The Cynic’s Playlist

Track 1- Jack Johnson’s “Good People”

I’ve been told by several independent sources that I am a negative person. I tend to look at the glass as half-empty (and fyi, the glass blows too). According to an ex, my negativity is what caused her to break up with me (honestly, I thought she was having fun, I can’t read minds). Following the break up, I did a lot of soul searching on what makes Tyler “Tyler”. Instead of changing who I am, I decided to embrace my negativity as one of the many things that make me unique. I started to look for other things that reflected my outlook on life. Unsurprisingly, something that is very integral to our Western culture, music, is riddled with other fuddy-duddies.

I’m not talking about the music of an Adele or Taylor Swift. Someone that’s having a bad day, taking one down, and singing a sad song just to turn it around. I don’t want to cover someone who is focusing only on the difficulties of relationships. I want to cover songs that look outward from the artist and talk about how much the world sucks (and let’s be honest, it sucks).

The first song I want to cover is from Jack Johnson. I know, right? That happy Hawaiian surfer that sings about banana pancakes? The smaller, serious version of Israel Kamakawiwo? The very same. Johnson’s folk sound and acoustic guitar slaps you into a care-free jovial mindset. It transports you to the island of Oahu where Johnson grew up, where he learned to surf form his father. Johnson did the soundtrack to the 2006 film Curious George about that adorable tiny monkey and his owner with the loudest outfit since Will Smith in the first few seasons of Fresh Prince. That’s why I was surprised when I realized how negative one of his songs is…

The song I’m referring to is “Good People,” from Johnson’s 2005 album In Between Dreams. The song’s chorus brings light to Johnson’s feelings on the world at large: “Where’d all the good people go?” To think there are no good people left in the world seems very harsh to be coming from a happy-go-lucky surfer dude. When looking further into the song, Johnson’s real message is not against shitty people, but rather our Western culture’s fear-mongering, idiotic media. The rest of the chorus continues, “I’ve been changing channels / I don’t see them on the TV shows / Where’d all the good people go? / We got heaps and heaps of what we sow.” Johnson is deeply dissatisfied with the way the whole world, which he sees as beautiful, is being portrayed by the media. He refers back to television several times throughout the song, “So what’s it gonna be / ‘Cause people / Will tune in / How many train wrecks do we need to see?” “Turn on the boob tube / I’m in the mood to obey,” “Wrong and resolute but in the mood to obey / Station to station desensitizing the nation.” Jack Johnson does not like you, CNN, or you, Fox News, or you, Yahoo!’s front page. The media does latch onto the worst shit possible, showcasing the worst human beings possible. It’s been that way for a long, long time.

InBetweenDreams Jack Johnson


Johnson’s hate of the media makes sense when you look at what he does in his free time. He founded two charities focusing on everything from the environment to art. He has donated money to the 2011 Japan Tsunami and Hurricane Sandy relief, and he has worked to restore music education in public schools. These are the acts of a kind, giving man; and are also the acts of a man that sees the world as something that is worth saving.

Johnson isn’t disappointed in the people of the world. There are “Good People” in the world. He’s simply disappointed in our devotion to the intake of negative media – and I agree, that’s a sucky part of the world.

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