A lot of otherwise smart people reject Andrew WK. It’s misguided but understandable. Andrew WK can be a tough sell. His jolly metal motivational speaker vibe is fine in small doses. You can laugh it off and dismiss. Expending any more energy than that seems daunting.
But you’re cheating yourself by not going deeper into Andrew WK. Becoming an Andrew WK fan opens up a new, more vibrant world, but it entails a difficult emotional journey.
To celebrate today’s release of his first full-length album in nine years, You’re Not Alone, we’ve outlined the stages Andrew WK fans go through before they’re ready to party hard.
Andrew WK’s music isn’t perfect. You can focus on its imperfections if you want to make it feel small. So many of his songs are in major keys. Every sound is turned up as loud as possible. It all feels like one big song. The obsession with partying feels like a beer commercial or a frat party or some other incubator for toxic masculinity. The positivity smacks of manipulative pablum like The Secret and motivational speaking hucksters. And while Andrew WK has seven-plus albums, he only has one hit.
Wait a second, Andrew WK has how many albums? I thought he recorded I Get Wet in 2001 and fell off the planet. Nope. While we decided he was too much of a joke to pay attention to, Andrew WK created a deep, strange body of work. Two of his LPs, 55 Cadillac and Sessions:1 are improvised instrumental piano music. His Japan-only release Gundam Rock is an album of covers of songs from the anime series Gundam. In his music and public statements, he’s outlined a vision for “partying” that’s persuasive and expansive. He has a singular artistic vision that compels him to sail into unknown and strange waters.
Bargaining Through Irony
At this point, you’ve accepted that there’s something special and valuable about Andrew WK. The music and attitude is starting to pull at you, but you’re not yet willing to give in. It’s too goofy. You celebrate the spirit of partying but pretend you’re kidding. You can pull the “it’s just a joke” cord anytime you want to leave the free-fall of joy and abandon. You’re smarter and better than that. But then you encounter the sincerity and simple wisdom of Andrew WK’s letter of acceptance to being named the American Association of Suicidology’s person of the year and your armor of irony starts to chip and crack.
Shameful, Secret Sincere Enjoyment
“I Came for You,” the first song on the Close Calls With Brick Walls, is a Bowie/Springsteen howl into the void that lays WK’s artistic vision bare. WK hits that sweet spot of Dio-era Black Sabbath, Slade, Thin Lizzy, Survivor and Queen and you’re right there with him. You’ve accepted that he’s asking an important question: why do we feel bad about being happy? It sounds trivial but it cuts to the heart of the human experience.
His vision of partying, upon understanding, kind of knocks the wind out of you. It’s about community and exuberance in a world that wants to deny us those simple and essential things. Yes, it can involve drugs and booze but what are you, a cop? Fuck off with that shit.
There’s darkness hiding in plain site in Andrew WK’s music. We have to party because the alternative is death of the soul. His music is meant as an over-corrective. It’s over-the-top because it has to be. A lot of smart people are more comfortable with misery than happiness. He’s trying to shake us out of this fog.
And when he lays out his vision of partying, in this 2014 Village Voice article, it just sounds like a better way to live.
Joy brings out the best in us. Partying allows us to experience the best of that joy and be truly ourselves. Partying allows us to be close with other people that we wouldn’t necessarily connect with in other circumstances. To look over and see a total stranger lost in blissful happiness, smiling from the depths of their soul for no reason except that it feels good, and to understand exactly what they’re feeling because you feel it too. That is the magic of partying.
Acceptance. And Partying
Once you accept that Andrew WK is a pure shining force for good, a lot of things come into focus.
It’s easier to be miserable than it is to be happy in modern America. We’re alienated from and competing with each other for meager gig work. In social media and advertising, work is overvalued and fetishized, with advertising and social media celebrating “doers,” “the grind” and “hustle.” And what’s the point of all this toil? To build Chipotle restaurants and gain Instagram followers?
Meanwhile, we scoff at leisure. But leisure is important. It’s the time we spend with family and friends, feel the most comfortable and live our best lives. It’s time we look back at fondly when its over.
You can say Andrew WK is ridiculous for “partying,” but we’re being more ridiculous for not partying. Parties bring people together and gives life value. I’m not going to remember revising or proofreading this article, but I saw an Andrew WK concert sometime in the early 2000s and I still have a stranger’s smile from that night etched into my brain.
It’s been time to party for a while. We should be happy Andrew WK’s reminding us of that.