AJR and their beautiful song about love
(Photography: Joseph Sinclair. From left to right: Ryan, Adam and Jack Metzger)
AJR is an American pop trio made up of the Metzegar brothers Jack, Adam and Ryan, whose initials make up the name of the band. They have so far produced four albums themselves each containing styles of music ranging from indie pop, electropop, doo-wop and dubstep. Their third EP What Everyone’s Thinking was released in 2016, including the lead single ‘’Weak’’. The latter absolutely blew up, earning the trio a certified Platinum in five countries and Gold in another three. This is just one of the many amazing accolades that this band has rightly earned over the years. For instance, in 2017, they released a single called ‘’It’s On Us’’ as part of the It’s On Us campaign launched by the former president Barack Obama to fight against sexual assault in college campuses in the States.
The interesting thing aspect of this group is their seemingly effortless ability to discuss relatable topics through their music in a somewhat simplistic manner. This, with their catchy chorus, enables a quick delivery of an overarching message that is almost impossible to miss. It’s almost as if you were hearing your consciousness and memories in a back to back conversation about your past, present and future decisions. An instance of this is the song ‘’Turning Out’’, a beautiful distillation of the concerns western millennials and post-millennials have about love.
Right off the bat, by watching the music video we see the unravelling of a love story between two astronauts. The animation is very much in the likeness of a Pixar film, this alluding to one of the verses in the song.
Am I ready for love? Or maybe just a best friend Should there be a difference Do you have instructions? Maybe I'm stuck on what I see on TV I grew up on Disney But this don't feel like Disney
Those specific lines speak to the utter confusion we as millennials and post-millennials are faced with when we discover our interest in another individual. A plethora of questions leads us to realise the extent of our lack of knowledge in the topic and how we easily reference to things we grew up watching, Disney being one of them. In the second verse, the lead singer speaks of how he pictured this glorious and obvious retaliation of love, with sparks and birds singing to confirm his infatuation, but instead, everything is quiet. This leads to even more questioning, trying to legitimise his feelings, is he truly in love or is he ignorant, deceived by the nativity of the narrative of mainstream media?
The chorus is another beautiful point of realisation for the singer, who is talking to a rhetorical ‘’you’’ of how he’s still turning out. This can mean many things but I believe its basic understanding is that he’s still growing up, he’s still learning, he hasn’t arrived. This ‘’you’’ can be seen as the mainstream entertainment, like those Disney TV shows we were so fond of, where the main characters were always teenagers, they were grown, they were risk-takers, they fell in love, they declared their love and everything was magical, entertaining, beautiful, or do it seemed. But here, in the real world, there is no such thing. Even upon reaching the so awaited ripe age of eighteen, we realise how clueless we are about life, and how we ourselves are still turning out.
I'm a little kid, and so are you Don't you go and grow up before I do I'm a little kid with so much doubt Do you want to be there to see how I turn out?
Finally, the last few lines of the song are a repetition of the lines above. The fact that he said them over and over, seems like an anxious repetition of these doubts that we’ve explored so far, he’s telling his lover that they are both little kids, trying to understand and navigate through life. He’s imploring the lover to not go and grow up before he does. This sounds like a Peter Pan and Wendy kind of scenario, where the first doesn’t want to grow up whilst the latter does.
The last line is an invitation to the lover: he says, I’m not yet where I could be because I am still growing up, but do you want to be with me, and see if I get there? This is like a little kid confessing his infatuation to his childhood crush but at the same time, it’s so much more. It’s the acknowledgement of our imperfect nature and the fact that even at the age of 23 or 46 we still are clueless about our very selves and what we want, but we can always pose the invitation to whoever surrounds us, to see us grow and fulfil our potential.
In the video we see this mirrored by the male astronaut’s floating off in space, screaming for help and as the female astronauts scream for him too, both being unable to hear each other. This is the epitome of adolescence and early adulthood, being stuck in this weird phase of your life with seemingly no one to be able to heed to your cries of help. This is the case for the astronauts until the female one forsakes her own safety and chooses to float away with the male astronauts into space, to their deaths. I believe this is key, she chose to step out of her space to enter an entirely different one, to provide comfort - her very own presence - even through the inevitable excruciating death that awaited them.
Ladies and gents, that is love.