By SIDNEY WONG
Joji is rising to fame, receiving loads of “ATTENTION.”
On Oct. 26, Japanese born singer and producer George Miller, alias Joji, released his debut studio album BALLADS 1. Joji began gaining attention after the creation of 88rising, a music platform consisting of mostly Asian artists, which helped him successfully release his album.
Currently, BALLADS 1 number one on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums Chart, making history as the first ever artist from Asia to debut at number one. The album also debuted at number three on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums. Since the album’s release in October, it acquired 250 million global streams and immediately hit number one on iTunes R&B charts.
Being his first full length project, BALLADS 1 featured only one vocalist, Trippie Redd in the song “R.I.P,” other than Joji. In the album, Joji tries out new vocal techniques and lo-fi aesthetics. He reflects on his love life and describes how his poor habits with alcohol have negatively impacted him.
The twelve songs featured live up to the album’s title: melodic, slow and averaging only three minutes. The album’s opening track, “ATTENTION,” is about his unfulfilled expectations in a relationship He sings, “Girl, would it kill you just to show a little bit of attention?” This first song introduces theme of commitment within the album, which attracts listeners with its relatable lyrics.
The next song, “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK,” describes being in an impersonal relationship, when Joji wants something more. The song’s music video was released on Sept. 12 and currently has 27 million views, proving to be a fan favorite because of its emotional, but empowering vocals and mellow beats. The third track, “TEST DRIVE,” repeats the theme of wanting a long-term relationship. The piano and falsetto listeners hear throughout the song can be repetitive, but Joji’s idiosyncratic vocals make up for it. He also released a music video for “TEST DRIVE” on Oct. 16, in which he is in a straightjacket in the middle of a desert which viewers interpreted as a visual representation of not being heard by his significant other.
Skipping to the fifth track, “CAN’T GET OVER YOU” is a lyrically sad song masked by an upbeat tempo produced by Clams Casino and Thundercat. Joji’s vocals, once again, shine even with the change in tempo and Thundercat’s bassline. At only a minute and forty seven seconds, the song is the shortest on the album. The next song, “YEAH RIGHT,” was released in May as the album’s lead single. The song is currently Joji’s most played song with over 54 million streams. The music video portrays Joji in a strip club drinking his feelings away, drowning in his lack of love and attention. Joji sings, “And you bet I know that she ain’t ever give a single f- about me…you bet she know that we ain’t never gonna be together, I see.” In the video, he endures a rough breakup and chooses to party all night. Joji often directs his own music videos, which allows him to express himself through his unique art and passion for music. He released many music videos for BALLADS 1 in a matter of months, and listeners are anticipating more. The amount of work he produces shows that he enjoys creating, and his consistency helps him gain fans.
Before his rise to fame, Joji started on YouTube in 2014, creating comedy skits and music videos under Filthy Frank. He instantly acquired millions of views on his channel, and created the viral dance craze, the Harlem Shake. By 2017, Joji decided to expand his career in creating music and retired from his YouTube channel. However, after his departure from YouTube, he became an alcoholic and had stress induced seizures that required daily medication. He struggled with his illnesses, but kept on making music and putting his emotions into lyrics to stress his feelings. His battles are reflected into his music, which help listeners cope with similar problems.
Expanding his career further, Joji became seriously involved in music, joining the collaborative group 88rising based in Los Angeles alongside Asian artist such as, NIKI, Keith Ape, the Higher Brothers and Rich Brian. On July 20, 88rising released an album titled Head in the Clouds, kickstarting the groups rise to fame. For every music video they release on YouTube, the description says, “88 is double happiness.” Many fans interpret this quote from 88rising as a way for the artists to express themselves through music and share their infinite amounts of happiness. The talented group created a huge family, including their fanbase, who have shown unconditional love and support.
All things considered, BALLADS 1 is just a sign of progression for Joji. He is trying out different vocal styles and sampling beats to figure out what fits him best. Being a member of 88rising has allowed Joji to expand musically and grow as a person. He remains on tour alongside 88rising in Europe and North America until February, and fans hope for the release of more music soon.
As they always say, 88 stay rising!