Hobo Johnson and The Lovemakers gathered attention recently after they released a music video on Facebook as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. The song Peach Scone collected millions of views in just a few weeks. The group has divided opinion, coming in for criticism for their “quirky” lyrics, with many people calling them just cringy and doubting how genuine they were.
Hobo Johnson himself, or Frank Lopes Jr, to give him his non-professional name, is of Portuguese, Mexican and Native American origins. He began performing hip-hop at the age of 15, making beats on his computer, after being influenced by D12 and other rap artists. At the age of 19, his father kicked him out due to a now ex-wife “who was f***ing insane.” With nowhere to go, he wrote and produced his 2015 debut project Hobo Johnson’s 1994 Corolla, while living in the titular car, working at a pizza parlor, staying in Costco parking lots, producing out of the library and laundromat, and showering at a local gym.
The song that most people have problems with is the viral Peach Scone. To begin with, the music; it is just plain bad, and adds absolutely nothing to the song, even doing it a disservice really. A four minute song, and it contains all of six notes on the guitar, and a half arsed drum beat during each chorus. There is also a guy with a bass guitar but he seems to be doing very little, if anything, just doing the standard ‘play the root note of the chord’ whenever the mood takes him. The drummer can’t even play for the whole song, because Hobo Johnson doesn’t seem to have the ability to keep to a constant rhythm. Whether this is part of his gimmick or he is a poor musician, it remains to be seen. Johnson has also taken a lot of criticism for his delivery. The strange inflections he has in his voice, and his odd rhythms, mean he is quite polarising. One writer called him a cross between Michael Cera and a hyena, with a nervously neurotic voice, which ungracefully changes octaves.
Lyrically, Peach Scone does not come off well at first glance. It borders on sympathy porn for closeted misogynists and self-proclaimed “nice guys” who whine about the “friendzone” – the classic situation of guy loves girl, girl has boyfriend.
“Man, I love the thought of being with you/Or maybe it’s the thought of not being so alone/I don’t know, the second one’s way sadder than the first one.”
It’s a very delicate line he’s walking in this song. Johnson is always so close to coming off creepy or misogynistic, but he somehow avoids it. If you were to just read the lyrics of the songs, it’s far easier to get on board with his work. His performing style and demeanour is off-putting. While it may not be true, Johnson performs like someone who thinks they are much more talented than they are.
While performing may not be his greatest strength, Johnson is a fantastic writer. Romeo and Juliet, a song about love and the impact of divorce on children, inspired by his own life, is a beautifully written piece. While it suffers from the same issue as Peach Scone, with its boring and pointless musicianship, and Johnson’s love it or hate it delivery, it is lyrically incredible.
Hobo Johnson, do us all a favour, and just start publishing books of poetry.
Image Credit: HOFisbetter.com