Between Rock and an Indie Place: “Control (Secretly Sorry)” by JR JR

Random fact: This is the only band that I know of who has undergone a major name change successfully. The band JR JR — formerly known as “Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.” — released their single, “Control (Secretly Sorry),” earlier this year in October. They’ve just come off their nationwide fall tour, and the indie-pop band now gets to celebrate the widespread success of the song.

As the title insinuates, the song demands attention and takes control of the listeners immediately with loud, fast, and upbeat electronic music. Everything about this song is directly in-your-face. They do not hold back on the ‘kitchen sink’ use of what I’m assuming was every instrument they had available to them.

At first, “Control (Secretly Sorry)” really took me by surprise and I found myself extremely uncomfortable listening to it. After listening to it a few times, however, I think I’ve uncovered a deeper meaning. The lyrics suggest that listeners shouldn’t follow the loudest voice blindly for the sole reason that it grabs aggressively. This message is applicable to so many facets of contemporary society such as advertising, politics, literature, or music.

The juxtaposition between telling listeners to be cautious about what they listen to and the incredibly loud — and honestly somewhat obnoxious — electro music actually creates for an entertaining contrast. These lyrics, for example, are basically warning listeners not to let the media and other sources “control” what they’re consuming:

“Careful of who you let control
the people that you know.
Caffeine, mutations in your genes,
religion, and vaccines.”

It’s sort of a fun way of introducing young people to sophisticated, Orwellian ideas to watch out for who they should trust.

During a turning point in the song where the rhythm and instruments dramatically and abruptly change, the lead singer shouts, “I’m secretly sorry.” I interpret that as a disclaimer saying, “We’re sorry if our music ever determined the way you live your life.” The lyrics to this song are explicitly telling listeners to BE YOURSELF. Honestly, when is that not a good reminder? Sometimes, it seems like people fall into this trap of obediently following others because it’s what they’ve been taught to do.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this single at first because it was a bit too hard and fast for me (jeez, maybe I’m getting too old), but it has really grown on me. I just really love the message that it sends. Also, I somehow seem to hear a new instrument every time I listen to it. There is just so much going on in it. JR JR is really a fantastic, talented duo who deserve the recognition they receive.

— Noah Slowik, Music Blogger & Fiction Editor

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