One of his most powerful projects to date, Joji’s soul-stirring “Glimpse of Us” kickstarts a defining return to music and raises public curiosity surrounding the artist’s future endeavours.
Stream: “Glimpse of Us” – Joji
When a stubborn and nostalgic heart is at odds with a restless and flighty mind, contentment seems to lie anywhere but within an attachment to the past and decisions made in light of the future.
Joji, the pseudonym of Japanese-Australian Internet comedian turned singer/songwriter, George Miller, broke his silent hiatus of almost two years with the release of the haunting piano ballad, “Glimpse of Us.” In great contrast to his debut and sophomore albums, “Ballads 1” and “Nectar,” the artist’s recent solo single opts for minimal production over his characteristic implementation of lo-fi and trap elements. A heartfelt, heartbreaking tale of love and love lost, a complex and tormented relationship with intimacy is manifested in the title’s stripped instrumentals and sorrowful vocals.
Despite it being a sonic shift from the majority of his past projects, Joji’s return to the musical world maintains his signature idiosyncratic themes of longing and despondency– the simple yet effectively raw poeticism in his lyrics has captivated listeners since his early days in music, and “Glimpse of Us” is certainly no exception.
She’d take the world off my shoulders
If it was ever hard to move
She’d turn the rain to a rainbow
When I was living in the blue
Why then, if she is so perfect
Do I still wish that it was you?
Perfect don’t mean that it’s working
So what can I do?
A slow and melancholic piano tune preceding Joji’s fatigued, yet emotive, voice, the song opens as he details his current lover, as suggested by this introduction of a “she.” Despite being the essential paradigm of an ideal significant other, in her self-sacrificial nature and ability to guide the artist through life’s trials and tribulations, this “she” is nonetheless unable to fill the empty shoes left behind by his past partner. As the entirety of the first verse cycles between the same two piano chords and Joji reflects in gentle singing, his malaise in this ostensibly perfect relationship is highlighted.
The music video’s raw and sordid, yet surreal and chaotic, creative direction is unmistakably Joji in every sense of the way. As a blurry-faced protagonist wakes up to a bare mattress surrounded by cans of cheap alcohol and grime, wild animals roam his home and his assumed roommates, in equally unpleasant states, share cigarettes and needle cryptic tattoos. A stark contrast to the solemn and pensive tune of the song, the video’s sleazy themes appear to be nothing but nonsense for shock factor at face value.
When you’re out of sight
In my mind
‘Cause sometimes I look in her eyes
And that’s where I find a glimpse of us
And I try to fall for her touch
But I’m thinking of the way it was
Said I’m fine and said I moved on
I’m only here passing time in her arms
Hoping I’ll find
A glimpse of us
Dramatically rising to a crescendo in the chorus, Joji reveals that he hasn’t moved on from his past lover, and to no surprise, is using his current partner as a placeholder in hopes of their relationship being the same. With the intensely anguished shift in both the singer’s vocals and the accompanying piano, he laments what he once had and comes to terms with the fact that he will not be able to love in the way he did before, in spite of all the fruitless attempts. Lovelorn and despairing, he desperately searches for bits, pieces, and glimpses of his past lover in his current.
Explosions and the running yellow-shirted protagonist mark the beginning of the chorus in the music video, succeeded by a series of erratically pieced-together clips of people in skidding cars indulging in self-destructive behaviours. It ends with clips of the protagonist and his friends lying on rocks, looking up at the sky, and children with their parents on a hiking trail; though unsettling, the peaceful imagery after a compilation of lawlessness and frenzy is comforting in sort of a twisted way, much like the actual song itself.
Tell me he savors your glory
Does he laugh the way I did?
Is this a part of your story?
One that I had never lived
Maybe one day you’ll feel lonely
And in his eyes, you’ll get a glimpse
Maybe you’ll start slipping slowly
And find me again (again)
Teetering the fine line between cathartic and pathetic, Joji ponders whether his previous partner is in a similar predicament and is thinking of him in the way he does of her as he navigates through the second verse. Though he wishes her the best, hoping that she is loved and worshipped in her new relationship, he cannot get the best of human selfishness and envy– this leaves him to hopelessly wonder if she still sees glimpses of him, or if he’s the only one reminiscing on what they used to have.
As the song dwindles to a close in the final two choruses, and piano chords similar to those from the beginning gently play, “Glimpse of Us” ends on a rather somber and ambivalent note, indicating that he has reluctantly returned to (and accepted the fate of) his static present relationship.
The final half of the music video exhibits more instances of the destructive activities partaken in by the protagonist and his friends in their disorderly lives; short clips of him with his head crouched into his knees, not actively participating in the chaos, and allusions to missing a past relationship are incorporated throughout amidst the senseless chaos. Ultimately, it ends with a close-up of the man regretfully looking into the distance at the car he burned, as he is once more depicted crouched on his knees with his head buried in his arms.
In the most universal sense, the “Glimpse of Us” music video tells a tale of wanting to escape from the past, looking to destruction as a means of distraction, and ending up in a worse place than you were in before. “Beautiful” is an interesting word to describe a video of a ski-masked man exploding cars and going about his days sustained on instant ramen and beer, but it cannot be more than perfect.
Joji has done it again in his tasteful juxtaposition of frenzied, quite frankly, disturbing visuals and the soft, lullaby-like grief of his new song.
In its brooding sincerity, spare instrumentals, and vocal focus, “Glimpse of Us” creates a hypnotic and transcendent lyrical experience that pierces both fans and casual listeners down to their cores. A messy, but honest, cluster of crippling jealousy, heartache, and exhaustion, the song is a bona fide masterpiece, showcasing not only Joji’s musical versatility but validating his spot as a foundational architect of modern-day elegies. You can navigate here if you aspire to be like him.
Stream: “Glimpse of Us” – Joji
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? © Forrest Grenfell
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