Yesterday was the Fourth of July, a day of celebration for many in this country. However, the brothers that make up the pop-rock alternative band AJR, were instead in mourning after the loss of their father, Gary. On Saturday July 1, the group shared a deeply emotional post across their social media platforms explaining the dire situation that their time with their father Gary was coming to an end. He had been battling an undisclosed illness for the past year.
Unfortunately, Gary passed away on July 3, 2023. The group shared another message on their Instagram, this time taking a moment to share Gary had indeed passed, they thanked their fan base for the outpouring of support, and they also surprised their fans with a new song, titled “God is Really Real”. In their post, the trio made clear this was their decision to share this song, instead of waiting for the new album to be released, perhaps going against their new record label’s wishes because the song is not available on music streaming platforms at the moment; it is available exclusively on the band’s YouTube channel.
Outpouring support from the Fan Base
In recent years, Gary has developed a cult following from AJR’s loyal fan base, and many fans who were fortunate to meet him when they attended an AJR concert, many of those who met him were eager to share their photos with him online as if it were a meet and greet with the band. Three members of the fan base put together a digital scrapbook for Gary with posts they gathered from other fans. They shared it on Twitter, and AJR’s Official Street team shared that the group did indeed see it, and Jack read Gary some of the messages the fans wrote to him on Saturday afternoon.
God is Really Real Reaction
This is one of the most emotionally charged songs I have ever heard. I listened to it three times, and I cried each time. It was not until my fourth listen that I got through it dry-eyed. The tribute song that Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met wrote for their dad is pure raw emotion, satire, and relatability all jam-packed into a song that clocks in at just under three minutes.
Despite going through a profoundly difficult situation, the song did not lose the unique sound and messages the band has become known and beloved for since their second album, The Click. Upon the initial listen, this song instantly reminded me of Taylor Swift’s “Soon You’ll Get Better” from her album Lover, the song was written about her mother’s health battle, and AJR’s was written about their dad’s.
Another element that makes the song so emotional is the group recorded the lyric video for the song at the hospital. The video was shot and edited by the band’s friend and tour photographer Austin Roa. The lines in the track that hit the hardest for me were “Life is f*cking long till it stops,” “Don’t wanna hear your problems, because there’s just one in my head, and he can’t get out of bed,” and “Karma just appears when you suddenly believe it.”
Something else that caught my attention in the song was the phrase “Manly Men,” which is assumed to be the album title since it matches the records abbreviation ‘TMM’. Despite months of excitement leading up to the album’s name release, I noticed that very few fans mentioned the leaked album title. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see an outpouring of compassion, empathy, and kindness from them. It was comforting to witness how the fan base prioritized what truly mattered: supporting three young men as they said goodbye to their father, rather than obsessing over an album title. It was rather refreshing to see such positivity on the internet, especially considering the often-negative climate.
The group canceled all of their upcoming shows for July, and at this time, it is unclear if their international dates will still be fulfilled in August as previously scheduled. The entire situation served as a lesson on why empathy and patience are vital, especially in the music community. Nobody ever knows what somebody else is going through behind the scenes, until it’s made public. Typically, when I’ve had a piece published on or around a Holiday, I end it by extending happy tidings; I’m going to do something different today. For some people, it may not be a happy day, so rather than wishing everyone a Happy Fourth or a good day, let’s just all have a day because we never really know how many days anyone has left. Rest in the beauty of paradise Gary Metzger. To the brothers of AJR and their entire family, the team at Culturess extends our condolences.
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