Illustration of Joji. (Illustration by Melchisedech Quagrainie, Columbia College Chicago)
The singer was originally known for his satirical but shocking humor on YouTube. (Illustration by Melchisedech Quagrainie, Columbia College Chicago)

Joji’s New Album, ‘Nectar,’ Reminds Us of His Filthy Frank Roots

With the release of his latest album, a reminder of the singer-songwriter’s internet history may be one his greatest marketing tactics.

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Illustration of Joji. (Illustration by Melchisedech Quagrainie, Columbia College Chicago)

With the release of his latest album, a reminder of the singer-songwriter’s internet history may be one his greatest marketing tactics.

Joji just released his second studio album,“Nectar,” on Sept. 25, 2020. However, the singer-songwriter’s claim to fame was not his music career. Joji, whose real name is George Kusunoki Miller, was known for his shocking and oftentimes offensive humor as the titular character of “The Filthy Frank Show” on his YouTube channels.

Filthy Frank made his first appearance on Miller’s original channel, DizastaMusic, in 2012, but he was almost banned from the channel after he received multiple copyright and community strikes.

In 2014, Miller created the channel TVFilthyFrank, which has since amassed more than 7 million subscribers.

Known for his distinct, raspy and exaggerated voice, Frank epitomizes the “anti-vlogger” because of his crude and bizarre content. For example, in the video “HUMAN RAMEN,” Frank discovers the final ingredient of the perfect ramen — human — and he cooks up a bathtub full.

“The Filthy Frank Show” consists of skits, challenges, rants and some musical performances. His controversial viewpoints on popular culture and over-the-top, offensive humor have garnered a lot of internet attention.

In a 2015 interview for the Needle Drop podcast, Miller agreed with interviewer Anthony Fantano about the character: “[Frank is] not this person that anybody watches because they like [him]; you just wanted to be so incredibly hateable and unlikeable.” Miller claims that the character is not meant to be taken seriously, and he is a satirical social commentary.

As per the description in the About section on the channel, Miller explains, “Filthy Frank is the embodiment of everything a person should not be. He is anti-PC, anti-social, and anti-couth. He behaves and reacts excessively to everything expressly to highlight the ridiculousness of racism, misogyny, legalism, injustice, ignorance and other social blights … There is no denying that the show is terribly offensive, but this terrible offensiveness is a deliberate and unapologetic parody of the whole social media machine … OR MAYBE IM JUST F—— R——-.”

Frank was not alone on “The Filthy Frank Show.” He was accompanied by other characters such as Pink Guy, Salamander Man and many more. In 2013, Miller began releasing comedy rap under the persona of Pink Guy. The album “Pink Season” came out in 2017 and peaked at number 70 on the Billboard 200. The lyrics and song titles found in “Pink Season” are vulgar shock humor. Recently, the song “SHE’S SO NICE” made a comeback because of its popularity on TikTok.

We had our first glance at the creator behind the characters in the since-deleted 2014 video “FILTHY FRANK EXPOSES HIMSELF.” Miller sits down in the bathroom (with Frank and Pink Man sitting across from him), drops the gravelly voice and addresses the camera, saying, “I’m a normal person, just like the rest of you guys.” He then introduces himself as George — or to some, Joji — a stressed college student trying to balance school and his YouTube career.

In 2017, Miller retired from Filthy Frank content and announced his decision to leave YouTube. In an interview for Billboard, Miller said, “It was a humor that I started when I was in high school, so naturally as I got older, I got tired of that humor. People’s taste change. People’s humor change.” Moreover, Miller had a number of ongoing stress-induced health issues that made his YouTube career unsustainable.

Miller released his first EP, “In Tongues,” under the name Joji in 2017. The EP marked a transition in Miller’s career from Frank to Joji. His music took on many different and more serious themes than those under the moniker Pink Guy, and instead of rap, his new music mixes elements of lo-fi, trip-hop and R&B.

Joji’s following album, “Ballads 1,” received great critical reception upon its release in 2018, placing number one on Billboard’s top R&B/hip hop albums. He released a few singles, such as “Sanctuary” in June of 2019 and “Run” in February of 2020, before releasing his latest album, “Nectar,” in September. In contrast to Pink Guy’s music, Joji’s music is much more personal, taking on introspective themes of loss, love and fame. He also surprises listeners with his musical talents and vocal ability.

In May of 2020, the hashtag #JojiIsOverParty trended on Twitter after user @jinsolbi — who has since made their account private — tweeted, “joji literally having a song where he says the n word with a hard er….” followed by, “like you can’t be serious,” referring to a song by Pink Guy.

Many people wanted to cancel Joji after discovering his offensive Filthy Frank content, but not all Twitter users were so critical. Fans came to his defense and argued that while Joji has distanced himself from the character, he has always been transparent about his history as Filthy Frank. Joji fans even used the hashtag to mock people who didn’t know about the singer’s past.

While Filthy Frank content repeatedly pushed the limits and overstepped the boundaries of comedic satire into blatantly inappropriate and offensive conduct, Joji’s controversial history and past internet fame was undoubtedly a great marketing tactic for his music career. Whether people thought his edgy jokes were funny or just disgusting, he got them talking, and as the saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity,” which has been proven true by Joji.

Joji never intended to use his internet stardom and meme virality as a beginning in the music world, but he did leverage his following and turned it into a successful music career. Joji’s fanbase, which was initially attracted to his unusual comedy and means of social commentary, embraced his artistic change and his revelation of more personal issues in his songs. What began as just a kid writing satirical comedy sketches in his apartment unintentionally turned into something much bigger — a modern marketing model for online content creators.

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