If there’s one thing that’s intrinsically associated with pop music, it’s catchiness – followed closely by choruses. Songs written in the style aren’t always the bearer of both in one place but, the idea of easy-to-love phrases or melodies are certainly top characteristics of such songs. Simultaneously, each of these qualities can result is a solid piece of music gaining the other half of a double-edged sword, in the form of too much repetition or a presumption of less creative intent if a song projects too much hook related predictability. Power pop trio, Jukebox the Ghost, not only faces this two-sided dilemma with their newest song, “Cheers,” but the track also bears the extra weight of being the band’s newest release just before their first major tour following the pandemic-prompted extended drought of live performance.
No pressure, right?
Jukebox the Ghost is:
Ben Thornewill (Pianos, Vocals)
Tommy Siegel (Guitar, Vocals)
Jesse Kristin (Drums, Vocals)
Indeed, it was apparently it was no pressure for Thornewill, Siegel, and Kristin, who claim that “Cheers” was “One of [their] favorite things [they’ve] ever recorded.” Certainly something that ranks as a band’s most fun piece of work can’t have incited too much mental anguish during the writing process. However, does that kind of ease translate to a piece of music that, while radiating the band’s personal joy, might not reflect an equal amount of compositional complexity? When considered on the surface, this feels like an accurate assessment, given how often the song’s chorus repeats throughout and how the section is built primarily off a single word phrase with only slight subject variation between.
Cheers to all the dreamers, the everyday bеlievers
Cheers to all the drеamers
– Lyrics from “Cheers”
While comparisons are almost never productive, cue up most any part of Jukebox the Ghost’s extensive, more-than-a-decade long discography – particularly “Everybody’s Lonely,” a leading single from their 2018 album, Off to the Races – and the contrast in lyrical complexity between the two is undeniable. In the earlier song, there’s a larger breadth of vocabulary, wider range of rhyme scheme, and a more transformative structure to the melody of the verses. Though the two songs do share a similar underlying song structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus – with the distinctions between each section, in both songs, made very clean and separate – “Cheers” feels a little reserved from where the band has shown its potential for blending catchy and complex musical ideas.
Still, that’s not to say “Cheers” lacks any of the energy or musical personality Jukebox the Ghost is famed for delivering in their recordings and performances. Thornewill’s vocals work with the main melody to match the rather fluid, legato, undulating nature of the note changes. Effortlessly sliding between tones, Thornewill softens, and ever-so-slightly blurs the lines of pitch change, giving the melody a wavy quality and supporting the similar style of play offered by Siegel’s syncopated, slurring, see-saw of notes on the guitar. Lyrically, the song’s two verses fly by fast enough that one blink and they might go missed but their melodic character adds another dimension to the personality of “Cheers”: theatrical flair.
The way Thornewill gingerly plays a steady line of higher octave eighth notes – only changing their pitch to usher forth the slightest chord changes for the vocals – in addition to the supplemental inclusion of a brief but noticeable broken glass sound effect, one can easily imagine this verse dropped right in the middle of a Broadway musical, with the explicit purpose of driving the narrative forward with a musical push. Reflected upon from this angle, the mildly more functional style of the song’s melodic range, makes much more sense and is applaudable for how well it captures an imagined scene and the collective mood of its intended audience. Broadly speaking, that aspect of “Cheers” is its strongest takeaway: this is a song about channeling a sentiment, a mood, and a surplus of repressed emotion. After the sheer containment the world was made to endure, and the loss of the seemingly most common of everyday lived experiences, “Cheers” is a sigh of relief – a celebratory exhale in the form of a song – that feels apt whilst the world gets reacquainted with so many parts of typical daily living. Furthermore, perhaps it’s even by deliberate design that “Cheers” is made up of a somewhat safe, predictable melody. For a song meant to celebrate and appreciate the everyday person and the familiarity of everyday life, having a melody that exudes that very kind of well-worn-but-loved quality, is actually quite clever and hardly a sign of less creative intent at all.
Jukebox the Ghost is on tour now.
See below for cities and dates. Link to tickets here.
Jukebox the Ghost Live: Cheers to a Tour!
SEP 11, 2021 Trees Dallas, TX
SEP 14, 2021 Crescent Ballroom Phoenix, AZ
SEP 15, 2021 Voodoo Room at House of Blues San Diego, CA
SEP 17, 2021 Echoplex Los Angeles, CA
SEP 18, 2021 August Hall San Francisco, CA
SEP 19, 2021 Harlow’s Sacramento, CA
SEP 21, 2021 Neptune Theatre Seattle, WA
SEP 22, 2021 Wonder Ballroom Portland, OR
SEP 24, 2021 The Grand at The Complex Salt Lake City, UT
SEP 25, 2021 Ogden Theatre Denver, CO
SEP 27, 2021 Varsity Theater Minneapolis, MN
SEP 29, 2021 The Truman Kansas City, MO
SEP 30, 2021 Delmar Hall Saint Louis, MO
OCT 1, 2021 The Basement East Nashville, TN
OCT 2, 2021 Terminal West Atlanta, GA
OCT 4, 2021 The Grey Eagle Asheville, NC
OCT 6, 2021 Cat’s Cradle Carrboro, NC
OCT 7, 2021 The Southern Café and Music Hall Charlottesville, VA
OCT 8, 2021 9:30 Club Washington, D.C.
OCT 9, 2021 Union Transfer Philadelphia, PA
OCT 21, 2021 House of Blues Chicago Chicago, IL
OCT 23, 2021 Newport Music Hall Columbus, OH
OCT 29, 2021 Royale Boston, MA
OCT 30, 2021 Brooklyn Steel New York, NY
Stay connected with Jukebox the Ghost through its official website and these social platforms: