“Joker” by Jesse®

The artist behind the song “Joker”, Jesse Rutherford, is one who has experienced his most notable success as part of The Neighbourhood, a rock band from his hometown of Newbury Park, California who have been around since the early 2010s. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Jesse®'s Joker at Lyrics.org.

Along the way, he has also been dropping solo projects and more recently, as of earlier this month, signed a solo contract with Atlantic Records. As such “Joker”, which came out on 28 March 2023, is his first track under his label, alongside an accompanying song titled “Rainbow”. And these two are apparently the only tracks featured on an EP Jesse dropped that same day titled “Joker & Rainbow”.

To note, the singer’s last solo project prior to this one is an LP called “GARAGEB&” (2019). But in 2022 The Neighbourhood went on hiatus, and it’s currently not clear when or if they’ll reunite. And it was that disbanding, as well as other events in his personal life including, as reported, having hooked up with pop sensation Billie Eilish, which compelled Jesse to come out with these songs, i.e. make more of an effort to propagate his individual career.

Besides Jesse, “Joker” was written by DJ Beef, Ralph Castelli and its producers, Lil Aaron, Dan Geraghty and William Van Zandt.

Lyrics of “Joker”

Jesse’s complete explanation of “Joker” isn’t the easiest to understand. But with it in tow and all lyrics considered, what is ascertainable is that he’s speaking to a concept such as his growth being stifled by the perception of others. 

That is to say that Jesse is in fact a celebrity, i.e. a public figure with fans and moreover a music star. And going back to his explanation, it’s as if under such circumstances, the fandom comes to define who you are. 

So then, the artist at hand is faced with sort of an inner struggle, i.e. who he is or who he wants to be against what others expect from him.

You may not be able to derive such a notion from the first verse of the song. Indeed, it’s quite difficult to determine what exactly Jesse is getting at initially. But near the end of the passage, the vocalist does allude to suffering from a sense of confusion due to others setting about to define him.

The second verse though relays its point clearer. As presented, it’s as if Jesse is lost in the music game, to the point that he’s “losing (his) faith”. Or alternatively explained, it’s as if the habits and associations he’s developed as a music star are inhibiting his personal growth. 

Basically his heart may have been fully into the scene when he first started. But currently, as implied in the bridge, he’s not as comfortable therein as he was before.

I am the “joker”

So concerning the term “joker”, it never actually appears in the song.  But what can be gathered, especially considering the way the lyrics conclude (i.e. the outro), is that Jesse is defining himself as being one. 

And what that would mean, taking all of the above into consideration, is that he has become more of a comical character if you will, taking on a role to appease the masses, than a man true to himself. And considering that he seemingly refers to himself as a “joker” in that regard, obviously the vocalist does not approve of his life having taken such a course.

So the conclusive sentiment is along the lines of Jesse not being willing to “play (their) game” anymore.  He “painted his face” and “made a new name” – sacrificed his identity – for the game. But now, it’s as if he’s come to realize that falling into that character so deeply is only making it that much harder to break free from it.

“Can’t play your game, so take me away
But without me, you’re incomplete
I’m the missing piece, trick or a treat
Smile on my face, laughin’ and jokin’
Usually lonely and if you hold me
I’ll make you stronger, I wanna do that
Oh, it’s drivin’ me mad
I want what you have”

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