Joji - 'Ballads 1' Album Review
After his mellow and cloudy In Tongues EP in 2017, Joji jumped onto the radar of many R&B fans, showing top class lyricism and a moody aesthetic that resonated with listeners, he showed one thing above all: potential. However, as nice as his sound was there was no denying he could do with a bit of variation, relying on piano-lead, lo-fi instrumentals and slurred vocals, Joji had curated a nice sound on In Tongues but unfortunately not much else. With the announcement of his debut album Ballads 1 I was excited to hear some progression from the Australian-Japanese artist, but unfortunately, despite a few standout tracks, Ballads 1 is pleasant on the ears but ultimately boring.
From internet comedian to R&B star, George Miller has had one of the more unique career paths thus far, and no matter what angle you look at it, it’s hard to deny he’s an incredibly creative person and clearly has a knack for all aspects of the entertainment industry. In this regard it seems so strange to me that his music remains so 1-dimensional when everything else about Joji as an artist interests me. From his surrealist music videos to his despicably likable and hilarious persona, he has all the makings of a star but for me, his music struggles to evolve past the same formula.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some interesting ideas presented on here, such as the grimy intro ‘ATTENTION’, with it’s distorted bass that slowly drowns the bouncy instrumental. Or the grungy interlude in the middle of ‘WHY AM I STILL IN LA’ that sets it apart as one of his most experimental songs yet. ‘SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK’ was the second single from the album that I loved from the moment it released and it still stands as the best song on the album by a large margin. The glittery instrumental and introspective lyrics are exactly what I wanted from the project when the track first released.
Aside from these highlights there really isn’t much that is memorable from Ballads 1, on many of these songs it feels as if Joji is taking strict notes out of other artist’s notebooks like on ‘TEST DRIVE’ which is quite literally a Post Malone song no matter which way you look at it. Or ‘NO FUN’ which is admittedly quite a fun song (pun intended) but sounds exactly like it could be off of Kalid‘s American Teen. Overall, every song on here is completely listenable and there are even a few good tracks sprinkled across it’s short 35 minute run-time. However, Ballads 1 as a product is so unbelievably average and so ridiculously forgettable that it makes me sad, because it’s making me realise that Joji is a bit of a one-trick pony.
Listen to the album below: