Album Review: Joji’s “Ballads 1”

 by Daisy Murguia

Joji, born George Miller, is a Japanese singer, songwriter, record producer, and former YouTube star whose debut album “Ballads 1” hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Hip hop/R&B chart, making him the first Asian-born artist to do so. The achievement comes as no surprise, with songs about angst, rejection, and unrequited love, the relatable themes that all listeners hope for, Joji was sure to be a success. His album has the sad ambiance of a quarter life crisis, but the eclectic music paired with the painfully relatable lyrics makes you feel alive.


The album starts off dramatically mellow with “Attention,” a song that resonates with the hearts of all who have been rejected at least once in their life. He hits you hard with the line: “When you cry, you waste your time / Over boys you never liked,” reminding you about the times you have traded your self-worth just to have the attention of a boy who could scarcely remember your name. Then comes the second song, “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” a painful ballad that is irresistibly emotional. Listen to it and try not to scream-sing the line: “You should be with him, I can’t compete.” If you don’t belt out those lyrics, while gesticulating dramatically, then you need to raise the volume. It’s one of the best songs on the entire album because it just feels right.


The third track on the album, “Test Drive,” throws you off in comparison to the heartbreaking opening songs. It starts more upbeat, but still with the same angst, “I told you not to waste my fucking time / I told you never sing that song, you lied.” The following song “Wanted U” restores the peace again – starting out mellow, not much different than previous songs; it’s not the strongest song on the album. “Can’t Get Over You” sounds like elevator music that you listen to while you awkwardly breathe next to strangers and try not to make eye contact, and it doesn’t really get you anywhere, not even to the second floor. But, all hope is not lost, because “Yeah Right” is the next song on the album and it’s one of the best. This is a song that makes you remember someone you never really cared about and wasted your time on, “Yeah you bet I know that she ain’t / Never give a single fuck about me.” It’s true, she didn’t.


“Why Am I Still in LA” feels like an adult lullaby that you listen to at late hours of the night when the dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain drop. Joji doesn’t want us to fall into a dark hole big enough to make us text our ex, so he comes in and saves the day with “No Fun.” It’s a lightweight palate cleanser, and it gets the job done. “Come Thru” is not very good; it’s not inherently bad either, but it just doesn’t do much of anything. “R.I.P” and “XNXX” are also rather flat and the lyrics deteriorate into shallow nothings.


Last, but certainly not least, is “I’ll See You in 40” which is different, melancholic, and a true  coming-of-age song that is appropriate for his audience of young adults, who want to listen to songs that say, “If you were 22 forever, would be nice.” The end of the song slowly soothes and then fades away into nothingness. It is a great way to end an album that was amazing, start to finish, with only a few throw-away songs.