Ballads 1: Sad. Sad. And more sad.

Original album art for Jojis lead single YEAH RIGHT on his 2018 debut studio album BALLADS 1.

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Original album art for Joji’s lead single “YEAH RIGHT” on his 2018 debut studio album BALLADS 1.

With the release of Joji’s third studio album Smithereens just around the corner, today, he celebrates the four year anniversary of the project that shot him to music stardom. Ballads 1.

On the former YouTube star’s debut studio album, George Miller (Joji) depressively unpacks taboo subjects of sexual desire, insecurity in masculinity, addiction and obsession.

The project is almost entirely written and produced by Miller himself with the employment of a host of varied producers. Ranging from the hip-hop influenced Thundercat to the subtle Shlohmo-induced-electronic-dance-vibes embedded in tracks like “Why am I still in LA?” Joji accomplishes the feat of a cohesive collection of frighteningly intimate ballads.

However, it is “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” stylized in all capital letters, a consistent choice throughout the album, that may be the most candid Miller gets about the discomfort he feels in his own skin. Joji introduces a unique perspective and concept of male depreciation of masculinity and sexual desirability.

Over the elegant solo piano backings of co-producer Carol Kuswanto, Joji attempts to create boundaries, severing ties with a lost love while drowning in a pool of self-loathing. “Give me reasons we should be complete. You should be with him. I can’t compete. You looked at me like I was someone else. Can’t you see? Everyone is loaded…in the dark. Dark.” At times, Joji reduces his own value to the accompanying mania of unrequited love and failed relationships.

On “Attention,” Joji drowsily sings “Now, I thought I’d vocalized my traumas. But I wonder how it sound, hmm. I know I’m cryptic and worthless” as he performs the self-pity that distinguishes this 88rising production from just any other romantically depressed alternative-R&B album.

But the heartbreaking highlight of the album is “Yeah Right,” where Joji raspily moans “I’ma f*** up my life. We gon party all night. She don’t care if I die. Yeah, right yeah, right.” Consistent with the album’s descent into the depression of fame, sex, and insecurity, Miller rejects hyper-masculinity, offering depth and emotion to the male ego, sounding as if on the brink of tears throughout the ballad.

Joji seems to have lost the ability to feel pleasure. This is captured perfectly in the album art for the hit single “Yeah Right” as he lies passed out surrounded by all the pleasures he seems to desire most. Sex. Money. Women. Joji has it all. Shame he isn’t awake to see it. 

Miller doesn’t just mope. Over the course of 12 tracks, he grows to lack love and compassion for himself. Instead, he replaces gratitude for life and success with the painful pettiness of love and desire, slowly letting it kill him as he slow-dances in the dark.