I’ve heard it all: “He sounds so whiny”, “I cannot stand his voice”, “The way he sings is annoying”. These are just a few of the comments I’ve been told in the past regarding Jack’s Mannequin’s Andrew McMahon. These statements from friends have been following me since high school, and quite frankly, I have never found myself defending a musician as much as I have for Andrew McMahon. It isn’t merely because I personally love his music and want others to agree, and it isn’t because I happen to think he is extremely handsome. I have followed McMahon and remained a loyal fan (I admit that includes some swooning over him) since the days of Something Corporate, McMahon’s band before Jack’s Mannequin. So, needless to say, I was anxiously awaiting his next debut.
Rewinding to 2005, when Everything in Transit was finished and about to be released, something else, something devastating and unexpected was released as well: The news that McMahon had been diagnosed with leukemia. Worried and bewildered, myself and other fans digested the news. Naturally, I couldn’t help but wonder how the album release would be affected. Fortunately for us fans, the album released as planned, even as McMahon was bed-ridden and undergoing chemotherapy.
I went out to the store and bought the album as soon as I could. I couldn’t even wait to open it, so I unwrapped it eagerly and put it in the CD player of my car. What struck me the moment his voice came through my speakers was the fact that the first lyric of the entire album is: “She thinks I’m much too thin/She asks me if I’m sick.” It still strikes me as eerie to this day when I listen to Everything in Transit. Throughout the album, McMahon’s lyrics revolve around being sick, being in hospitals, and committing to medication. It’s as if the album he was writing predetermined his sickness before the doctors ever could. For example, in the song “La La Lie”, one of my personal favorites, McMahon sings “I’m far too unstable to settle/I doubt that the doctors are wrong.” Then, in “Rescued”, he sings, “I’m finally numb, so please don’t get me rescued…/And it’s unclear, but I think this may be my last song.” Finally, in the album’s last song, “Made for Each Other/You Can Breathe”, he shouts, “Someone get this man to a hospital.” One of the reasons this album is so precious to me is because in a way it made me feel like I was along for the ride, experiencing what McMahon was going through. Like the album’s opener, “Holiday From Real”, I was curious about his sickness and, similar to “Rescued”, I wondered if he would pull through and get, well, rescued. In fact, McMahon did get rescued. In late August of 2005, he received a stem cell transplant from his sister, Katie McMahon, which seemingly inserted life back into him.
On June 3, 2006 I saw Jack’s Mannequin in concert in Ft. Lauderdale. I remember it being one of the most anticipated days of my life. Aside from the album being so closely related to his ordeal that it was frightening, Everything in Transit also wound up being one of the most enjoyable albums I had ever listened to. Songs like “Holiday From Real”, “Bruised”, and “La La Lie” wound up being my anthems for having fun. I find few things as liberating as screaming my favorite lyrics from “Holiday From Real”, which are “Oh, it’s a picture of perfection. Ah, and the postcard’s gonna read ‘F**k yeah we can live like this.’” The show he put on in 2006 blew me away. McMahon had more energy than anybody I had ever seen on stage. Who else have I ever seen stand on his piano and play with his feet? Nobody. There was not the least bit of evidence showing his past year of battling for his life. The album takes me back to the days in high school where I spent every weekend at the beach with my friends. It reminds me that, as McMahon writes, “I’ve got friends who will help me pull through.” After that show, I stuck around the venue until about one in the morning to meet him. When he finally came out, I got what I wanted. I got to tell him that he was my hero.
So, back to the present and enough cheesiness, I defend Andrew McMahon for an array of reasons, but the main one being that he is a model of perseverance and strength for me. It astounds me that somebody who has been through such a difficult struggle still manages to be the one who wrote an album that reminds me of good times and perseverance more than any other in my collection. Sure, I’m not 15 anymore. Sure, I don’t frequently listen to Jack’s Mannequin. Yet, although Everything in Transit might collect some dust from time to time, it is the one album I reach for when I want a guaranteed smile on my face. Even though I’ve gotten older and more mature, as I would like to think, I still get ecstatic at the chance to see Jack’s Mannequin in concert (it’s been five times now). I still make sure I can get all the way up to the stage and I still scream and single along just as loudly as I used to.