True Talent: Ronald Jenkees is the Keebler Elf of Music Snacks (YouTube Spotlight)
Ronald Jenkees (video below) succeeds where many others try and fail, and this is why he's probably better than what you're listening to at any given moment. Like few others, he is able to take complex/strange musical ideas and package them in way that you don't need prepackaged condescension to appreciate. He's a YouTube star, self-taught and autonomous in his playing/production, and releases his own music (of which the proceeds go directly to him). Most importantly, his positive example and attitude make you consider important elements of music that other artists largely ignore.
He may be considered 'old news' by some, but the truth is he still isn't as well known as he should be. And he has a new album, Days Away, released last November. It's just as good as anything he's ever done, which means it's awesome. Jenkees is exactly what our vapid culture needs, and here's why:
First, and perhaps most importantly, Jenkees looks genuinely thrilled to be playing music and wants you to feel that same feeling. One of his best YouTube tracks dedicates the whole last minute of his video to encouraging young musicians to keep practicing. Why? Because music is fun as shit. Remember when Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and then ripped a bong and someone somewhere got pissed? That’s a guy who has felt pure joy, and that's kind of what music is like if you let it take over you – swimming and chron. Ronald Jenkees is important because he not only wants to share that joy with you, he wants you to experience it yourself through your own creation, and that's dope. This puts him in league with Bob Ross and Tim the Tool Man Taylor, so think about that.
Secondly, he ralphs out pro tracks like his breakfast was warm milk and dirty chicken. Jenkees plays riffs that the average person uses an arpeggiator to create, and he's tight enough that you can't tell the difference unless you see him play.
He is a soundsmith, combining hard-to-mesh timbres with dedicated production. Add to this the factor of making your arrangements original and compelling, and you realize how much time Jenkees puts into his music for the sake of doing it right, even the simple stuff. Some of these sounds may remind you of video games, or perhaps pop songs you thought were terrible – but it works. Listen to all of the different sounds in 'Early Morning May.' Realize that they all fit together perfectly despite being so varied in texture and volume, and you'll see what I mean.
Thirdly, it's all about the details. There's a moment in the Youtube hit, 'Stay Crunchy,” where he hits this one weird note (2:20). You don't know why, but the refrain that you've now heard three times becomes not only new and fresh, but entirely badass, stronger than before. Maybe you considered Jenkees' use of a raised 7th over a minor chord, or maybe you totally missed it, or maybe you felt a twinge in your loins – it doesn't matter. The point is, it's there because he took the time to put it there, and this gives his music depth, which makes it interesting, which makes it important. These kinds of little treasures litter Jenkees' tunes and allow different people to feel his beats in different ways. You wanna rock out? Fine. You wanna geek on details? Fine. Both? Fine.
And finally, the best part about Jenkees? He successfully combines the worlds of esoteric music and having fucking fun. Jenkees sets a good example because he is not self-conscious about combining intricate arrangement and harmony with pop idioms that most would consider corny, played out, and/or stupid.
When it comes to music we hate, sometimes the problem isn’t that it’s ‘bad,’ but more that we hate the idea of its existence. You probably don’t hate Justin Bieber’s music as much as you hate that he appears to be selling transparently contrived songs and pandering to a pre-teen audience that maybe “doesn’t know better.” And that he’s so successful doing it. Remove this context and you’ll see Bieber’s songs for what they mostly are: extremely catchy and well arranged.
For Ronald Jenkees, the negative musical context surrounding certain sounds he uses is negated by his sincere intentions and charisma. Thus, Jenkees is able to reframe what you once maybe thought was bad, generally, into being something good, generally, and that’s kind of a mind fuck because maybe you shouldn’t have presumed to know what’s good and bad all this time. The larger point Jenkees proves is the stupidity of anyone calling anything objectively good or bad ever, because opinions change.
“Phil, I can tell you really like Ronald Jenkees, but I think you’re taking this all a little too far.” Yeah, probably. Still, the respect that Jenkees shows to different shades of music, even the music that is looked down upon by music dicks, demonstrates an understanding of why music is important to begin with: It affects us and that’s it. So support this guy and his new album.
Edit 2/18: Intro changed to reflect that Jenkees sells his own music and that you should buy it.