How I feel about Hobo Johnson’s divisive song, “Peach Scone”

By Leah Ogden

For the past few weeks, there’s been one song I’ve seen everywhere: Hobo Johnson’s “Peach Scone.” Across all of my social media feeds I’ve witnessed people posting about this track, attaching its harmless album art of a scone that’s almost…kind of cute.

Hobo Johnson, originally Homeless Johnson, is a musical artist who tries to avoid being labeled as a rapper, but pretty much is. In 2015, Johnson debuted with an album, titled “Hobo Johnson’s 94 Corolla”— a joke about his living situation. He went on to release another album of his spoken word, alternative hip-hop music in 2017 called “The Rise of Hobo Johnson.”

As I continued to come across these posts, I noticed that each arbitrary take I saw on the song had one thing in common— they were all just tearing this guy apart! Seeing these specific, targeted criticisms of the songones that peg him as whiny, weak, and even creepy— made me morbidly curious. I had to see if this song was actually that bad.

Of course, its reception hasn’t been entirely critical. This new single apparently kicked his 2017 album to the top ten on the iTunes hip-hop charts. Its music video also went viral, pulling in over 11 million views. At age 23, he even has an NPR Tiny Desk performance, in which he’s backed by his band, performing as “Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers.”

As I checked the song out, the first thing that stood out to me is the spoken word element. I like this about Hobo Johnson, because it’s unique and sets him apart from the rest of what else I’ve seen of modern, SoundCloud-esque hip-hop/rap. The poetry-like platform leaves him room to do interesting things with the song; it seems to switch from an out pour of emotions, which he shouts erratically, but then, he also adds bits of one-sided dialogue. I find this pretty neat, but of course, I wonder if it’s the reason people dislike it so strongly. I do understand this aversion; it’s a little weird, and definitely not for everyone, but in general, my concern has been about the harshness I’ve seen.

Something else I’ve noticed about these performances is that as a creator, Johnson makes himself transparent. I feel like I know what he’s about from just listening to a fraction of his work and running a few quick searches, and I think this works well with the image he’s portraying.

As of now, I understand that he’s basically forged a brand around being a lonely, starving artist type, who lives in a car and doesn’t attempt to hide any of the pity he holds for himself and his romantic pursuits. Being able to see this as respectable vulnerability, rather than a laughable attempt at being artistic, has to go in hand with enjoying the song.

The lyrics of this song fall somewhere between cringe worthy and raw, although a few do come off as downright pathetic. That is to say, you get a lot of real hurt through some lines, like the chorus, where he states:

“I love the thought of being with you
Or maybe it’s the thought of not being so alone
I don’t know, the second one’s way sadder than the first one”

These kinds of lines make me think, “okay, this kid isn’t doing so great, but he’s somewhat self aware.”

But then, of course, the song is also riddled with corny references of Jay-Z, pastries, and even Johnson and his own band members. These are the ones that make him seem a little ridiculous.

Valid criticisms I did pick up on touch on the ideas behind some of the track’s less savory lyrics. Yeah, the song is about a guy who seems unsatisfied when it comes to girls, portraying an attitude that reminds me a lot of indie-punk-pop bands Modern Baseball’s— but I found the narrative to be mostly acceptable, in a “whatever, I’m happy for you” sort of way.

However, there’s a few extremely questionable sections, for example:

I’ll act friendly and I won’t pull any stunts
But I’m a freaking stunt puller from birth
So I don’t know what to tell you
If I try to confess my love”

I cringe at this part! It’s not great for gathering sympathy. I find that a lot of the song could be relate-able, but lines like this make me feel that if I knew Hobo Johnson personally, I wouldn’t want to be his friend.

My final take on the matter is that people are talking about “Peach Scones” because it’s catchy, and I believe it’s entirely valid to like a song for this value alone. The repetitive riff and classless vocals of the song appear lazy, yes, but the song has found a way inside my head for sure. I’m not saying everybody should like the song at all— I don’t consider myself a fan, nor have I bothered with their other work— but after all of the buzz, one thing I do feel strongly about is that it’s okay to like this song…and you probably shouldn’t trash it just because a bunch of kids who think they’re music critics decided to first.