This week’s ALT 104.5 New Music Discovery Of The Week is “Yes I'm A Mess” by AJR
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Thanks to Family & Co Jewelers !
Life gets real in your late twenties. By then, you wake up to how harsh reality can be. You learn the world is tough, taxes are due on April 15 (or April 17 if it’s a weekend), and life is unfair. However, there’s no reason to stop smiling, moving forward, or loving who you are. AJR make the kind of music that encourages you to keep going. For as much as their multi-dimensional soundscapes, theatrical delivery, and big screen-worthy vision provide an escape, the multiplatinum chart-topping trio of brothers—Adam [vocals/bass], Jack [vocals/guitar], and Ryan Met [guitar/piano/vocals]—also manage to intimately empathize with listeners everywhere.
Their fifth full-length offering and debut album for Mercury Records/Republic Records, The Maybe Man, might just be their most identifiable body of work yet.
“In your mid-to-late twenties, you start to think about your life,” Ryan observes. “There’s endless potential, but it’s also scary because you don’t know who you’re necessarily going to be. This album examines personal existential crisis as well as the unraveling that happens afterwards and the prevalent question of, ‘Who am I?’ We decided the best thing we could do is not write like we’re 18-years-old anymore. Instead, we’re writing about the serious issues you face as you get older—from our AJR point-of-view.”
Throughout their twenties, AJR constructed an inimitable and immersive world soundtracked by a truly alternative vision for pop. Beyond 5 billion streams and counting, the group notched a string of seismic smashes, including “Bang!” (3x-platinum) and “Weak” (3x-platinum), “Burn The House Down” (2x-platinum), and “100 Bad Days” (platinum), “Sober Up” (platinum), and “I’m Ready” (platinum). Following their platinum breakout album The Click , the boys consecutively crashed the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 with Neotheater  and OK Orchestra . Recently their song “World’s Smallest Violin” had a resurgence online with over 2 million video creates on TikTok with over 10 billion combined views between the official sound, original sounds, and sped up versions. Traveling around the globe with their own version of the Greatest Show on Earth, they’ve packed arenas on multiple continents, selling nearly 1 million tickets thus far. In addition to earning widespread acclaim, they’ve ignited late-night television and are composing the score for Harold & the Purple Crayon on Broadway.
Fulfilling a lifelong dream, 2022 saw them build a full studio in a shared country house/de facto creative lab. At the same time, they collectively faced one of their toughest seasons as a family with their dad’s cancer diagnosis.
“Throughout writing the album, we went through the entire process of watching him get worse and then better,” sighs Ryan. “Early on, there was an initial crazy moment where we needed to be his parent though. This was the guy who raised us. Suddenly, we were like, ‘Holy shit, there is no choice but to grow up now!’ A little bit of sadness and bittersweetness found its way into the music.”
In true AJR fashion, they came up with a larger-than-life way to explain it all. Enter The Maybe Man. The title character is “a big sad superhero who is always questioning who he is.”
Like a giant out of your favorite fairy tale (remade in kickass 3-D), emotion hangs over his head, so it doesn’t have to hang over yours.
“The Maybe Man is in a constant state of uncertainty, so the audience doesn’t have to be,” Ryan notes. “He makes a sacrifice and takes all of this uncertainty off the listener’s shoulders. It’s a theme throughout the record.”
The guys paved the way for the album with fan favorites “I Won’t,” “The DJ Is Crying For Help,” and “The Dumb Song.” The single “God Is Really Real” sets the stage with open-hearted honest as guitar creaks beneath the first rhyme, “My dad can’t get out of bed, there’s something in his lungs, I think that’s what the doctor said.” It picks up momentum as the lyrics get swept up in swooning cinematic strings, “Don’t wanna hear your problems, because there’s just one in my head and he can’t get out of bed.”
“It’s specifically about the day our dad was sent to the hospital and we were on the way to Europe for a tour,” Ryan elaborates. “Suddenly, you’re at such a low point that you can’t help but believe in God. The only thing you can turn to is something bigger than yourself—whether it be God or karma. We were literally in the hospital room with him, and we knew we had to put on a show in five hours. It was an important and real moment that needed to be on the album. It’s a good memory of him too.” The band’s father tragically passed away this past summer after a battle with cancer the same day they uploaded “God Is Really Real” online. Fans mourned along with the brothers as their father, who had been their biggest supporter, was beloved by AJR fans as well.
The record continues with “I’m A Mess.” Horns pipe up as whistling that sounds ripped right out of a spaghetti western underlines sardonic verses. Soon, they come to an ironic and infectious realization on the chorus, “I could hate my guts when the sun comes up, but I like myself like this.”
“We used these old timey cowboy instruments and updated it for the 21st century with a hip-hop beat,” Ryan reveals. “It’s about how you’re so deep in your problems that too many people know what a screw up you are, so you need to start over. Wouldn’t it be easier to leave town than to fix all of your problems? The cowboy vibe worked, yet it was still relatable.”
In the end, AJR may have grown up, but they’ll always be here for you.
“We try to write from a place of specificity in a personal way,” he leaves off. “We’re telling the world this is how we deal, and we’re not embarrassed by it. I hope our fans realize you don’t have to have it figured out. We don’t have it figured out either, and it’s all good.”