Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

AJR – Bang!

In the good old grade school days nobody had to read any rooms…


Al Varela: Even as they become legal adults, Gen Z seems to cling to their adolescent instincts. Some may see this as a bad thing, but I see it as a way to hold on to whatever innocent joy and happiness you feel amid the reality of actually living in the so-called real world. That’s probably why I find “Bang!” so comforting. AJR know they have to grow up sometime, but they also don’t want to lose the creative spark and reckless instinct of being a kid. As such, the song is an awkward, jerky mess that’s loud and blaring, but at the same time grounded and in control. Because growing up isn’t as easy as wising up and being a bigger person. It means you have to learn about adulthood in small steps, like filling out taxes and keeping quinoa in your fridge (apparently). It means being confused, not immediately understanding the actual weight of being an adult. And you may be scared to face that reality, but dammit, you’re going to face it, and you’re going to be the best adult you can be. So when AJR give out that big explosive hook with the blasting horns and crowd cheering “bang, bang, bang”, I find myself charmed by their stupidity and immaturity. I’m in the middle of being a kid and being an adult myself. I get the fear of having to take that responsibility and wanting to retreat back into a simpler time. So that’s how I found myself coming back to this song so often that it accidentally became one of my favorite hits of the past year. Oops.

Vikram Joseph: POV: you’ve been tragically orphaned at the age of 12, but a friendly travelling musical comedy troupe has taken you under their wing and incorporated you into their performances. You don’t remember doing it, but apparently you signed some sort of legal paperwork, so this is your life now. Everything they say and do is incredibly annoying, but on the plus side, you’re constantly in rehearsal so you haven’t really had time to process your grief yet.

Alfred Soto: These brothers write and produce their own material, as if we needed Ryan Tedder sequels tripled. 

Thomas Inskeep: This is nothing but a gimmick, the gimmick being that each line ends with a choral “bang! bang! bang!” As an added bonus, AJR’s lead brother has an incredibly grating, whiny alt-rock-in-2020 voice — and the song is a plod, to boot.

Aaron Bergstrom: If the phrase “adulting like a boss” was a song.

Katherine St Asaph: Yes, “Bang!” is chipper musical theater of the perpetual punchline sort. Yes, it’s so dorky that in 2032 an incoming senator will get clowned for tweeting about it at The Fader. Yes, AJR repurposed it into an ad for a seltzer machine. But it’s not about millennial #adulting but millennial burnout, and specifically for AJR fame burnout: burning your youth until it’s gone, facing several upcoming decades of nothing, and thinking you’d rather just have your finale now: a curtain call with gunshots, bang. Its theatrical counterparts evoke jazz hands as much as acid vaudeville: Avenue Q‘s “For Now” or, bleaker, Falsettos‘ “You Gotta Die Sometime” or The Full Monty‘s “Big Ass Rock” — or, to sample some continental cheese, Ace Wilder’s “Busy Doin’ Nothing” or Betta Lemme’s “I’m Bored.” It’s a song for those handed bitterness and having no skills to deal with it besides transforming it into #content. They’re gleeing through it.

Alex Clifton: If this had come out ten years ago, I would’ve said that AJR had done a bang-up job, but I’m not sure I can say the same now. The instrumentation explodes into the chorus, which sounds great, but the lyrics lack spark. I can’t imagine “do my password begin with a one or a two” successfully igniting any crowd.

John Pinto: AJR makes music to receive approval. “Well, duh,” one might think, “anyone who releases their music publicly wants validation and approval on at least some level.” But even though it’s unfair (and pointless) for me to guess the intents of total strangers, I can’t shake this hunch that AJR’s raison d’etre is to be patted on the head and told they did a good job. Consider the stupid elaborate Berklee-core beats, the dangerous lack of edge, the “responsible” messages about moving out or pursuing a capital-c Career or not wanting to grow-up because you’re scared of drinking, the parent-approved lyrical shticks (“Well, you know, my boys skipped prom to play on TV!”). Time after time the Brothers Mets run to big societal norms and institutions with a relieved glee that borders on reactionary. Fine — I guess these are just some nice, kinda square boys! Even on the muddled The Greatest Showman castoff “Bang!” they display competent chops. I suppose a lot of adulthood is just paying taxes, buying quinoa, feigning familiarity with pop culture (for instance, I’ve never seen The Greatest Showman, which I imagine to be an electro-swing fever dream where Hugh Jackman relitigates Pan). But is that all music — and adulthood — is supposed to offer? A few toothless songs about nothing to get you through all that grinding for extra credit, and then you die? When I look too long at AJR, I see the most passive and timid version of myself. And, dear reader, that repulses me.

Juana Giaimo: TED Talk pop music is not good.

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One Response to “AJR – Bang!”

  1. You can actually witness the point where the song becomes no longer a 10 to me in Juana’s video when they add the trumpet line