Joji’s “Smithereens”: mere glimpses of genius to come

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Photo courtesy of Damien Maloney

Japanese singer-songwriter Joji released Smithereens on Nov. 4. (Photos approved for editorial use by Shorefire Media)

Brinda Iyer, Staff Reporter

Multi-genre artist Joji, who is still riding high on the success of his breakout single “Glimpse of Us” from earlier this year, released his long-awaited album “Smithereens” on Nov. 4.

Joji separated the album into two sections. The first five songs were softer and more contemplative, while the last four, with screaming capitalized titles, were more experimental in terms of beat and music style.

As someone who has loved Joji’s music for a long time and attended his stunning Smithereens hype tour in September, I had high expectations for this album. However, out of the nine tracks, I found only half of them to be even remotely memorable. 

Joji has a history of putting out hit songs, but with Smithereens, he has failed to produce an album that is noteworthy from start to finish.

Joji, whose real name is George Miller, began his entertainment career with his 2011 YouTube channel titled “TVFilthyFrank.” Starting in 2014, Miller assumed the name Pink Guy, and began producing music that reflected the comical essence of his YouTube channel. 

Miller gave up the Pink Guy act in 2017 to assume the alias of Joji and begin focusing seriously on music. That year, he released his debut extended play (EP) “In Tongues.” In 2018, Joji released two albums: the deluxe version of “In Tongues,” which contained hit tracks “Will He” and “worldstar money (interlude),” and “Ballads 1,” notable for popular singles “Yeah Right” and “Slow Dancing in the Dark.”

2020’s “Nectar” demonstrated Joji’s evolution as an artist. The album’s variety, ranging from the upbeat guitar riffs on “Run” to the quiet lament “Like You Do” showed his ability to work with different styles. Additionally, Joji’s powerful vocals demonstrated his growth from the rap-oriented days of Pink Guy.

As someone who has loved Joji’s music for a long time and attended his stunning Smithereens hype tour in September, I had high expectations for this album. However, out of the nine tracks, I found only half of them to be even remotely memorable.

In my opinion, “Glimpse of Us” is still the most powerful song on “Smithereens.” The simple piano notes combined with Joji’s wistful singing result in a song quite different from his typical rhythm and blues (R&B) style. “Glimpse of Us” gives the listener the opportunity to dwell in a comfortably despairing state, and is definitely the breakup track of 2022.

On the topic of misery, “Die For You” was another mournful track that stood out to me. While the solid beat and soulful singing rounded out the experience, the lyrics were definitely the best part of the song, with tearjerkers like “I heard that you’re happy without me / And I hope it’s true / It kills me a little, that’s okay / ‘Cause I’d die for you.” I only wish that every song on the album was as meaningful as this one.

Another song I enjoyed was “Yukon (Interlude).” This song abandoned the album’s  sad pattern in favor of a fast-paced beat sprinkled with light piano notes.

I quite liked “Dissolve” as well. The simple guitar riffs on this song were something unexpected from Joji, who usually uses synthesized trap beats, and the smooth auto-tuned vocals made for a fascinatingly canorous listening experience.

In all honesty, the rest of the songs just didn’t pop enough. Aside from the four songs aforementioned, I didn’t feel the need to go back and listen to the album again. 

I would give “Smithereens” a comprehensive rating of 6/10, most of which comes from the songs discussed earlier. Overhyped by “Glimpse of Us,” the album felt like an undeveloped EP at best, incomparable to Joji’s past albums.