Some might say that everything we hear on the radio is done by prefabricated artists. There is nothing new, and everything they sing about is devoid of any emotion or understanding. But while some pessimists claim that pop music is meant to be popular rather than deep or full of meaning, John Maus is trying to change that perception. While critics place his music in the pigeonhole of Synth Pop, his lyrics are full of philosophical meaning that aims to shock audiences.
We could say that what he’s trying to do is shift the obvious subject of love troubles towards a more reflective way of seeing emotion. Why? Because he’s not only a musician concerned with knowledge and introspection, but he also has a PhD in Political Philosophy.
In the singer-songwriter’s own words, “We live in a world where information travels faster and is circulated more widely than ever before, yet all it delivers is inanities. We’re all just playing on our smartphones, popping little texts back and forth and saying nothing at all.”
Perhaps that’s why he titled his most famous album, We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. The artist says that the title reflects that, “no art stands a chance unless we struggle, unless we make some kind of effort to think.”
John Maus excels not necessarily by the content of his narrative but in the amazing way he presents it. He coats powerful philosophical concepts with catchy tunes. It’s his use of synthesizers and drum machines that makes his music sound like the eighties, a trait not all critics are fans of.
“My wager is that there’s something more interesting about doing it without a band, but I did an American tour recently and some reviewers were like, ‘What’s the point? He just gets up there and sings over recordings of his bad 80s music, there’s no point to it.'”
Most artists would be right to feel uncomfortable given those comments. However, John doesn’t mind. He says that the critical moment is when he stands on his own in front of hundreds of people. “If I can get up there and nearly have a heart attack every night, if a human being can push themselves to the absolute limit of their physical existence and people can still go ‘What’s the point?’, then that’s the point!”
If you want to discover more about this artist, check out his most recent album: A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material:
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Translated by María Suárez