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The Strange Beauty of Jack Stauber

Credit: Mariana Cardenas

   Jack Stauber is an American independent musical artist who popularized the surreal, synth pop, and lo-fi style of music by using oddly nostalgic VHS claymation. Jack’s singing voice is unique, being described by listeners on the Wiki fan page as a cursive style due to him changing swiftly to a deep tone, then a high falsetto. He also uses this quirky voice to act out the countless characters featured in his shorts and musical stories. For instance, he is the narrator and Lima Bean Man for the “Lima Bean Man” song found on YouTube. 


How did Jack Stauber become a hit? 

       Jack Stauber has been uploading content since 2013 on his YouTube channel. At the time of writing, he had four albums. The one specific album that put his work on the front line was titled Pop Food, which was released in 2017 with a total of eleven songs, but two of these songs blew up due to the help of TikTok. 

  These songs were “Buttercup” and “Oh Klahoma.” Tiktokers used these songs for dancing trends as well as edits, introducing Jack’s funky beats. A fan-made animated music video made on YouTube by Lisuga aided with the repute of “Buttercup” and led to this video having a total of 247 million views. 

    At first listeners might think his lyrics are nonsensical because of the way he sings as well as his instrumentals, but Jack has confirmed on social media that every song he wrote has meaning and metaphor behind them. 

    Internet fans aren’t the only ones that aid in his popularity. Adult Swim also supported his artist’s career by showing his music videos on their YouTube channel and on HBO Max.  

A breakdown of SHOP: A Pop Opera 

    SHOP is an animated series shown on Adult Swim created by Jack Stauber. Each episode follows a shopper called “Jeff,” as he buys groceries on a list. On the surface it might just be an ordinary shopping trip with fun tunes, but on a deeper look you see it’s far from that. Each of the songs describes a different type of epiphany about life and existentialism.  

   First the episode titled “Milk,” opens with an unnamed young man having an impossible time deciding on which frozen yogurt flavor to sample.  He decides to give up for now and try it later. He then goes through his list and the first item on it is milk.  

  Before he could get the milk, he was stopped by this extremely elder lady shouting for pecan cookies, mishearing the young man and believing his name is “Jeff.” When he corrected her, a small conversation between the two revealed that she never had those kinds of cookies before. The young man said, “You should try it. They’re pretty good.” The old lady responded that she would try it later, very restively. He was about to give the cookies to her, but she vanished.  

   He continues shopping, grabbing the milk but notices it is expired. Then suddenly a song plays. It starts off like a dream sequence, strange and wobbly, showing the milk in photos as if it had a life, wondering and questioning what type of life the milk lived. The song shows how unexpected death is. At the end of the day, we are all going to die one way or another, using dairy products as a form of humor and absurdism to take the edge off the topic of mortality.  

“What kind of milk were you?”  

“What kind of life did you live through?” 

These lyrics ask you to reflect on your life as if you were dying. Do you like what you see or what you have done? This is not all dark because it also pushes the idea to try to live life to the fullest, like how the elderly lady went against putting out the cookies. The shopper went past this getting a fresh carton of milk. For me, this song motivates me to live life to the fullest and do things that overall will make me love the life I lived while I still can. 

The next song called “Bread” continues the shopping trip. The main character meets a snobbish man buying this multi-vitamin artisanal bread. But the twist is that he is buying it for his dog because he only gives the most highbrow food for himself.  

The main character stares deeply at the bread and whispers “Artisanal.” The song shows a world where our main character lives an artisanal life, but it’s not based on the food brand but living just for materials, using your riches to value your existence in life and to feel superior to others like the shopper we met. But this type of life can lead you to not actually knowing yourself due to objects being your only identity, referenced with the line “or is it excess when I talk less, and I let my things talk to me?” In the end without all your things, you’re nothing. Once again, the main shopper goes against this by choosing a normal wonder bread to do the job. 

Then the episode “Paper Towel” starts with a jar falling, then breaking into pieces. An employee walks by to clean up the mess, but he cuts his finger on the shattered glass. “Jeff” worriedly asks if he is okay, but the teenage employee responds monotonously, “Don’t worry, it’s just mine,” acting as if his blood is unimportant. “Jeff” tries to offer a solution, but the goth employee goes on a rant. “This glass shattered instantly. But it would take someone like you and me days, weeks to put it back together to how it was. And still, it will never be the same.” Our main shopper was trying to ask where the paper towels were until the word mess was spoken, beginning the segue to the song.  

This music segment starts off with crazy visuals, like an egg exploding and melty mixtures of clay. Out of the previous songs, this one is very straight forward. Messes are a key point of human life and are unavoidable. We learn from our messes, but to be hung up on those mistakes is pointless. This song has one of the most fun visuals with quick cuts and bright colors. The ending has him buying an indestructible washrag instead of buying paper towel. 

“Oatmeal” commences with “Jeff” blocking the path of a stressed-out shopper who rushes to get past “Jeff” on a tough time schedule. This character lets time control his life; even missing one second adds to his stress, holding him to an insanely tight schedule. “Jeff’s” eyes wander to the box of plain old oatmeal that has 100 bowls. This transitions to the next song. That focuses on using the same routine every day with no changes, letting time control you like a puppet with the fear of something sudden or unforeseen. This song means not letting the fear of time define you because things that aren’t in your control will happen due to that being a part of life—so try the new and unique.  

In “Coffee,” it shows “Jeff” meeting a caffeine-addicted woman going on and on about all the things she needs to do before she crashes. “Jeff” gives her more coffee to give her more energy. She finally notices, after all her endless talking about coffee, that she forgot to pick up her son. The song describes the issues of relying on substances for stabilizing yourself instead of finding a solution on your own.  

Finally, in the last episode “Cheese,” Jeff is excited to be finished with the shopping list. But once he reaches the cheese aisles, there is a humongous tower of cheese, which feeds on the main character’s fault, decisions. The song mimics the five stages of grief using cheese puns. He lets fate choose for him, but he then realizes he could have chosen something better. This is an epiphany that he should trust in his own judgment, breaking the chain shown in the beginning. The next song mentions all the lessons he learns during this trip to better himself as a person. He finally returns to the food sample table, grabbing the strawberry cup, loving the flavor. 


Jack Stauber Music Videos  

 Adult Swim: 


Adult Swim: 




Fan Made  

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    Braynon GayOct 16, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    Jack Stauber needs more recognition, I love this :)