AJR’s long-awaited OK ORCHESTRA album is finally here. The Broadway-style project includes songs such as the popular singles “Bang,” “Bummerland,” and “Way Less Sad.”
The Start of the OK ORCHESTRA Era
The trio of brothers first started teasing the new era in February of last year. After a month-long hiatus from social media, they hinted that a brand new single was coming through their community text messaging service by revealing an image of the cover art. A week later, AJR posted a 15-second snippet of “Bang!” on Instagram with reversed audio, making the announcement official.
The brothers then waited six months to release their next song off OK ORCHESTRA. “Bummerland” was released in August as the second single in advance of the new album. This song confronts the sad reality of how COVID-19 affected the summer of 2020. Like many of us, the Met brothers’ plans were nixed by the pandemic. Instead of going to an amusement park like Disneyland or hanging out with friends, they were stuck in their own lonely homes – AKA “Bummerland.”
The final two singles prior to the release of OK ORCHESTRA were “My Play” in December and “Way Less Sad” in February 2021. These two songs are very different musically, but they both touch on the topic of mental health. “My Play” explains the situation of a young boy wanting to put a play together for his parents, of whom seem to be going through a separation. On the other hand, “Way Less Sad” makes reference to cancel culture, toxic environments, and one’s inability to “sleep at night.” It also dives into depression and how it takes a long time for someone suffering from it to recover.
AJR Speak Their Minds
OK ORCHESTRA includes AJR’s classic “Overture” single, which is a medley of each and every track that’s incorporated in the album, with a fun theatrical twist. During an interview with Breakfast Television Toronto, Adam Met talked a little bit about what inspired them to have an overture. “We grew up in New York City. Theatre has always been a part of what we do, and we are so inspired by the story-telling aspect of theatre. A lot of our albums have overtures on them, and that’s also really inspired by theatre. It’s where people perform a little bit of the song before they dive into the album.”
As always, AJR didn’t hold back from speaking up their minds. In “3 O’Clock Things,” they sing, “It’s kinda funny how I paid for college, when YouTube was an option. But then I would’ve had to spend my best years skipping ads and readin’ comments. And when the hell did advertisements get so good?” In this song, they also touch on the topic of politics.
In another very theatrical song, “Joe,” they discuss God for the first time, indicating that they’ve distanced themselves from their religion. The song tackles the childhood inspiration or idol in someone’s life – or more personally, the person Jack sings about whose name is also the title of the song, “Joe.” During a live acoustic live stream, Jack mentioned that “Joe” was someone in Ryan’s life who he admired, looked up to, and wanted to be like.
Including a Song That Didn’t Make Neotheater
“Adventure Is Out There” was originally intended to be on their third studio album Neotheater, by going under the name “Socks,” before ultimately being scrapped. It is included in OK ORCHESTRA after being renamed to “Adventure Is Out There.” The song seems to be about being lazy and “do-nothing-days” when there are plenty of things that you could be doing at that time.
“Ordinaryish People” explains the feeling of not being happy, nor being sad – just being ok. It’s all about being too in-between with various aspects of life, similar to “Bang!” which has a theme of being too young, yet too old. In this song, AJR teamed up with the Blue Man Group, who did most of the percussion throughout the song.
AJR Explored Plenty of Different Topics
“Humpty Dumpty” talks about running away from your problems and knowing you shouldn’t do so, while also hiding your problems from other people. The song uses the children’s tale of “Humpty Dumpty” as symbolism for this. In the song, instead of being helped by all the king’s horses and all the kingsmen, Humpty Dumpty goes, as the song says in the lyrics, “Screw it! I’ll smile right through it and I’ll scream when no one’s around!”
Finally, “World’s Smallest Violin” and “Christmas in June” give OK ORCHESTRA the perfect ending. The first one talks about feeling the pressure of other people’s accomplishments and how those compare to yours. The final song of the album talks about balancing relationships and work. “New Year’s Eve. I was at a festival in New Orleans. You were in Tribeca kissing nobody. I owe you one, yes, I do. Valentine’s Day, we decided we would do the whole damn thing, but I played to an empty gym at Iowa State. I guess I owe you that too.”
OK ORCHESTRA is an album for everybody and for all different kinds of moods. If you still haven’t listened to it, make sure to do so!