Courtesy of 88rising

April 17, 2023

Smitten by Joji’s “Smithereens”

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Do you remember those days on YouTube when a half-Japanese, half-Australian guy in a pink suit did filthy things and threw a bunch of edgy jokes that were beyond the imaginable level of tolerance? When he dropped his first successful album where he sang about living in a constant state of fear and misery? And when suddenly he disappeared and returned with a new, unrecognizable persona who sings about unshared, tragic love? Yes, I’m talking about Joji’s (aka George Miller’s) vague past that used to be one of the brightest and most legendary periods on early YouTube. However, most of his current fans have never heard about this side of his life.

I truly believe that Miller is a self-made genius. Just imagine, how on Earth could anyone survive (and be loved) for so many years online while throwing immensely offensive jokes about literally everyone? He toed that thinnest line between absurd jokes that people can accept and merely horrifying comments. But his genius doesn’t end in humor. His sense of audience helped him to make such a smooth transition to his music career. Turns out, it wasn’t a sudden thing for him to switch entirely to music. He had many song attempts, and even during his Youtube era, he released the Pink Guy (2014) album and two songs from Chloe Burbank (2015).

His first official album Pink Season dropped in 2017 on one of his channels called TVFilthyFrank. The lyrics are pretty edgy: I can’t hide the truth. Yet the “vibe” of the album fits the characters he’s been using for such a long time. I realized that I enjoyed his music when I heard his actual vocals in the chorus of “Fried Noodles”. Time passed, Filthy Frank turned into Joji and we got such masterpieces as In Tongues, Ballads 1 and Nectar. Strong, deep lyrics and rhymes, unique sound and broad vocal range — that’s how you can easily distinguish him from other artists.

Joji’s fourth album, Smithereens, made me smitten, but I did have mixed feelings about it. He made a powerful entrance to the new album, which seemed to be very promising. Our first introduction to it happened when Miller dropped “Glimpse of Us” and “Yukon” as singles. The first one immediately became extremely viral on TikTok, and even if a person didn’t know him as an artist, everybody knew some lyrics from this song. Fans paid attention to the well-shot video clip, which created a beautiful contrast to the sound. The second song didn’t receive so much popularity, but it definitely gained recognition among his fan base due to the incredibly directed and filmed video clip.  

I love the line “And I overflow like mercury, glowing with uncertainty” — I was glowing with uncertainty when I listened to the full album. It consists of nine songs, which is much shorter than its predecessor Nectar. As always, I truly enjoyed the textual content of the songs. The sound is very calming, almost giving a state of sleepiness, like when you listen to a lullaby. One concerning thing about the music was that it didn’t have as many distinguishable tracks as his previous works had. This made me hesitant about where to put this album when rating it against others, and whether I can perceive it as a successful one.

Another breathtaking video clip was published for the “Die for You” song. Indeed, visual work was at the highest level. The narrative and color scheme, as well as the capturing of shots in a very specific manner made viewers speechless.

One fan in the comment section wrote, “Joji really went from curing depression to causing depression.” Undoubtedly, the atmosphere of Smithereens is heavily melancholic and hopeless when compared to those of past works. However, this comment made me realize that we should restrain ourselves from this type of comparison that I’ve just made, because it makes bad framing for any artistic expression. If we pay enough attention, Joji was searching and experimenting from the very beginning. None of his albums sound or look the same. Therefore, we have to seek the characteristics of his new work that show us what’s new about Miller’s creativity. From my end, I can suggest that Smithereens puts a huge emphasis on a visual narrative, which brings the solution to my question “How is it distinguishable?”

Overall, this album is delightful. The best way to experience it is when you are looking for a calmness that will ground you through sound and visuals.

Nika Makoviak is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].