note: I was strongly advised not to write on an artist that has over 100,000 followers. So you might ask me why I am writing about Jimmy Buffett, a man who has 3,491,780 monthly listeners on Spotify. Well, I’m a betting man myself and I’d wager my entire bank account (about 40 dollars) that at least 3,391,781 of those followers, are Baby Boomers. And since Bernie has dropped out of the race, we now have undeniable proof that boomers do not count as people. Therefore, his actual listener count is right around 99,999 listeners, which gets me off the hook.
A little background is needed before diving into this steaming family-sized Stouffer’s lasagna of an album. Jimmy Buffett is the patron-saint of vacationing uncle’s nationwide.
He was born in Mississippi on Christmas Day (one of the many parallels he shares with Jesus Christ). Buffett has built his songwriting career off of such diverse topics such as beaches, margaritas, drinking, sand, seagulls, dunes, cocktails, and, of course, the beach. Despite his undeniable talent for stringing together a decent island melody, he has been criticized for his lack of depth, inane choruses, and complete willingness to sell out. It’s especially hard to argue with this last point, given that his intentionally shallow songwriting has spawned restaurant chains, hotels, casinos, a Broadway musical, and a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in 2015’s Jurassic World. In fact, I, too, used to look at Buffett as a cheap novelty hack in a Hawaiian shirt. But then, in a decidedly unsober state, I found an album in the attic of my friend’s dingy bay house. It was called Beach House on the Moon and it blew my fucking mind.
The first thing you might notice about Buffett’s seminal 1999 album is the cover. Center frame… Jimmy. He’s awkwardly crouching on some sort of rocky cove, dressed like a fun Grandpa and wearing a shit-eating grin of a silly billy Mississippian. Despite the unusually rocky terrain of the foreground, everything looks pretty normal.
“Alright, it’s an album about a beach house! Pretty typical Buffett stuff,” you might say to yourself.
You’d be wrong. Looming in the sky behind Jimmy is the Earth. You see, this isn’t an Earth beach house. This is a beach house on the moon. A motherfucking beach house on the fucking moon.
With this cover alone, Buffett lets us know that his album is going to be really stupid… and it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to paint Buffett as some secret genius who has been unfairly maligned by the iPhone addicted youngsters. He’s a hack, there’s no denying that. But in Beach House on the Moon, Jimmy Buffett acknowledges this. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. He celebrates it. To put it lightly, the album is a 55-minute anti-intellectual screed that embraces everything from the absurd to the inane. Throughout the album, he sings of his hate for education, the pointlessness of self-betterment, and, most importantly, the eponymous beach house on the moon. What saves his album is the “fuck it” energy he imbues in every track. You just can’t help but love it. In other words, Beach House on the Moon is not a stupid album, but an album about stupidity. And what better source to explore stupidity than the stupidest songwriter in the stupidest music genre ever?
There’s no real point in examining the album on a song by song basis, but there is one track worth discussing…the legendary “Math Suks.”
This song’s level of idiocy reaches godlike transcendency. First of all, the title. What a perfect fucking title. I mean, it gets to the goddamn point, something that hoity-toity “smart” bands, like, I dunno, The Beatles, never quite grasped (“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey?” We get it, Lennon, you’re smart). Plus, the song title has the added subtlety of misspelling the word “sucks,” making it clear that our narrator gives little a shit about English to boot. This anti-scholarly perspective is echoed throughout the entire song. Buffett’s desire to “kill the guy” who invented math and “burn [his] textbook” rings true for any 4th grader busy shoving crayons up his nose during class. By ending his song with the repetition of the phrase “math sucks, math sucks, math sucks the big one,” Jimmy Buffett establishes himself as a hero to all those who are too busy doing cool shit (sex, drugs, and listening to Jimmy Buffett) to care about school.
Now that we’ve discussed perhaps the greatest song in the American catalog, I’d like to talk about the album holistically as Buffett’s personal endorsement of self-indulgence. For example, on “Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling,”
a heartbreaking ode to lost love, Buffett declares that there is “no dumb ass vaccine,” effectively shrugging off any chance for self-betterment. Once again, we find him aligning with the idiots of the world. Later in the album, he takes down the American institution of jogging, dismissing it as simply “running around” and nothing more. Furthermore, on “Flesh and Bone,” he complains about the advances of the digital world, stating with no uncertainty that he is “light years behind from the age they call stone.” Finally, on “I Don’t Know and I Don’t Care,” he, well, he doesn’t know things and he doesn’t care. Clearly, Buffett is making revolutionary claims that celebrate foolishness, laziness, and ignorance. In an age where everyone is trying to be the smartest of the smart, Buffett’s embrace of low culture is commendable, to say the least.
Listen, I get it. We all want to think of ourselves as intelligent. More often than not, we like to think of ourselves as smarter than we actually are. There’s a reason why artists like Father John Misty and the Talking Heads have mainstream appeal. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think if we all shared Jimmy Buffett’s acceptance of stupidity the world would surely fall apart. That being said, it still is refreshing to see a maligned artist embrace the uglier sides of his own humanity. At the end of a century, Jimmy Buffett looked at all his critics and delivered the musical equivalent of an exaggerated fart noise. Peeling off the friendly sunbaked exterior of his beach bum persona to reveal a dark and twisted psyche, he declared, “Hey I’m stupid and that’s ok!”
Sometimes I wish I had his balls. I wish I could strap myself in a rocket with my Big Bang Theory box set and journey to his mythical beach house on the moon. It may not be the smart way out, but it sure is the Buffett way out. Who are we kidding if we try to say that he isn’t happy?
If you want the full album, I’ll leave it down here.
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