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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

arts music

COLUMN: AJR, corny or decent?


TikTok is out of control, y’all. There is an unculled anger growing there, and its eyes have recently been trained on the indie-pop trio AJR. 

AJR is a trio of multi-instrumentalist brothers from New York City. Most people probably know them because they’ve heard the track “Weak” featured in a David Dobrik vlog. Or they’ve seen the band getting violently slandered on TikTok the past few months.

According to one TikTok, “AJR makes music for drunk moms at 8th grade graduation parties.”

Another one says, “AJR makes music for millenial English teachers.” Numerous comments say things like “AJR makes music for Disney adults” or likens the band to Imagine Dragons. 

And sure, the track “I’m Ready” featuring overproduced vocals and an amphetamined SpongeBob chanting “I’m ready” over and over is annoying and terrible. But the band has multiple tracks that really aren’t that bad. 

Most of their songs do sound the same, though. They’re all exercises in excess, packed with goofy sound effects, distorted, robotic vocals and corny lyrics. But there’s something almost charming about it. They’re just three brothers goofing around and making music. What’s so bad about that? Why did people decide to turn on them? Why would people compare them to Imagine Dragons, the modern music kiss of death?

I guess it’s because they’re corny. And they are corny. I will not sit here and say that AJR is writing poetry. They’re not. “100 Bad Days” opens with Jack Met singing “Remember when we all got drunk? I ended up with two broke thumbs. Oh, my God, I felt so dumb.” 

And who could forget the glitch-pop, electronic stylings of the track “Don’t Throw Out My Legos.”  A violent, neck-breaking beat drop is accompanied by the lyrics “Oh, no, don’t throw out my Legos. What if I can’t let go? What if I come back home?” 

A lot of AJR songs do sound like they were written with a Chrome tab open on Some of them sound like they just put a bunch of random sounds in there for the hell of it. The trio’s style is eclectic, and I understand how that can become grating. 

Sure, the band is corny. Yes, a lot of their lyrics aren’t incredible. Yes, a lot of the distorted vocals sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks are singing to you from the other side of a door. I get the hate. I understand it.

But I also get why people like AJR. They don’t take themselves too seriously. Every chorus is stratospheric, so at least one of them will hit. 

I fully intended this column to tear into the band, but I think they’re just trying to make fun music. They’re hit or miss, but they certainly haven’t committed crimes against humanity like Imagine Dragons. 

Somewhere in the past few years, we began dealing in absolutes. There’s no wiggle room when it comes to our likes or dislikes. We either violently hate things or become acolytes, loving every facet of something. Sometimes bands put out bad songs. Sometimes bands put out good ones.

What I’m trying to say is I understand the criticism, and a lot of it is warranted. But I also don’t really understand why so many people are big mad about AJR. It seems like there are a lot of other things to get mad about online. I’m not sure why AJR has become the subject of such vitriol. I mean, if you don’t like the music can’t you just turn it off? 

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