“Give me reasons we should be complete
You should be with him, I can't compete
You looked at me like I was someone else
Can't you see?
I don't wanna slow dance
In the dark, dark”
(Joji - SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK, Album: BALLADS 1)
Do you recognize these lyrics? Popularized by his song, “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” which in 2019 went viral on TikTok, as well as hitting #88 on Billboard’s Hot 100, Joji’s music career has taken off. Joji, also known as George Miller, is a Japanese singer, songwriter, comedian, and internet personality formerly known as Filthy Frank, who ended his career on Youtube to follow his long-time passion of creating music. Miller's music has been described as a mix of R&B, lo-fi and trip hop; he’s credited with leading this new mental health awareness movement in music, also known as anti-pop.
Anti-pop is a genre that can be juxtaposed against typical pop, where tracks are usually upbeat, feel happy, and go lucky. This genre features slow beats and almost lofi-like tracks, but is more lyrical in expressing negative feelings. It is by definition sad and very deep, dominating with themes about pain and suffering. There’s something therapeutic about someone describing your pain and being able to cry it out. This genre can be very helpful when people are upset, and instead of hurting themselves more, these songs allow the listener an emotional outlet. Essentially, anti-pop investigates human emotions and the deep thoughts of the mind. Joji debuted with 88rising in 2018 and worked together to bring out this new aesthetic, or genre, of sadness that is reflected in today’s society.
Joji’s songs have been characterized as having “down tempo, melancholic themes and soulful vocals" with "minimalistic production". Joji himself classifies his work as dark love songs, with his 2020 album, Nectar, dissecting clichéd tropes and topics. Joji’s discography includes EP In Tongues (2017), album Ballads 1 (2018), and album Nectar (2020). In 2017, he quit uploading on FilthyFrankTV, his extremist sketch comedy-based YouTube channel. Miller released a statement on Twitter explaining that he had stopped producing content due to both "serious health conditions" and his personal lack of interest in continuing the series. There is speculation behind the meaning of his songs leading back to the toxic hate-culture of YouTube, missing friends from that community, and the struggles of being “infamous.” I believe every one of us is struggling with something and it's healthy to listen to great music that allows you to reflect and release negative emotions.
Music often reflects the culture of its society, and seeing as America is the world’s top user of antidepressants, we are witnessing a huge societal shift. In addition, it’s more common for artists to be open about mental health in their music. There’s a new yearning for music that reflects how we feel on the inside--sad and depressed. These artists have shone a light onto real issues we are facing in the modern world.
I cannot recommend Joji and the anti-pop genre enough. He is my favorite artist; an inspiration to me as a musician and person. Feel everything you need to feel, and let go of the energy you don’t need in your life. I ask you to allow yourself to free those pent-up emotions through the safe comfort of music.
Listen to the Anti-Pop Playlist:
“I Don't Wanna Slow Dance (i Don't Wanna Slow Dance) / in the Dark, Dark.” Genius, 12 Sept. 2018, https://genius.com/Joji-slow-dancing-in-the-dark-lyrics?referent_id=16968164#note-1696816 4.
“Joji (Musician).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Sept. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joji_(musician).
Levy, Parker. “The Rise of Anti-Pop.” Spotlight, Ben Davis High School, 10 Aug. 2018, https://bdspotlight.com/arts-entertainment/2018/08/10/the-rise-of-anti-pop/.