Eccentricity: It’s one of the most interesting characteristics in the musical world. Notably, some genres are expected to make it work better than others. For example, rap has artists like Tierra Whack, Ugly God, and Kanye to represent its eccentricity. Rock, Alternative, Pop, and Hip-Hop are all considered genres where being eccentric can be embraced and take you places. But what about R&B? It’s not exactly a genre that screams “be weird.” However, because of R&B’s discrete nature these artists can thrive under the radar. An example of an artist in this category is Joji. Joji is among one of the most interesting and accepted artists of awkwardness in the music industry.
George Miller—better known as Joji—is an artist with a bit of a wild origin. He began his rise to stardom as a YouTube skit-artist named Filthy Frank. As Frank, he would be doing anything from the remotely stupid to the absolutely ridiculous. While his following base grew, so did his capacity for creativity. He became more and more abstract in his ways, eventually leading up to the creation of the Harlem Shake hype due to his unorthodox character known as Pink Guy (or Pink Omega depending on preference). This is what initially introduced him to the world, but he wanted to expand beyond simple skits and shock-focused videos of cringey/funny content. This was also around the time that he announced his Joji Album, however he postponed it and instead began to dip his toe into the musical industry under the guise of parodical expression.
As Pink Guy, many songs were created out of hilarity on his Album Pink Guy. Songs like “Loser”, “Ramen King”, and “Fried Rice” were meant to be offensively funny tracks that had no actual meaning or purpose beyond comedic effect, but long term fans of Joji will acknowledge that the unseen purpose of these songs was to allow Joji to express bits of himself in a new way. Sure, they weren’t the funniest and sometimes even crossed social lines, but for listeners, there was a familiarity in his art that bordered on intimacy. They began to recognize that and respect him for his craft.
He went on a hiatus album-wise and released a string of singles that picked him up a few fans in 2015 and 2016, but it wasn’t until 2017 that he began to flourish again with heavy collaboration from the Asian music group 88Rising. Later that same year, he released his first complete Joji EP titled In Tongues, which featured one of his hit singles “Will He.” The EP was a start to a beautiful career for Joji’s music. He unfortunately stopped producing content for Filthy Frank in December of 2017 following his release and critical acclaim. This move cemented the artist formerly known as Pink Guy as just Joji.
He would come out in 2018 under the 88Rising label with another fully finished album, Ballads 1, and, though he is still a rather awkward guy, his comedic nature has shown more through offhand comments in interviews than elsewhere, which has led fans to speculate that the cringe had completely left him and that what they were seeing was his true self: a being of zen with a chuckle-factor and a voice that sings to stroke the scars of a generation’s broken hearts.
His willingness to add different sounds or different elements to his music gives him an appeal that is not present in mainstream music today
Joji’s origins are a bit abnormal to the music industry, but there is no place that he cannot go. His style of song has given birth to a new area in a genre heavily populated with emotion. He has hit the mark of mastery multiple times with songs like “Will He,” “Slow Dancing In The Dark,” and “Test Drive,” among others which show that he knows what he’s doing and what he wants to say—even if his debut into the industry was an impromptu one. His willingness to add different sounds or different elements to his music gives him an appeal that is not present in mainstream music today, and I say he adds an eccentric touch to R&B because of this.
He began his journey as a person who made us laugh, a person we wanted to watch humiliate themselves as we cackled at their antics, and he transitioned into a person that communicates our inner feelings of insecurity and loneliness to us. Joji is an artist that speaks to and for his listeners. It might prompt one to wonder whether he is singing of his own heart or hearing the listener’s feelings and just reverberating it back to them. Joji is exactly the kind of strange that the music industry needs, and, for what it’s worth, I sincerely hope he sticks around.