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Weekend Earworms: H. Jon Benjamin’s Jazz Album Is a Special Kind of Awesome

An estimated 92% of us experience earworms. Despite the annoying times we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things, ever. We here at Nerdist are dead set on bringing you those types of songs—even if only for the weekend. So shove this into your grey matter!

This week is going to be a weird one so sit tight, you guys. Every so often I marvel at the fact I get to write this column. I’d be the first to tell you that my personal taste in music is as eclectic as can be (if you consider the word “eclectic” to mean “generally terrible”) and there’s rarely ever a rhyme or reason to the earworms I share. It’s going to sound pretty lame, but when I can’t tie the column into a holiday, occasion, or movie about to come out; I tend to open my ears up to the world and let it decide for me. Ugh, I’m obnoxious for that last sentence but it is sort of true. My brother sent me an old NPR clip about H. Jon Benjamin’s Jazz album he put out in 2015 and it reminded me that we had covered the announcement last year. I purchased a few tracks of the album and spent the day chuckling at the idea I should use it for this column. It wasn’t until five unrelated people in my life randomly mentioned something about H. Jon Benjamin that very same day that I knew that–whether it’s good music or not–my earworms idea was found.

From our article back in 2015, you may remember Benjamin’s announcement video that introduced the idea he was recording a jazz album despite having no interest in jazz or any piano playing ability. Well, the album is real and it… is… a special kind of awesome.

I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 1

Well, I Should Have…*, just might be one of my favorite unique comedic performances in recent years. I look at it as a really fine tuned joke with almost no words at all. It’s perfect in my mind because it takes our expectations of music and throws them out the window while feeding a memory a lot of people have of trying to play an instrument. Even before the music starts, the album’s title sets up the entire joke by burying the remainder of its statement (“*learned how to play piano.” ) in small print on the cover. The opening track explains the premise that Benjamin sought out the Devil himself to sell his soul for piano skills but was denied because that’s not how those contracts work.

Persevering, Benjamin still gets himself into the studio to bring us an incredible Jazz band that’s occasionally interrupted by his piano playing. The timing, or lack there of, of Benjamin’s musical contribution to each song seems so perfectly executed that it seems unreal. Despite not being able to play the piano well, his comedic timing definitely shines through and it’s fitting that he chose the often improvisational genre of jazz music.

Then there’s the interlude…

Soft Jazzercize

To say that H. Jon Benjamin has a great voice would be the understatement of the century. Hearing him explain an exercise routine of his own design called “Soft Jazzercise” as an interlude from the rest of the album serves as the perfect reset button to gain our bearings once again and realize that this album is one long beautifully constructed joke. Additionally, the phrases “opiated panda” and “drowsy Frankenstein” are two of the best descriptors of slow I’ve heard in a while. If there’s one thing to take away from this track it’s that we, fans of H. Jon Benjamin, need to petition him to record guided meditation albums.

It Had To Be You

I really do hope those of you reading are managing to make it through entire tracks because they do manage to become funnier as time goes by. I think we’re so accustomed to hearing good quality recordings that we end up having certain expectations about them. Especially when we’re given the recognizable cue of the classic “It Had To Be You.”

Throughout the entire album, there’s a small whisper of hope in the back of my mind that maybe this albums is all just one big prank. That Jon Benjamin really is a piano virtuoso and at some point he’ll drop the act and we’ll hear him knock out songs like the best of them. Since the payoff never comes, each song continues on where I expect the “gotcha” moment is just around the corner and there’s nothing I can do but laugh after each song ends.

I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 3

But maybe it’s just me. Having no musical talent myself, I can’t help but feel a certain connection to the idea of sitting down at a piano and wanting something good to come of it. If you’re anything like me, this happens every once in a while if you find yourself alone near an musical instrument. I refuse to believe that I’m the only one out there to have tried (and failed spectacularly) to play along to something. To me, Well, I Should Have…* is an anthem to everyone who just couldn’t stick with their music lessons.

You can purchase the album on SubPop, iTunes, and Amazon. Let’s discuss our musical failings in the comments below.

Image: SubPop

Blake Rodgers writes for Nerdist from Chicago, IL where he lives happily with his Guinness World Record for High Fives. You can be his pal by following him on Twitter (@TheBlakeRodgers)

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