Joji’s sound takes a softer turn on new single


Photo courtesy of Genius

Joji releases new single “Glimpse of Us’ on June 10.

By Aidan Sadovi , Contributing Writer

Very few artists, in the broad sense of the term, can say they’ve undergone more of an artistic shapeshifting rather than evolution. George Miller, known professionally as Joji, is squarely one of those few. 

He, like many of his generation, rocketed to fame via YouTube. Posting videos that blended comedy with a bizarre mix of post-modern meme absurdity and vulgarity (and a fair bit of dark humor) he left little hint in regards to what the next stop in his career would eventually be. His props, as a summation of his online brand, were day-glo-green body suits, a frog costume and a flute — sometimes all together. 

In the years after, he stowed away the persona of “Filthy Frank,” as he was called, to take on a new one. Miller is now a singer — an old-fashioned-style crooner somewhere around the lower end of the baritone. Now going under the name of “Joji,” he operates firmly on the other end of the emotional spectrum from his online career. 

No depth of analysis could fully explain such a shift, other than maybe the tacit understanding that humor and sadness aren’t so far apart — one often making up for the other. 

His songs are imbued with almost overwhelming feelings of loneliness and often desperation, bound together by frayed threads of heartbreak and romance. Emotionally fraught and frantic lyrics are often backed up and buttressed by dark and poppy synth hooks and washed-out hip-hop beats. The song, “Yeah Right,” released on his sophomore album “Ballads 1,”  starts with the repetition of the phrase, “Imma f*** up my life,” for instance.

His latest single, “Glimpse of Us,” released on June 10, is a notable departure from these lyrical and instrumental trademarks. Opting for more spare instrumentation, forlorn lyrics lamenting the death of a relationship are set to a soft and spiraling piano melody, unaccompanied by a drumbeat. “Glimpse of Us,” is more of an old-fashioned ballad of heartbreak than anything else. Its chorus, when Miller sings “Hoping I’ll find a glimpse of us,” is a swelling note almost reminiscent of a song like Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Such a comparison reveals another important point — Miller possesses a smooth, deep, voice that, at its best, could be considered timeless. 

Though “Glimpse of Us” is a departure, it’s not an unwelcome one. Yes, it is yet another sad song in an unusually downhearted discography, but Miller is so adept at working within the complex confines and nuances of emotion that he avoids stagnation and doesn’t make heartbreak feel gratuitous or wishy-washy. The lone piano player playing their heart out doesn’t hurt, either. 

The story and feelings in the song, which lie in the name, are much more complex than the simple angst that the spare instrumentation belies. The song is so-called because, as Miller explains, he looks for the memory of his past lover in his current one. 

“Cause sometimes I look in her eyes,” he sings, “and that’s where I find a glimpse of us … I try to fall for her touch, but I’m thinking of the way it was.”  

Tangible even from the first lines are Miller’s feelings of guilt regarding his current relationship, sung softly and haltingly. He sings of his current partner, “Taking the world off (his) shoulders if it was ever hard to move,” showing that though he knows these feelings are wrong and unfair to the person who does so much for him, he can’t help but falling into them. 

In essence, everything, even the eyes of another, are reminders; the love that he still clings to is inevitable and unshakeable. 

With the use of the eyes as metaphors for a guilty love, Miller turns on its head the idea of eyes being symbols of the sincere and true — one that has a history ranging from Arabic love poetry to Shakespeare’s assertion that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

Instead of using his partner’s eyes as a window to see through and beyond, Miller is selfishly preferring to use them as a mirror to see himself — and what, and who, he left behind. 

Miller will go on his “Smithereens” tour starting in the fall, including one concert at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. Tickets are currently on sale.