associate with the guy who ran around in a bright pink suit and created the Harlem Shake. In contrast the work of Joji and, most specifically ,the new project ‘SMITHEREENS’ feel rushed and half formed. Miller has shown himself to be a genuine talent, yet it appears that now he has outgrown the persona that defined his early years he has also outgrown the need to try in his music