88rising and Warner Records · November 4, 2022
Japanese singer-songwriter Joji (also known as Pink Guy, Filthy Frank, or just George Miller) released his third studio album Smithereens (stylized SMITHEREENS). Though similar to the rest of his Joji-era discography, Smithereens has the specific vibe of a late-night breakup conversation. This album tackles themes of heartbreak and healing in a graceful way that makes listeners feel like they are experiencing the situation alongside him.
The singles released prior to the album, “Glimpse of Us” and “YUKON (INTERLUDE),” clearly set the tone for the rest of Smithereens. The album is split into two parts: the first consists of somber ballads, and the second of experimental lofi beats.
The album begins with “Glimpse of Us,” a fan favorite when it debuted this summer. The track discusses a past relationship Joji had that he’s not fully over because of memories that continuously resurface in his head. The solo piano instrumental combined with his haunting vocals drive home the sad, hopeful thoughts playing through Joji’s head. The piano is thunderous during the chorus, but steadier when traversing through the two verses.
Other notable ballads in the first portion of the album include “Die For You” and “Dissolve.” The two songs share similar sentiments of holding onto a past relationship and the desire to reconcile it. Like the title suggests, Joji is willing to die for his former lover because he still has feelings for them. He feels that the relationship has felt “almost like we left it all on read” – the breakup has been acknowledged but not fully discussed. This irresolution has caused more heartbreak for Joji and has made it harder for him to move on.
“Dissolve” by far has the most interesting combination of instrumentation and vocals, as it utilizes heavy autotune but is accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Despite the track sounding slightly more upbeat than the rest of the album, the lyrics juxtapose this feeling, since he doesn’t want his memory of a happy relationship to dissolve.
As we reach the second portion of the album, the vibe changes almost completely. The tracks have a heavier electronic, hip-hop, and trap influence, as opposed to the bedroom pop genre that Joji is known for. This is distinctly heard in the sixth song “NIGHT RIDER,” which includes trap synths and meaty drum kicks. The beat of this song is super catchy, and on the groovier side compared to the rest of the album.
This part of Smithereens also displays Joji acknowledging that his relationship is over though he does not want it to be. This is very apparent in the final track “1 AM FREESTYLE,” where he explicitly says in the refrain “and I’m tired of this madness, tired of being stranded, I don’t wanna be alone.” Though Smithereens is very reminiscent of Joji’s past albums Ballads 1 and Nectar, this album is a good addition to his discography. It showcased his vocal talent and his versatility across multiple genres. Not every track is a standout, but Joji definitely showed his dedication to being experimental.