Andrew McMahon, the chameleon of the music industry

When Jack’s Mannequin revealed plans for a reunion tour, an eclectic mix of people were hysterical, myself included. The group had disbanded in 2012, but per the news of the “10 Years in Transit” tour, announced 10 shows in the United States. Much to my chagrin, not one of the dates on the roster was for Atlanta, but I kept faith. And for a little while, my devotion paid off, when I saw a screenshot of dates that did include my city. Imagine my irritation when I downloaded an app, found Atlanta on the record, took a screenshot to prove I was not delirious, and went back to the app to purchase tickets – all to realize that they had taken Atlanta (among many other cities) off the list. I was already hyped to make some legitimate financial sacrifices, ready to outbid anyone if I needed to. The disappointment was intense, rivaling the time I stood in line behind pushy and irate teens just to end up without a picture with Halsey (but more on that another time).

Jack’s Mannequin’s most popular songs include “The Mixed Tape” and “Dear Jack,” but my fondest memories from my childhood date back to “Dark Blue” and “Swim.” You know that feeling when you somehow stumble upon what used to be your favorite song when you were younger? I had that feeling, tenfold, when I watched the music video for “Dark Blue” early last year. It was one of the few songs of my music taste from back then that I would still listen to at this point in my life, which is saying something.

I can’t even call Jack’s Mannequin my favorite band anymore, but I’m still incredibly bummed about the ticket fiasco since it was the band that introduced me to Andrew McMahon, who I do consider one of my favorite artists.

I’ve now been a fan of his for half of my life, through his different phases and genres, without even realizing it. Understandably, I missed Something Corporate, since he created this band in September 1998, the same month I was born, but I was on board for his other projects.

A year after Jack’s Mannequin disbanded in 2012, McMahon came out with The Pop Underground, which I listened to the entire summer before 9th grade. I respect his decision to go solo, even though I still didn’t know who he was while I was repeatedly listening to the EP. His choice is understandable – the four songs are nothing like those of Something Corporate or Jack’s, and are instead the perfect kind of pop I needed that summer. If the title wasn’t enough of an indication, the cover- somehow containing all the colors of the rainbow without looking tacky- is another sign. On his website, he described the night of the release as “a night where I let what was be and let what is be discovered.”

In my eyes, the indulgent choices he made experimenting around while creating The Pop Underground were well deserved. It’s not that  he was never emo or punk during his time with Something Corporate (his dyed black hair indicates his genre all too well), or alternative rock during Jack’s. He did what many are scared to do, not only recognizing change, but embracing it. I personally think that Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness could not have become as great as it is had he not changed course yet again.

This most recent project has been my favorite, for sure, releasing music I find inexplicably appealing. If Something Corporate’s aesthetic was early 2000s Beverly Hills, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the set of an Urban Outfitters photoshoot. McMahon’s sound and character have matured and mellowed through the years, and even his music videos have become more composed. It’s hard to imagine the black-haired, pierced singer of “If You C Jordan” singing anything off of his most recent album, yet this proves once again how versatile his voice is.

If you’re not sure if you’ve heard his music, “Cecelia and the Satellite” is probably the only song off the album on the radio, but “Maps for the Getaway” is, in my eyes, the epitome of his new sound. It’s a dreamlike reflection of his life up to this point, the lessons he’s learned, and what he hopes of the future. The entire album is almost made for a road trip, full of wandering thoughts perfect for a westward-bound adventure.

I used to find it odd that the centerpiece behind four immensely successful projects (I count his musical persona during The Pop Underground as a separate time) has less than 40,000 subscribers over his separate Vevos, but maybe I’ve been judging incorrectly. Jack’s Mannequin, arguably McMahon’s most notable work, was raw and personal, with lyrical anecdotes about his struggles with leukemia (last August, he celebrated 10 years in remission). The nonprofit he started a year after his diagnosis, the Dear Jack Foundation, raises money for cancer research and supports young adults with cancer. So though his subscriber numbers may suggest otherwise, McMahon has built an amazing fanbase, raised half a million dollars for cancer research, and has shone in every genre and project he’s taken on. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason I love his music so much. He’s twice my age, yet I feel as if I’ve grown up with him. McMahon’s frustrations and fears from every part of his musical career are as universal as his hopes and dreams are, and I refer to his music as a diary that guides me through life.