George Kusunoki Miller started off as a YouTube comedian in 2011, switched to creating comedic music under the name Pink Guy in 2014, and eventually established himself as a breakthrough artist in 2015 as Joji, now releasing his third studio album SMITHEREENS on November 4, 2022, under 88rising. The album is his first full-length release since Nectar in 2020 and is comprised of two parts- SIDE A of the album marks a mature sonic direction for Joji through wistful and contemplative ballads accompanied by lush production that blooms within each song. SIDE B, largely produced by Joji himself, digs deeper into the lo-fi and off-kilter sounds that hark back to his experimental beginnings as an artist. Over the summer of 2022, Joji released “Glimpse of Us”, a song from SMITHEREENS, and the track was largely praised by fans and critics, amounting over 100 million streams on Spotify and widespread usage on Tik Tok. SMITHEREENS tells the story of Joji’s life after the end of a relationship, touching on topics of breaking up with the person he loves, losing himself, and growing up.
The album opens with “Glimpse of Us”, a piano R&B ballad about Joji’s inability to let a past relationship go. It sets the wistful, emotional tone as Joji reflects on how he’s constantly comparing his current relationship to his former one: “Said I’m fine and said I move on/ I’m only here passing time in her arms/ Hopin’ I’ll find a glimpse of us.” The second song, “Feeling Like The End”, grapples with Joji’s fear about the end of a relationship. It’s more upbeat and synthed-out than the former track, but the lyrics are equally as devastating, another motif throughout the album.
The third song, “Die For You”, recaptures the message of “R.I.P”, a song from BALLADS 1. In the piece, Joji repeats the phrase “I would die for you”, an idea that’s recovered in “Die For You” as he sings about still being in love with his ex but understanding he can never be with her again. “I heard 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/ You know I’d still die for you.”
“Dissolve”, the fifth track on SMITHEREENS, deviates from the melodies seen before, the song starting off with guitar notes and having an overall more acoustic synth vibe. The sixth song, “NIGHT RIDER”, is the beginning of the second side of the album, distinguishable by the change in album titles from being in lowercase to fully capitalized. “NIGHT RIDER” is also the only song on the album to be fully produced by Joji and the piece showcases his rap and hip hop soundscapes.
“YUKON (INTERLUDE)” is the penultimate track on the album, restoring the contemplative and sad feel that was heard in the previous songs. The interlude covers Joji’s nostalgic feelings about growing up as he drives around in various cars. “I was throwing stones at Hercules/ Throwing them so perfectly/ Circles at the Chevron/ I can’t be forever young.” The album closes with “1AM FREESTYLE”, a concluding number that starts slow with more piano beats before speeding up into a cinematic frenzy of low-fi-trap. SMITHEREENS incorporates the melancholic tunes that Joji is known for, each song stirring up feelings of longing and regret while still maintaining a chill vibe. On his journey to fame, with each new song he releases being met with applause and appreciation, Joji continues to prove that he’ll forever make music that’s hard hitting and ultimately nostalgic for the past.