Soundbite: “In Tongues” by Joji

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Photo A. DeRoss: “In Tongues” presents a more serious look at Joji Miller, but could have done so on a deeper level.

George “Joji” Miller has garnered overwhelming popularity on the internet through his characters Filthy Frank and Pink Guy. Through these two personas, Miller continuously breaks boundaries and aims to put out the most offensive, off-putting and generally disgusting content that he can. However, unlike many other “edgy” internet personalities, Miller does what he does with purpose, especially in the context of his music.

As Pink Guy, Miller has released two full studio albums. The second, “Pink Season,” released earlier this year to critical acclaim, reached the number one spot of hip-hop albums on iTunes just a few days after release. The record was rife with highly offensive and over the top content, but each track carried commentary and criticism on many of the world’s problems such as racism and homophobia, albeit heavily buried under immature humor. But now that Miller has made a name for himself through his characters, it seems that he is ready to separate himself from his fandom and start producing serious music as well.

His first official EP “In Tongues,” released Nov. 3, shows a very different side of Miller. The dark, deeply personal and almost bleak tone of the record is the polar opposite of the obnoxious, over the top and grimy style Miller has carried in his previous work. While this is an interesting change of pace that provides a look at Miller’s talent, the EP is barely 16 minutes long. While there are some great qualities here, it still leaves a lot to be desired.

The most striking thing about the record is its instrumentals. Miller is no stranger to producing hip-hop in extremely unconventional ways, but the instrumentals on “In Tongues” are much more emotional and moving than one would expect from him. The EP’s first track “Will He” is a great example. The cut uses soft piano progressions, muffled trap percussion and deep booming lows to create a somber and slightly unsettling atmosphere. The instruments are mixed in a way that almost makes it seem like they’re barely there, like you were listening to them underwater.

“Bitter F*ck” is extremely minimalistic, but also highly effective in manipulating the listener’s mood and perception. The track begins with a raw and simple guitar chord progression, complete with the squeaks of fingers sliding on the strings. As the lyrics progress into the hook, the guitar fill is backed up by a jarring transition into a deep and rattling trap drum line that transforms the mood from relaxed to tumultuous. These are the only two components of the instrumental, but they mesh together so well that adding anything else would be unnecessary.

Unfortunately, the lyrical aspect of the album leaves much to be desired, in terms of both Miller’s vocal performance as well as his songwriting. Every track on the record seems to be rooted in the same personal issue: exiting a complicated and toxic relationship and the conflicting emotions that come with it. While focusing so heavily on one topic might provide a setup for telling one continuous story over this relatively short EP, Miller seems instead to leave the writing devoid of any details or flow whatsoever. “Will He” portrays Miller talking to his now ex-lover asking her if her new interest will do all the same things he did for her. “Bitter F*ck” portrays Miller lamenting about his newfound reputation as a bitter and mean person because of the breakup, but what exactly caused him to act that way is never specified. Throughout all of this, his voice seems devoid of all emotion, instead coming off almost like monotonous whining.

Miller has a reputation for being extremely creative and talented while also not being afraid to push boundaries. Now that he wants to branch out and show a different side of himself, it seems that he is not entirely sure how to do so. “In Tongues” is interesting and fresh on the surface level, but is still extremely rough around the edges, and Miller has a lot of refining to do before “Joji” exceeds Pink Guy in creativity and popularity.

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