the story of a dark and beautiful flower: joji's BALLADS 1 review

by brandon nguyen.

rising musical artist joji has made his official debut into the music industry with the release of his album, ballads 1. fans will recognize that, unlike his ep in tongues, ballads 1 has a more inconsistent tone going track to track. all the tracks on his ep are at a slower tempo and use less exotic beats, creating a consistent peaceful and gloomy mood. however, in his debut album, joji goes all out, sacrificing consistency for diversity. tracks such as “yeah right” and “slow dancing in the dark” carry on the same tone seen in his ep. however, he breaks out of his mold with tracks like “wanted u”, “cant get over you”, and “no fun”, which contain more upbeat and almost summer-like vibes; he, however, does not ditch his equally well-known self-deprecating lyrics in any of the tracks. his inconsistency of mood is not an unintentional one; as ballads 1 is his debut album, he needed to reach a broader audience. he defies his biggest criticism, the overused gloomy mood of in tongues, by breaking out of his comfort zone.

going into ballads 1, i did not expect to relate so strongly to any of his tracks, but “slow dancing in the dark” proved me otherwise. without a doubt, this track is a farewell to a dying or dead relationship in joji’s life. this is most likely the only time i will be able to, but i relate to joji in this regard. it was not joji’s gloomy and melancholic tone that struck a chord with me, it was the lyrics. “when i’m around slow dancing in the dark / don’t follow me, you’ll end up in my arms” at first glance does not mean anything, but until the second or even third listening, you start to understand those lines’ true meaning. the track is truly symbolic of a dying relationship; how do two people continue on in a relationship if both are lost (in the dark)? having recently experienced something similar to what the track’s story conveys, it resonated with me. i did not expect to be overwhelmed with the same gloom and sadness that the song itself was emanating. it miraculously encapsulates the experience and feeling of a dying relationship within it’s three and a half minute time-span, a feat i have found no other track able to do before.

if i am to take anything away from this album, it is that joji is beginning to bloom as an artist, like a dark flower. from how beautifully produced his debut album is, we can only expect even greater content in the years to come.