Entertainer and comedian Noel Miller had his beginnings as an internet superstar on the now-dead app Vine back in 2014 before establishing his self-titled YouTube channel a year later. His channel has since amassed more than 2 million subscribers for his sketch-comedy videos.
On his channel, Miller is often joined by his frequent collaborator and friend Cody Ko. The duo gained a lot of traction from their hilarious commentary videos in the “THAT’S CRINGE” series, as well as their “Love Island” gameplay videos.
When viewers couldn’t get enough of the two, Miller and Ko started their podcast, “Tiny Meat Gang,” in 2017 and followed with the launch of their comedy music career under the same name. Tiny Meat Gang released its first EP, “Bangers & Ass,” in December of 2017, succeeded by their first album the next year along with a slew of singles.
What began as a joke slowly became something much greater. Their debut single was a mocking response to YouTuber Jake Paul’s obnoxious “It’s Everyday Bro” song featuring Team 10. The production quality of their music has improved with every new single and the duo has gained quite a bit of traction, especially after releasing the 2019 single “Walk Man,” which now has more than 62 million listens on Spotify.
During the same year, Miller and Ko had the opportunity to collaborate with the popular artist blackbear in “short kings anthem”; blackbear was right on board with the pair’s lighthearted, humorous approach to songwriting.
Then came Miller and Ko’s latest single, “Sofia,” this October. While it is still comedy music about their love for Sofia — the humanoid robot as seen on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” — the rap song’s great production value and catchy beat had listeners arguing over whether it is “real” music or not. One fan commented, “guys i’m starting to think this isn’t a joke no more” on the music video. Another wrote, “us: its not a joke anymore? Them: never has been.”
Well, at midnight on Oct. 30, Miller launched his solo career as NOEL by dropping the EP “Push,” and there isn’t any question over whether the music is a joke or not anymore. Miller takes a step away from comedy for the much more somber and personal EP that covers themes such as self-doubt and his struggle with fame.
The five-track EP is quite short overall; each song is under three minutes, but it’s packed with compelling lyrics. Opening the EP with “Lennon’s Ghost,” the music video begins with a message: “My father bought a set of instruments in the early 80’s with the intention of making a music project. He never got a chance to make one. So I asked him if I could borrow the instruments for a week. This music was the result.”
The project is a refreshing change of pace for Miller; listeners get some insight into his thoughts and the lyrical content of the whole EP shifts between his worries about people’s response to his work and a celebration of his success.
“Lennon’s Ghost” is my personal favorite track and a fitting introductory song. Miller establishes that he wanted to make some deeper work: “Yeah, the funny s— might clear a check. What’s the point of empty when I’m dead?” He goes on to recognize the urgency; he must make his music now while he has the opportunity as “the iron hot.”
Miller’s confidence makes an appearance in “Head Sunk” as he reflects on his success: “ … my bills done turned to pocket change.” He then doubles back to honest self-reflection in the closing song, “Bus Back.” It might be the most introspective piece on the EP: “I’m on the bus back, take a hard look at myself. Do I love this any more or did I do this for wealth? I watch the tape back and see someone else. If that’s me then why’s it feel like a shell?” Miller goes on to admit that self-doubt makes him want to quit sometimes and that he faces difficulties opening up.
In an interview for Billboard in January following the release of their single “Broke B–ch,” Miller mentioned being a rap nerd and making music with his friends before Tiny Meat Gang. He said he had always wanted to make sincere music but had been hesitant to pursue it because of the nature of his previous work; Miller feared his audience would not take him seriously.
“Right now on my hard drive, I have two songs that sound like that extremely Boot Camp Clik style of writing that I grew up on,” said Miller, “But I had to sit and look back at them and admit that there’s literally no way I could put this kinda stuff out. People would just be like, ‘You’re the “Sugar Gay” dude, what the f–k is this?!”
While the serious EP was certainly a surprise to me, I’m glad to see Miller overcome his reluctance to produce the content that he truly enjoys. Miller clearly has musical talent as is evident in his Tiny Meat Gang songs. With his knowledge of musical engineering, clever lyric-writing and deep voice, Miller has the potential to make actual rap music and “Push” open the door into the next room of his career.
His approach to launching a genuine music career follows what I like to call the “Joji model.” Singer-songwriter Joji got his claim to fame on YouTube with his satirical comedy sketches and vulgar shock humor songs as the characters Filthy Frank and Pink Guy before turning a new leaf as his new, more serious persona.
Just as Joji was able to leverage his following toward a successful music career, I think Miller will be able to do the same. He is undoubtedly passionate about rap and I think his followers will appreciate that passion, just as they have his previous creative works. “Push” lays a great foundation for a larger career to follow. I’m excited to see what Miller does next — perhaps an album — and I’m sure his flexible audience will embrace this other side of him.