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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

AJR’s new music style is taking a fall with the release of Maybe Man

The cover of AJRs fifth album, Maybe Man, features the bands three brothers.
Spotify
The cover of AJR’s fifth album, Maybe Man, features the band’s three brothers.

For the summer after seventh grade, the only music I listened to was The Click by AJR.

The album, which is AJR’s sophomore album, is still on my top 10 favorites list, and for years, the trio of New York-based brothers—Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met—were my favorite band.

From Neotheater to OK Orchestra, I waited in high anticipation for each new release, and while I still adored each and every new song, committing the lyrics to heart that I belt with my friends, none of the new songs quite matched the musical ingenuity of The Click.

And unfortunately, AJR’s latest album, Maybe Man, makes clear the band’s shift from their original style. 

The album starts off with the song “Maybe Man,” which reflects the AJR I have loved. The lyrics convey a feeling of being lost and unsure of the future and of oneself—a theme that’s evolved from exploring the complexities of growing up in The Click. At the same time, the metaphors are exaggerated, and the commentary reflects a youthful outlook: “Wish I were my dog out on the lawn / I’d be so glad when I hear you come home / But if I were my dog, I wouldn’t live long / I’m sure gonna miss her when she’s gone.”

Then, the song picks up at precisely three minutes in with a change of sound and more uplifting feel as quick transitions vary musical themes, markedly similar to how the first song of each of their other albums (excluding The Neotheater) begin, sampling a bit from the rest of the album. This transition comes right after a shout of, “One, Two, Three in the morning!” The number three has been a common theme in many AJR albums and songs, with their song “Three-Thirty” lasting exactly three minutes and thirty seconds and their song “Way Less Sad” having the lyric, “it’s half past three,” thirty minutes later on the album than the lyric, “it’s three in the morning,” from their song “Three-O’clock Things” in OK Orchestra, so it’s fun to see the band’s favorite number being brought back into play.

“Touchy Feely Fool” is upbeat, and the chorus has a bittersweet sentiment of longing discussing the cruelty of being in love after the other loses feelings. The reference to, “I want it funny now,” is reminiscent of Jack Met singing, “Can we skip to the good part?” in “The Good Part” from The Click.

“Yes I’m A Mess” utilizes repetitive percussive sounds and a catchy vocal hook, but the instrumentation falls short and doesn’t make this song all that it could be with its enticing melody. Instead, this song is a failed attempt at reviving musical themes from the 2010s that it references in the chorus. 

I expected “The Dumb Song” to be a flop, to be another attempt at re-creating the all-too-AJR feel of The Click that the band once had with silly lyrics and deep messages through unexpected sounds and head-bobbing melodies. Instead, I discovered a very much indie song where I would least expect it. The drums, guitar riffs, structure of the song, and usage of a voice call memo (similar to “Can I Call You Tonight?” by Dayglow and “As It Was” by Harry Style) are so incredibly like that of an indie song. At the same time, there are a few elements of AJR sprinkled throughout, such as the melody being repeated in different instrumentations as well as the usage of “whiny” sounding riffs at the end of the chorus. This is my favorite song on the album, but it takes on a style completely different from what I know AJR as and really doesn’t fit with the rest of the album.

Wish I were my dog out on the lawn / I’d be so glad when I hear you come home / But if I were my dog, I wouldn’t live long / I’m sure gonna miss her when she’s gone.

— AJR

“Inertia” sounds straight out of their third album, The Neotheater. The distorted choral vocals are like those of “Next Up Forever” and “The Finale,” and there is a ticking sound, like that of a clock, punctuating the beat, a clear reference to The Click as a lyric from “The Overture” asked, “Do I follow the click in my ear?” referring to a metronome. Overall, the feeling is similar to that of “Touchy Feel Fool.” And, it’s clear that the theme of growing up has stuck with AJR since they started releasing music. With a minute left, new instruments and sounds are brought in, like a last-ditch effort to bring back their style, but it doesn’t at all sound like the AJR I know. 

The next track, “Turning Out Pt. iii” is one I have been waiting for since the first time I heard “Turning Out Pt. ii.” It starts off with a guitar tone that is not typical for AJR, which generally employs trumpets and winds instead of the traditional instrumentations of modern music, but when I listened back to the first “Turning Out,” there was a similar one in the bridge. And when the chorus hit, I dropped every ounce of my critical view. The melody is so beautiful. The lyrics talk about running quickly through love to a happy ending. And then, the bridge hits. The guitar is the perfect touch. There’s the sound of a very young voice scream-singing, which is the same as the one from the second “Turning Out.”

