Review of Ballads 1

Angel Lee ’20

Recognizable as former YouTuber entertainer Filthy Frank and inventor of the Harlem Shake, Joji is now the ultimate sad boy who drowns his self-deprecating feelings into powerful beat with modern R&B vibes into all his pieces.

Joji’s latest release, titled Ballads 1, is categorized under R&B/Soul. It is comprised of 12 songs that all have a memorable hook to distinguish songs apart from one another. With his deep, vulnerable voice alongside raw, emotional lyrics, the album marks yet another masterpiece. As a member of 88rising, an organization to create a platform to promote Asian artists, his work is promoted alongside other artists in similar genres of music.

88rising includes popular members such as rapper Rich Brian and pop/R&B singer Niki. Though all under the same platform, Joji’s sad boy vibe distinguishes him apart from the other artists and gives him an original sound. Previous works by Joji include the EP In Tongues alongside a deluxe version with electronic remixes which all hold similar emotions and beats as Ballads 1. While In Tongues only had six songs, Ballads 1 has double the amount, showing Joji’s growth as an artist to produce twice the amount of songs in one year.

Ballads 1 is mostly made of poignant, slow-digging beats to bring out Joji’s raw lyrics, but there are two songs that are particularly upbeat: “CAN’T GET OVER YOU” feat. Clams Casino and “NO FUN.” Though still moving, the chords and lyrics in these two pieces are particularly brighter and set a happier tone. The upbeat vibe of “NO FUN” contrasts the lyrics about isolation and being introverted, repeatedly stating, “All my friends no fun, drive around on my own,” a typical tone in Joji’s songs. Even with the upbeat songs, the well-known gloomy Joji makes a comeback with over half the songs in Ballads 1. Two minor chords are mixed with a vibrant backbeat in “TEST DRIVE” to balance the depressing lyrics regarding rejection. The slow, slightly-muted beat with slow moving minor chords match the heartbreaking, self-sacrificial lyrics that are sung with full emotion in “R.I.P.” feat. Trippie Redd, repeating, “I would die for you.”

The chart-breaking hit “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” was released as a single before the album dropped and is still a personal favorite of mine. Joji refers to this piece as “a power ballad” as he practically howls the catchy chorus that presents heartbreak. The masterpiece has the rhythm of a waltz but incorporates techno beats to make it a modern ballad. Another piece I favor is “XNXX” with its fast beat and high bass, making it the perfect drive around song. Joji’s low, dragging voice that mixes with the fast beat still achieves articulation in every word, making the song a true standout.

Ballads 1 is filled with variety in chords and backbeats, but the lyrics are all about dealing with depression, rejection and heartbreak. His talk-singing musicality makes his pieces more conversational to connect on a personal level with his listeners. The album is perfect for playing in the background or listening intently as the lyrics have a powerful meaning but are exerted in a mellow way. Ballads 1 is highly recommended as Joji’s sad boy vibe prospers once again with 12 new masterpieces.