“The World’s Smallest Violin Really Needs an Audience” & So Does AJR


Image via Reddit

Lucie Carriker, Editor


Although many bands have done their best, never before has anyone truly mastered the art of combining weighty emotional lyrics with unique upbeat instrumentals. Nobody, that is, until AJR, composed primarily of brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met released their album entitled OK Orchestra in March of 2021. It maintains a perfect balance between angst and optimism, which makes it the ideal album for high school students like myself to listen to as a form of catharsis. I discovered this masterpiece through a friend of mine who kept pestering me with her enthusiasm for the song “3 o’clock Things,” and once I finally listened to the song myself it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with the entire album. 

OK Orchestra doesn’t include a title track, but it begins with something even better: “OK Overture,” a combination of the other 12 songs on the album and an introduction to the coming music that does the exact opposite of easing its listeners in. Song number two, “Bummerland,” includes the lyric “You’re only going up from here,” which is an accurate description of one’s experience listening to the subsequent 11 songs. I wouldn’t put it past AJR to insert a line like that as a form of subliminal messaging promoting their own music, but it’s most likely just a coincidence where that line appears relative to the remainder of the album.

In addition to Adam, Jack, and Ryan’s fantastic vocals and respective wide varieties of instrumental abilities, OK Orchestra features the world renowned Blue Man Group and some up-and-coming trumpeters, violinists, cellists and sound engineers. The Blue Man Group contributes to a song called “Ordinaryish People,” which earned its place in my heart with the lines “Your happy friends call you depressing, ’cause you wonder why we’re all alive. Your downer friends think you’re too happy… ’cause you still celebrate sometimes.” I’d be willing to bet that anyone who’s reading this review feels like those lines are calling them out, which is how I feel too. It’s a wonderful, if brief, dive into how people perceive each other, which I’d predict is not what you’ll be expecting when you hear the first note from the electrified cellos and violins.

“Way Less Sad” is similar to “Ordinaryish People” in the sense that it juxtaposes a thorough reflection on human emotion with the kind of instrumentals that might distract listeners from those emotions should they get too caught up in dancing along with it, but in every other way it’s entirely different and there is no guarantee that one would naturally assume that both songs belong on the same album. The Met brothers put into words perfectly my personal experiences with mental health struggles big and small, belting out, “I’m a-okay, I’m a-okay, you say it but you just don’t mean it” in the song’s pre-chorus and, “No, I ain’t happy yet, but I’m way less sad” in the chorus itself. 

I particularly like the song “Adventure is Out There,” because it captures the shared experience of the last year and a half with the lyrics, “Holy moly it’s a real do-nothing day… Adventure is out there, so why am I in here today?” The lyrics that really made me fall in love with this song, though, are in its very first verse, and I love them because, explicit language aside, they sound like they must have been inspired by a conversation with a 5 year old kid: “I keep losing my socks… Do they miss my feet?” I just find that opening line to be impossibly endearing. 

I also highly recommend watching the music videos that correspond to “Bummerland,”
“World’s Smallest Violin,” “Way Less Sad,” and “OK Overture” at least once. Sure, I enjoy watching said music videos primarily because Adam, Jack, and Ryan are all quite attractive and quite frankly precisely my type. However, these videos have artistic value too, thanks to their incorporation of props such as luggage carts, bicycles, and the real live ocean. I won’t spoil any more details besides those, though.

Finally, in the interest of ending where I began, I’d like to give some special attention to the incredible, one of a kind “3 o’clock Things. From its unsubtle cultural and political references to how it explains aloud all of the feelings that we teenagers hope to outgrow but that adults have assured me we’ll be feeling forever to its absolutely beautiful SJW overtones, “3 o’clock Things” is just the perfect song. Just to give you a taste of what I’m listening to while I finish up this article, I’m concluding my review with lyrics that exemplify these aspects, respectively: 1) “… to vote for someone, and you might end up with someone evil, but you say that he means well.” 2) “It’s kinda funny how I keep debating if someone’s shy or if they hate me.” 3) “If you’re [expletive] racist then don’t come to my show.”