By: Claudia Siregar |

It is no secret that 88rising has been upping their game, with their artists such as Joji, Rich Brian, Niki, and Keith Ape spitting out chart-topping singles here and there under the fresh new concept of “East-meets-West”. As a part of the East-meets-West revolution, Joji has been actively performing and releasing music since his debut with the company – though his music-making days dated back to his Chloe Burbank days on bandcamp (back when he was known as Filthy Frank on Youtube). Ballads 1 is his first ever full-length album under 88rising.

Joji’s musical style has often been called “lo-fi R&B” and “R&B meets trip hop” yet with Ballads 1 being released, there’s no way of defining Joji’s real musical style. If there’s one thing consistently present throughout the album, it’s Joji’s use of the piano accompanied by his draggy, world weary-sounding vocals. We’ve heard this before on “Will He”, one of the first tracks Joji released under 88rising, continued with his next single “Yeah Right” (also included in the album). An album full of lo-fi piano ballads with trip-hop feels – sounds nothing like your usual alternative R&B artist – but then again, Joji isn’t your usual alternative R&B artist.

Joji’s autotuned, world weary-sounding drawls suit the theme of the album perfectly. Tracks such as “Test Drive”, “Yeah Right”, and “Slow Dancing In The Dark” talk about failures in love (e.g. unrequited love, an uncaring lover, and that feeling you get when you just don’t think you’re good enough for someone) – while on tracks such as “Wanted You” and “Can’t Get Over You”, Joji tells us the story of a guy pining over a certain girl. The theme of pining and not feeling adequate enough for romance is present throughout the album, adding to the album’s dark lo-fi aesthetic.

Tracks such as “Why Am I Still In LA”, “XNXX”, and “I’ll See You In 40” show us the extremely experimental side of Joji, with the unusual beats, unusual vocal styles (Joji isn’t known for using falsetto yet in “Why Am I Still in LA” he replaces his usual baritone drawls with a raspy falsetto) and use of synth throughout these three songs. It seems that to Joji, the key is to keep an “ultimate recipe” (piano + lo-fi elements + trip hop beats + autotune = basic Joji) before adding in a variety of other things (mostly experimental) later on.

Ballads 1 is overall a very stylistic album that defines Joji’s sound at least for now before he comes up with other unusual additions to his “ultimate recipe” (he will, Will He?). Very recommended for those of you with a taste for unusual R&B and trip hop music.

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