The first song in the trilogy has the singer questioning if he’s ready for love, connecting it to the theme of growing up. The second one continues the storyline, with the singer, now grown up, confessing that he may not have actually loved the person, but instead had loved the idea of their relationship. The third one keeps it going as the singer wonders if that’s how they turn out, and at the end of the song, he refers to love again, saying it’s “not big, kid / It’s little and quiet,” answering his younger self in the first song, who “thought the birds would sing and sparks would fly.” The third part adds perfectly to the beautiful storyline, and while I may not be pleased with the rest of the album, I am more than happy with this song, and now, I wait eagerly for the fourth part.  

On a different note, “Hole in the Bottom of My Brain” sounds like it’s from their first album, The Living Room, especially the track “Infinity.” It’s a bit cliche as Jack Met sings, “Hand up… I’m looking to just get by…Let’s just say we’re fine,” and then the singing of “do-do-do” follows. The three Met brothers are incredibly talented songwriters, but this song does not portray any of their lyrical skills.

This song, like many others on the album, simply sounds forced.

The chorus of “The DJ is Crying for Help” has a violin that does sound like AJR, but the overall feel of the song fits much more with mainstream pop thanks to the continuous return to a simple piano riff and a percussive emphasis on the downbeat—very little variety or element of “wow” that their other albums bring. It’s like I’m listening to music entirely separate from me. I want to appreciate it, but I can’t feel it, no rush of an uplifting sensation that their older songs like “Joe,” “Break My Face,” or “Burn The House Down” bring.

The distorted vocals and shrill violin in “I Won’t” and the sound of a bell before an iteration of the chorus are very AJR. However, this song, just like the one before it, just sounds like another typical upbeat pop song. The band has strayed far away from their origins of unusual sounds and fun melodies. This song, like many others on the album, simply sounds forced. 

“Steve’s Going to London” is the most AJR song on the album. The use of an instrument that sounds like a harp and an atypical drum kit paired with the happy-go-lucky attitude of the chorus that shifts to an entirely different-sounding melody and instrumentation halfway through the song. This song will be one I continue to listen to with their older music.

“God is Really Real” has more minimalistic background music, and the story illustrated throughout is beautiful and sweet, perfectly captured with a similarly pretty and melancholic chorus melody. It’s one of my favorites from the album.

“2085” has lighthearted guitar strums that remind me of their first album with a warped voice being the only distinctive AJR element in this song, and as the last track on the album, it solidifies this album’s failure to relive the band’s former musical epitome, but the ending of the song does revisit the first track’s lyrics and melodies, and for me, coming full-circle is by far the best way to end any work of art, and this time, despite my resentment of the rest of the album, is no exception. 

I know artists change styles frequently over time, and that’s always going to happen. Perhaps, it’s just that this new style of AJR isn’t for me. Or maybe, it’s that their older style is much more nostalgic and cannot ever be replaced in my ears.

Nonetheless, while their musical elements have definitely changed, AJR has stayed true to revisiting themes of their older music, which is exciting for fans like me to trace from track to track. And I will, without a doubt, wait eagerly for their fifth album. Maybe Man just wasn’t for me, but maybe, man, it’ll be the album for you.

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About the Contributor
Saniya Mishra, Copy-Editing Manager
Saniya Mishra is a senior, writing for her third and final year on staff, busied by her many passions. She is an artist who cares deeply about the world. But there's one love she especially enjoys, loses herself in completely, only to resurface with a newfound perspective and a couple hundred words vomited on a Google Doc. Ever since third grade, she's fallen head over heels for writing. It is her escape. It is her adventure. It is her everything. Favorite writers: Ruta Sepetys, Amanda Gorman Favorite books: 1984 by George Orwell, Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys, I'll Give You The Sun Jandy Nelson, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins Favorite colors: maroon, emerald, navy blue, lavender Favorite songs: "hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me" by Lana Del Rey, "Can I Call You Tonight?"  by Dayglow, and "Growing Sideways" by Noah Kahan

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