Jack Johnson is a walking, singing, slap-strumming paradox.
I wanted to dislike Jack Johnson when I first heard him. I wanted to so bad. But the guy playing that groovy little guitar jam singing about “sittin’ wishin’ and waitin'” made it difficult for me to do so. I wanted to say his songs were too simplistic and he sounded too much like the guys you hear on the radio. I wanted to believe his lyrics were just little quippy rhymes that were as shallow as the music sounded. But after a few listens, I realized I couldn’t believe any of those things. This was beauty in simplicity at its finest; songs just as they are meant to be, taking the form of a guitar slapping, catchy-as-hell little jam songs, some folky, some bluesy, some funky, but each and every one as moving as the last.
Johnson’s perceived character is one of late-night beach bonfires and summertime beer. But in actually listening, really listening, to his albums (especially Sleep Through the Static) you get much more than this. Hidden inside these simple tunes and rhymes lies something more intricate and complex; a paradox at its heart. Jack Johnson, the “chill-out chill-music” Hawaiian is writing and playing music with more depth than a 22-ounce draft beer.
And then a few nights ago, my girlfriend says to me, “Hey, listen to Jack Johson’s new single. It’s amazing. You’re going to love it.” And guess what? She was right. It’s not that Johnson is doing anything truly extraordinary here. Again, this is beauty in simplicity. The melancholy whistled/guitar mimicked intro backed by the ghost of a whispering slide guitar leads into a signature Jack Johnson chorus, one of his bests and most heart tugging. “I’ve got you,” he sings. “I’ve got everything, I’ve got you. I don’t need nothin’ more than you.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself. With a song like this, there’s not much else more you need.
I would expect Jack Johnson’s new album, “From Here to Now to You,” to continue this trend.