Few bands can claim that they’re race-car driver approved; Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr was one of them. They got Dale Earnhardt Jr’s attention because, obviously, they used his name. He wrote to Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein in 2011, promising no legal action against the duo and describing himself as a fan. But now, they’ve moved on, and rebranded themselves as JR JR.
Which brings us to their first release under the new name: The self-titled JR JR, a euphoric, smoothly produced pop album. And while my cynical hipster heart hates the idea that anything so anthemic and catchy can be good, it balances its commercial appeal with enough introspective moments that I’m not ashamed it’s been stuck in my head all day.
Take “In The Middle,” for example. It’s an infectious dance track, but with gloomy under tones. “There’s a million ways to die,” they proclaim early in the song. Instead of singing about burning up the dance floor, they’re “standing in the fire,” their indecision rendering them “stuck to the floor.” Usually, name-based tracks are sappy love (or breakup) songs, but not JR JR‘s “Caroline,” which takes place in a hospital. And though you can imagine a stadium of fans pumping their fists and singing along to the chorus of “No one’s going to live my life for me” and “I don’t want to be you,” the verses reveal a more complicated situation as they ask, “How can I tell if it’s drugs or my feelings now?” and hint at a drastic change of identity.
Unfortunately, there’s no word yet from Dale Earnhardt Jr on his opinion of the duo’s new name and album; we probably won’t know until it’s released on September 25 via Warner Bros. Records. In the meantime, check out JR JR’s creepy-cool music video for one of the album’s key tracks, “Gone,” where dancers’ legs detach from their owners and run wild.