Aaron Lee Tasjan 2024
Photo: Big Feat PR

Aaron Lee Tasjan Is Seriously Funny on ‘Stellar Evolution’

Aaron Lee Tasjan often goes for a laugh with broad puns and subtle references to pop culture. Yes, he is funny, but he is also serious, seriously funny.

Stellar Evolution
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Blue Élan
12 April 2024

No physicist has ever witnessed a complete stellar evolution because the process takes too long, millions of years. However, scientists theorize it exists based on observations of different stars in various states of development. The experts postulate based on available evidence. The dozen tracks on Aaron Lee Tasjan‘s Stellar Evolution function in an analogous way. The songs musically depict elements of modern American life to suggest where we have been and where we are headed.

Tasjan is not a neutral observer. He has a purpose, or perhaps purposes would be more accurate. First, he aims to entertain. The songs are hook-laden and filled with clever instrumental touches and wordplay. There’s something Beatlesque about the whole thing, especially if one hears the Fab Four’s oeuvre as one long playlist. A person can hear echoes of everything from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to Revolver and Rubber Soul to the White Album and Abbey Road in Tasjan’s compositions. The singer-songwriter shares John’s sense of humor, Paul’s pop sensibility, George’s spirituality, and Ringo’s emphasis on the beat.

Just as important is Tasjan’s desire to make the world a safe place for all, a community where all individuals can be free to express their individualism. The colorful and literal descriptions of sex and drugs are offered to show the range of behaviors, like phases of the celestial bodies in the sky. He’s no astronomer. There is no timeline inherent in his observations. Tasjan is more like someone who looks up on a cloudless night and goes wow. He initially notices the more spectacular phenomena before imagining connections between them.

So Aaron Lee Tasjan begins by presenting an “Alien Space Queen”, a buoyant pop ode about living outside binary gender norms. It’s not just girls that want to have fun, the song suggests with its cheesy electronic accompaniment evoking Cyndi Lauper’s hit; it’s the girl in everyone. The instrumental exuberance transforms the lyrics (“She drives an old Trans Am in sunset gold / Yeah, she’s transfemme, a demigirl dream”) into a festive celebration.

The last song more soberly examines being in love and “Young”. It’s mostly just Tasjan quietly playing the piano as if he were in an old wooden church and singing a hymn. The peacefulness of his voice suggests the holiness of feelings. The song alludes to homosexual behavior that would be considered sinful by religious fundamentalists. The track “Young” is beautiful because of its artistry and its inclusiveness.

In between these tracks, Tasjan points out the milestones along the way of becoming and accepting who he is and objecting to the impediments that happened. Stellar Evolution is both an act of protest and a declaration of pride. The latter is especially true in the waggish “I Love America Better Than You”. With lines about dirty water, hot dogs, Walmart, post-traumatic stress disorder, and wealth disparities. Tasjan pokes fun at the American Dream while affirming his patriotism.

Tasjan’s concerns can be cosmic (“The Drugs Did Me”), mysterious (“Dylan Shades”), environmental (“Ocean Drive”), or even sartorial (“Pants”). They form constellations with the more emotional tracks (“Birds”, “Cry Till You’re Laughing”) and the darker (“Horror of It All”, “Nightmare”) contributions. As dissimilar as each track is, they all share a heart. Tasjan has a big one. The musician is sympathetic and thoughtful.

He’s also frequently comic. Aaron Lee Tasjan often goes for a laugh with broad puns and subtle references to pop culture. Yes, he is funny, but he is also serious. He’s seriously funny. As the title of the record suggests, he takes a long view of things.

RATING 8 / 10