Jack Johnson is that guy that you play when you’re having a lazy chill out day, when the rain is pouring outside and you’re snuggled in your duvet; when you’re wondering lost around a city soaking in the atmosphere; or when you’re sitting with a loved one just quietly content in each others company. His music is for those special occasions, where it’s just you and the world, or you, the world and someone you’re close to. The title of his latest album sums this up completely: From Here to Now to You. It’s intimate, in the most basic sense of the word.
Opening song, and lead single, “I Got You” is a beautiful ode to a lover, and the sense of completion that comes from being in love. It’s a simple song, which is one of the reasons it works so well. The chorus is an unpretentious declaration of love: “I got you, i got everything, i’ve got you. I don’t need nothing, more than you. I got everything, i’ve got you”.
You can imagine that couples across the world have said those words, or at least words to that effect. It’s a basic love song, with a simple message, and a simple melody, but of course when these are all combined, and then sprinkled with the sultry voice of Jack Johnson and the sound of his guitar, you get a stunning opening song. It leaves you wanting to run to the one you love, or fall in love with the next person you see just because love really does seems so great.
This simplicity is seen again in one of the standout songs from the album: ‘‘Never Fade’’. The song opens with the line, “It feels good to be the one, that you want”, and the rest of the song, is, as you might expect, another love song. Differing from “I Got You”, this song explores the beginning of a relationship, those first few meetings, and the moments you realise you want to be with this person. Its simplicity only enhances the song, and a guitar and one voice avoids the song sounding like a One Direction declaration of love for their teenage fans.
The album works very well if you’re in love with somebody; so in love that every cliche phrase in the book doesn’t make you nauseated. If you would happily have your partner say, “This is worth saving / because the sum of us is more than us”, as Jack Johnson swoons in “As I Was Saying”, then you’ll enjoy the album. For those who can’t quite stomach such an intense proclamation of how great it is to be in love with somebody, the album can be a little bit sickening. Not everyone wants to sit and listen to an album so dominated by love songs, regardless of how good they technically are.
The last song on the album, “Home”, is an example of this. It’s a great song, and it’s got a beautiful message, but the last line, “Home is wherever we are if there’s love here too”, explicitly shows how love infiltrates into so much of what Jack Johnson sings about. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the other songs on the album had some substance or depth behind them to balance it all out, but they don’t. “Tape Deck” is one of the catchiest songs on the album but its foot tapping sound doesn’t equate to lyrical brilliance. I could be wrong, but the trials and tribulations of some guys trying to create a band aren’t what people are desperate to hear Jack Johnson sing about.
Another problem with the album is that it’s horrendously predictable. There’s honestly nothing wrong with finding your niche and sticking to what you’re good at. Plus, experimenting with your style doesn’t always keep fans happy; one only has to look at Kanye West and some of his albums to see this. Jack Johnson knows his style and he’s firmly stuck to it, which is fine, because he’s good at it. At the same time though, it can get a little bit boring. By the end of the album the guitar melodies all blur into one, sounding exactly the same as the preceding song. When the relaxed nature of the guitar-infused songs has all gotten a little bit too much, “One’s And Zeroes” opening melody might as well be a slightly faster version of “You Remind Me Of You”, the song two before it. A little bit of variety would do this album the world of good.
It’s solid Jack Johnson, and if you’ve heard his first album, then From Here, To Now, To You won’t be anything exceptionally new, and that’s where the album really falls down. My advice would be to listen to select songs on the album, and not try and listen to it from beginning to end. There are some fantastic songs, and Jack Johnson is a superb lyricist (on the whole), and it would be a shame for people to miss out on his music because they’ve got bored by track 6, or because they’re not in love.
// Notes from the Road
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