Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Joji – Slow Dancing in the Dark

Looking forward to follow-up singles “Slow Dancing On My Own,” “Slow Dancing in the Street,” and “Slow Dancing on the Ceiling.”


Joshua Minsoo Kim: How should I respond to Joji’s career in general? It’s hard to say. I’ve come to understand the impact that Western cultural imperialism has had on my interaction with Asian representation in Western media, and Joji is perhaps its clearest example. With such little current representation, a part of me feels the need to be highly critical of anything that doesn’t meet my standards for good music. It’s predicated on a fear that non-Asians will quantify the value of all Asian art and culture through these few artists, and I certainly don’t want their views of us to be (any more) negative or limited. When Asians tell me they like artists like this, it reminds me of growing up and hearing Christian friends telling me I should hear a band because they’re “the Christian version” of X secular band — why should the nationality of an artist make me settle for second-rate, for second best?  Joji may be making a familiar melancholy strain of R&B but his career arc is something that I find meaningful. A part of me feels like his start as a YouTube comedian/comedy rapper was the only way he could’ve been granted the opportunity to be a Serious Artist. “Slow Dancing in the Dark” and its video are clear attempts at an Artfulness after years of painfully juvenile work. When I engage with it, I sense Joji feeling a satisfaction in making the art he finally wants, art that doesn’t make him feel pigeonholed. I’ve heard my Asian students sing Joji songs; they seem to find comfort in seeing such representation. I think he makes me feel the same.

Ryo Miyauchi: Joji sings of pain intensely as he can, though the song also carries a performative quality. Blame the current pop climate and its obsession with applying a forlorn, intoxicated haze to the music, but those synth smears are like the equivalent of an Instagram filter. His vocals are mumbled and slurred like he’s dabbing fake tears to a break-up letter, and that climactic scream in the chorus lifts off almost too perfectly. While I remain cynical witnessing everything working accordingly, I at least admit Joji knows the ins and outs of this sort of pop.

Katherine St Asaph: I refuse to indulge the “serious” turn by the creator of “HOT NICKEL BALL ON A PUSSY,” especially when his idea of R&B vocals and arrangements are, respectively, Future singing nursery rhymes and the Culex victory music from Super Mario RPG. (Provided by the guy from Chairlift — man, what a decline.) Knowing the industry these days he’ll turn into Childish Gambino in three years, although the ceiling for him’s probably closer to How to Dress Well.

Alfred Soto: He thinks this would-be sinister mumblecore popular in 2011 stands a chance in 2018? (Don’t answer).

Katie Gill: First of all, I have to give serious credit to Joji’s agent. This is the dude who came up with the dumb Harlem Shake video and now he’s singing something like this? Holy hell my man, you must have some good people on your team because that is some serious damage control. It’s a shame that the seriously good people don’t include any slightly good songwriters or producers: the vocals are over-processed to a point where I can’t understand some of the lines and the general mood of the song is a mopey ‘Post Malone meets those lo-fi anime hip-hop beats streams that are always trending on Youtube.’ It’s a bit of a mess.

Taylor Alatorre: It’s not that it’s impossible to create a good ambient electronic power ballad, despite the apparent contradiction in terms. But it would require a much more deft handling of the transitions between woozy, stumbling verses and dramatic, cloud-parting chorus than exists here. And oof, that chorus: it’s an overly brassy, ear-splitting thing, so concerned with communicating that THESE ARE BIG FEELINGS that it leaves little space for the listener to contemplate their own. Forget for a moment that absolutely no one is slow dancing to this — you can’t even vibe to it, which is supposed to be the basic selling point of this genre. Not all of Joji’s songs are this grating, but if he keeps this up, I’d honestly prefer if he went back to doing perv-rap songs about Miranda Cosgrove.

Iain Mew: The slurred, approximate nature of the vocals isn’t a bad thing in itself but a bit unnecessary in context. The way the real focus of “Slow Dancing in the Dark” is on emotions provided via electro-symphonic lurches means it’s basically just a superior version of Bazzi, and leaning into that might have served it better.

Jibril Yassin: It’s as if the cyborg known as Post Malone became self-aware and decided to get realer than real. Any discernable meaning is lost in the sea of overblown synths and jarring multitracked vocals. Searching for a climax is meaningless — the peak begins and ends in darkness. 

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One Response to “Joji – Slow Dancing in the Dark”

  1. “a mopey ‘Post Malone meets those lo-fi anime hip-hop beats streams that are always trending on Youtube.’”

    omg! i applaud

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