Why You Should Check Out AJR


Credit: AJR.

There’s a good chance you have never heard of AJR. There is also a good chance I will come off as one of those pretentious indie kids. And I get really offended when someone calls me pretentious for being an indie kid, because I feel like they’re overlooking the perfectly valid reasons I’m pretentious.

(Disclaimer: I am not an indie kid. This is the only indie band I know, so while I still plan on being incredibly biased and claiming my opinion to be fact throughout this article, I feel like my word holds more weight considering I like them despite not being too into the genre.)

Back to AJR. You may recognize a chorus or two from some of their more popular work, but they definitely are not too prominent in the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean their music isn’t worth taking a gander at. They actually reference their lack of mainstream appearance in a few of their songs, such as “Burn the House Down.” They seem to attribute their smaller spotlight to the fact that they discuss more honest and open problems in their songs. Some people might dislike this because they think AJR is preachy or trying to shove #deep thoughts down your throat, but those people are dumb and probably don’t shower enough, so we’ll move on.

I’ll go through a few of their different songs so you can get a feel for the type of music they put out and whatnot.

(Note: After I started doing this I found it difficult not to do almost all of their songs, at least from 2017 to present. I tried to highlight different styles and messages to have a more diverse array showing off their stuff but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend their other stuff.)

The Click


Synopsis: Their most popular song–most listens by far on Spotify–and also my gateway song to the band. Notes the struggles of giving into your impulses, using drinking, drugs, and flings as examples before yelling “But I’m weak! And what’s wrong with that? Boy oh boy I love it when I fall for that.” The verses reveal feelings of temptation and regret, conflicting with the carefree tone of the chorus. The beat stops and starts to fit the tone and really picks up during the chorus, allowing you to be swept away in the carefree feelings.

Similar style: “Sober Up” (one of my favorites), deals with growing up and becoming numb to things.

“Turning Out”

Synopsis: A slower song which describes the feelings of confusion and hesitation that come with romantic love, and how the media’s depictions of love influence our own perception of it. More sad undertones than some of their other work. Emphasizes the need to grow and learn and not trying to rush real connections. The tone of doubt is prominent but the end of the song looks to the future in a mix of hope and desperation to when you finally turn out and are ready for a proper relationship.

Similar style: “Role Models” and “Normal.” While neither have a similar message to “Turning Out,” they are both slower songs by AJR and are both worth a listen if you prefer the slower style.

“Bud Like You”

Synopsis: True bop. Pretty light message, just mentions some of the dumb things of “party” culture which results in the need and appreciation for a friend to make it bearable. Simple, but a real swingin’ tune.

Living Room

“I’m Ready” / “Thirsty”

Synopsis: If the thought of the words “I’m Ready” repeating doesn’t make you think of Spongebob already, fear not, for this song uses Spongebob’s voice. Honestly, it’s not as cringey as it sounds. Another relatively simple song just about courting a girl at a party. “Thirsty” follows the same type of tone, but now with weird yodeling. But when those lyrics start flowing, the song really lights up. Both are good party songs and have good, strong energy.

Similar style: “Let the Games Begin,” not really party music per se, and doesn’t have implications of romantic courtship, but still fast and upbeat with high energy.

Neon Future III (Steve Aoki)


Synopsis: The music may not be all theirs, but the bulk of the lyrics are them and the music video mostly shows them, so it totally counts. Deals with social media and façades, pretending to be cool and happy all the time. Really shows how tiresome and internally unsatisfying perpetuating the act of “fitting in” is. Not only calls out the insecurity festering in the average person, but really demonstrates it as well.

Neotheater (unreleased)

“100 Bad Days”

Synopsis: Oft described as “their most frequently personal” song (whatever that means), “100 Bad Days” is about putting positive spins on bad things that happen, allowing you to benefit from them. The chorus says “A hundred bad days made a hundred good stories // A hundred good stories make me interesting at parties.” The first song that was released as a single from their unreleased album, it has a good message and tune, a promising first look for the album.

These are just a few prime examples of the types of messages and styles they incorporate into their music. Again, I think it is highly worth checking them out. If you were to actually listen to me, I would start with the album The Click; their earlier album Living Room is more out there, and even I don’t really enjoy a lot of the songs in it, aside from the ones I mentioned and maybe one or two others.

Just some quick notes: if you are a fan of The Office definitely listen to Netflix Trip. The first song, “Overture,” is a sort of combination of all the songs in the album so it can give you a taste of each song. I personally really like “Overture,” but don’t be confused when it keeps changing tone and tune.