Back in April, Joji dropped Gimme Love. During a sit-down with Billboard’s Chelsea Briggs, he described his newest single at the time this way, ¨”Back in the day, I feel like you had a favorite part of a song, and now that’s not really a thing anymore. So, I thought it would just be nice to kind of have a song that’s long and in two parts.”
Joji’s simple statement doesn´t fully describe the essence of his emotion-driven style of music. Fans, music theorists, and casual listeners struggle to nail down Joji’s genre. A couple of years ago, many said his songs were a mix of low fidelity jazz, R&B, boom-bap, and vinyl crackle. Since then, there has been a definite shift toward a purer form of R&B sprinkled with hi-fidelity sounds and hip-hop-pop. While the raw sounds of lo-fi may be less prominent in his recent releases, there is still a powerful emotional undercurrent reverberating within each tune.
New release reviewers characterize Gimme Love as a throwback to his earlier days, with an intro that is classic head-boppy, low fi trip-hop, and ethereal qualities that add an undertone of eerie, goriness. Joji pushes his vocal range and also introduces some new instrumental elements to his music – one reason some people see Gimme Love as a bridge between his old and new stylistic offerings.
Change is nothing new to Joji. It has been said that he thrives on nuance – channeling all of his personal experiences and raw emotions into his songs. He claims this approach to creating vocal art frees him to live a fairly stress-free life with fewer cares and more joy. By allowing the dark thoughts and harsh moments an expressive outlet in his music, he can be silly, whimsical, slightly quirky, and even endearing to all those he encounters. Sometimes, as is the case with his new album, Nectar, he confronts life’s harder challenges and his personal experiential journey head-on, exploring alternative solutions as well as transforming routine daily events into highly memorable, emotional encounters.
In 2019, Joji went platinum with Slow Dancing in the Dark. He reached a second-platinum status in March 2020. And, as the first Asian-born artist to scale the charts to the top of Billboards R&B/Hip-Hop Albums list (he peaked in slot 3 of the Billboard Top 200), Joji continues to make waves with his soulful sounds.
His music continues to evolve and with each nuanced evolution, he learns more about his early beginnings. Born George Miller, Joji says that the processes, his approach to creating art, are pretty much the same as the ones he used to create hits from BALLADS 1 to Nectar. However, he says there is one clear difference. Joji told TMRW Magazine,”I see more value in letting yourself rest sometimes because more creative ideas will eventually flow in. When things are moving too fast, you can get stuck and constipated.” He anticipates the Nectar era will lead to deeper insights about George Miller through future songs and nuanced stylistic changes.
Though Joji pours his emotions into his songs like the early waves of an approaching tsunami, he guards some aspects of his personal life with fortresses like cliffs, that prevent his fans from truly uncovering his deepest regrets, purest pleasures, and some very personal parts of his life. He admits that some emotions are hard to explain with words, but “can be teased out via sound.” He says, “I always had trouble getting my thoughts into words, but I certainly feel better when I get to have full control over something that I personally want to hear.” One area he never discusses publicly is his Australian-Japanese heritage and how that lineage impacts his music, or if it plays any role at all.
Fans and other entertainers can get to know Joji better through his music. Personally, he prefers to listen to lighter, positive music, although there is a definite dark, provocative narrative that runs through many of his most popular songs. He says he doesn’t plan to “lean into” the darker side of music but realizes that tone resonates with some listeners and he wants to give them what they like.
Swinging out front, let me inside
Playing my song into my sides
It hurts, I can’t lie, remember those times
I fought to get out? I want to get out
Those pictures so clear, they fade in my mind
You leavin’ me here with ashes and fire
These people don’t heal, these people don’t feel
These people aren’t real so make me this deal
Gimme Love is all about escaping the pain of a love gone wrong. People don’t remember. People don’t get over their hurt and anger. But, even the singer is beginning to lose the sharpness of fading love. Although Joji says that his songs are not biographical, he has a talent for turning the mundane into the majestic, the maddening into the melancholy, the sorrow into satisfaction.
The stats speak for themselves. Joji sold-out his 2019 North American tour within minutes – you heard that right, within minutes. He enjoyed performing at some of the most coveted festivals – Reading & Leeds and Lollapalooza to name just a couple – and, his global streams shot past 4.2 billion in 2020. This year promises to be the best ever for the widely popular pop artist. As long as he keeps evolving, fans will keep supporting him.
Speaking of always evolving, the ink is barely dry on Gimme Love and Joji recently released a remix by Channel Tres that completely turns the original inside out and upside down. The original, according to Channel Tres, had a definite sense of urgency, but also had elements of calmness. The new version is an introspective grove, the seeks a slower pace and a headier vibe. Instead of a fast-paced frenetic pop tune, the newest version possesses great potential as a smooth jazz dance number. Soft, sensual, and as Joji puts it, “It makes me tingly.”
In many ways, Joji is a private, introspective person that seems hard to get to know. But as long as he can express himself with an ever-evolving style and tone, he will stay connected to his followers. It is an intimate journey played out in the public eye.
Looking at the evolution of Joji’s music, it makes one wonder what is next on the horizon for him and his fans. A review of past interviews reveals that while much changes, much stays the same. For example, he keeps an aging MP3 player with him at all times because he knows that if your “songs sounds good on the cheapest MP3 player out there, then it’s going to sound at least as good on everything else.” He also keeps the first real mic he ever bought, a C-IU, wrapped in a t-shirt because he never bought a proper case. Joji admits he is frugal with most purchases but does stockpile intangibles. He is sentimental, penny-wise, and highly emotional. He creates songs that resonate with those who lean toward a darker side and puts a positive spin on memories saturated with angst and loss. He is up and down. Rap and blues. Lo-fi and hi-fi. Hip-hop and Asian pop. He is an open book without a final chapter that reveals his deepest fears and highest peaks.