Entertainer George Miller (not the Mad Max one) has made a name for himself as Filthy Frank, Pink Guy and is now seeing his new mainstream success as Joji. Through his first record in this latest project of his, he shows how well he can his voice heard in a serious hip hop setting. This said, enough of the album feels reliant on known quantities in the genre that it can feel a little done at times.
Though the tender ballads of “Attention” are inspired to be sure, there’s a brilliant use of dynamics and evolving arrangements to set Joji apart. It’s also refreshing so early in the record to both see how much his music has matured and how much attention he’s putting into his music. “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” takes a little longer to feel truly fresh by comparison, as the slow-burn of retro sounds doesn’t pop until Miller leans into it. On this note it’s easy to see where Miller is coming from on “Test Drive” though he offers some unique production and lyrical fun to modern hip hop. That said it still feels like a better quality version of rather saturated sound right now that may not age well.
This atypical approach is what makes the genre fusion of something like “Wanted U” stand taller than any of its parts might suggest. Along with all the catchy hooks Joji pushes out, there’ a uniquely focused take to the production that makes this song and others so distinct. “CAN’T GET OVER YOU (ft. Clams Casino)” is a perfect example of this, as one of the records simplest arrangements is shaped into something sharp and memorable through melody. Even the mumbling delivery of “Yeah Right” brings a uniquely soulful edge to its straightforward pop to help keep you guessing. Admittedly the song circles on its main hook a little too much, but it never feels boring for it.
The sharp contrast in xylophone and fat bass notes on “Why Am I Still In LA” help lead it into its noir b-section. In fact the only let down of the whole track is that Joji doesn’t continue following this second idea into a full song concept of its own. Tones of Pink Guy play into the simple but lyrically snappy “No Fun.” Whether you’re laughing at the story Miller tells or dancing to his percussion, this track is easily addictive. “Come Thru” fights through its derivative sound with a rush of emotion and a fleshed out sense of closure, as it attempts to start resolving many of the album’s themes across its runtime.
It’s unfortunate however that “R.I.P.” suffers from this same kind of sound, as so many of its vocals just come off as generically hip hop and samey. Joji bounces his vocals through the fun syncopation of “XNXX” however to close the album on a hopeful note. Though it’s not quite revolutionary, there’s definitely a strong enough personality to let this complete the record without feeling trite.
Words by Owen Maxwell