Music (General)

John Mellencamp - Underrated Songs


John Mellencamp - Underrated Songs
Check It Out

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2022-08-02
I just have one goal here: I want to turn you on to some John Mellencamp songs.

Even if you were born 20 years after his last #1 song ("Jack And Diane") you still know some of his music. "Hurts So Good", "Pink Houses", "Lonely Old Night", "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A." were pretty damn iconic. But through these songs I'm putting here for you to either rediscover or hear for the first time, I hope to make a strong case for John Mellencamp to be a tremendous and actually underrated songwriter.

The List

John Mellencamp has had ten Top 10 hits. Everything that follows NEVER made the Top 10.

Pink Houses (acoustic)

Before it became over played and something that turned up in Chevy truck ads during football games, this was a beautiful sentiment. Personally, I think it fares better in the acoustic version.

Minutes To Memories

Already in his early 30's Mellencamp was writing great songs about nostalgia. In fact, his biggest hits felt like nostalgia for things in present tense. Looking backwards on my early 30's myself, I really think this one was wise ahead of its years.

Check It Out

This is right in that late 80s sweet spot where he'd dropped the "Cougar" part of his name and was making great full records with that signature Kenny Aronoff drum sound and great fiddle.

Jackie Brown

I absolutely loved this album when it came out. More maturity in his songwriting, the same almost-country sound, and him taking control of his career. Yes, the song title was well before Quentin Tarantino got a hold of it.

Void In My Heart

As much as I love "Jackie Brown" as a beautiful ballad of somebody taking stock of his life, I love "Void In My Heart" from the same album even more because it sounds one of those songs that sounds like it was recorded at 3am.

When Jesus Left Birmingham

At this point (1994), Mellencamp started letting some of the sampled rhythm of hip-hop creep into his sound and evolve. I mean there's still acoustic guitar and it still sounds like him. But the sound is starting to not seem like Indiana's Tom Petty anymore.

Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)

It's a love song, but it's a Mellencamp love song, so there's still gonna be talk about cars and the radio in there. The chorus is so hooky & drummer Kenny Aronoff has figured out a cool way to play real drums alongside sampled drum beats.

Just Another Day

Really cool guitar sounds here. It's breezy and just fun. Sounds like it's being sung by a loner who lives around the corner from an aging Jack & Diane.

Your Life Is Now

OK, now we're cooking with gas. Personally, I think this is his masterpiece. Instead of looking backwards in nostalgia, this song reminds us to screw that way of thinking and that the present-and-beyond is all about possibilities. Just beautiful lyrically and musically. Please try it and give the words a good listen while you're tapping your toes. (I prefer this version over the slightly different album one since this one has the electric guitar bridge.)

I’m Not Running Anymore

From the same 1998 album as "Your Life Is Now", the still-slightly-weary but optimistic and fun version of John Mellencamp is the best.

End Of List

OK, I need to confess. Even though the John Mellencamp of the 1990s was scratching me right where I itched, I stopped buying his albums around then. Really no reason, I wasn't on strike. But his place in the music industry slipped a little more and I somehow forgot about checking out his new music even though I'd been loving what he was doing, and I've always felt like he was a true artist.

Accordingly, I think writing this post will get me to give his subsequent 8 or 9 albums a shot and discover some more favorites. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I really hope you give these songs here a shot. They really deserve their day in court and some might crawl into your ears and stay there.