After listening to Jack Johnson’s music, one may describe it as mellow, laid-back, chill, and even beach-y or surf-like. Before this project, I had never thought deeply about what genre of music Johnson fell into, mainly because I would usually describe his sound as one of the words listed above, or even as simply relaxing.


However, Johnson’s sound falls into several categories. After doing some research, his music seems to apply to the soft rock, folk, as well as acoustic genres. Primarily, the soft rock category surprised me at first. Anytime I hear or see the word “rock,” I immediately envision loud, hard instruments, screaming, etc. However, according to All Music, soft rock manifests a much different and lighter sound than that of pop or rock: “Soft Rock emerged in the early ‘70s, partially as a reaction to the extreme sounds of the late ‘60’s. Soft rock was commercial and inoffensive, taking the sound of singer/songwriter…but smoothing out all the edges…[it] relied on simple, melodic songs…” (All Music). Furthermore, soft rock “song lyrics tended to be upbeat and/or introspective rather than rebellious in nature” (Soft Rock and Related Styles).


Based off of the layout of soft rock, Johnson’s “My Mind is For Sale” seems to align with many of the characteristics from this category. First, it is stripped of the harsh sound and vocalizing of the rock genre. Secondly, it is much more simple and melodic – the instruments in this song range from light piano sounds, to guitar and drums. Johnson’s voice accompanies these light sounds with a very relaxed and soothing tone. He does not sound angry or harsh. Although the song sounds slightly upbeat, the lyrics are very introspective, thus also aligning with the soft rock genre.


Transitioning from soft rock into the folk genre, I was surprised to see that the folk genre actually experienced a revival in the 1960s, which is also the most common starting point for those of us who are fascinated with folk music. According to ThoughtCo., “One big effect of the ‘60’s folk revival…was that it marked the beginning of folk singers, on a large scale, writing their own material” (ThoughtCo.) Further, during this time, singers/songwriters also began writing entirely new melodies, no longer relying on the traditional melodies of the past. Although Johnson did not release his first song until 2005, I believe that he was and still is influenced by many of the singers and songwriters from the folk genre.


“My Mind is For Sale” definitely aligns with the genre of folk music – today, “the term [folk music] is given to songs that are played using instruments not typically seen in a rock or pop band” (ThoughtCo.) The main unifying element that ties folk music together is the fact that it draws from traditional American music sounds, such as the banjo or guitar. “My Mind is For Sale” incorporates these traditional sounds into its music, as the light guitar and various other string instruments are evident through its sound. However, something that confuses me about the folk genre and will develop into later research is the fact that Johnson’s music, as well as “My Mind is For Sale” does not align with the element of folk music concerning its development across groups of people. According to ThoughtCo., defining folk music is not so much concerned with the sounds of the music, but rather, its relevance across generations. These songs tend to be known widely by various groups of people, as well as stick around for quite some time (for example, “This Land is Your Land” or “This Little Light of Mine”). Although Johnson’s music is relatively well-known, I would not place his music or “My Mind is For Sale” into this element of the folk genre.


Lastly, Johnson’s music is often termed as being part of the acoustic genre. Acoustic music can be tagged by the fact that it is formed entirely by acoustic instruments – no electric instruments are present in these songs. (Ranker) Acoustic artists are those who are known most for having a majority of acoustic instruments in their songs, such as Jack Johnson. In “My Mind is For Sale,” Johnson’s instrumental choice aligns with the acoustic sound. Most prominent to me is always the acoustic guitar that is present behind Johnson’s music. The acoustic guitar, matched with Johnson’s voice, creates a relaxing, beach-y, surf-like sound, perhaps the reason why listeners often tag his music with these characteristics.


Looking forward to continuing my research…