John Mark Nelson’s “Waiting and Waiting” was not worth the wait


Just what the music world needs: another Neil-Young-ish singer with shallow pipes and songwriting that, at its best, is pedestrian. That’s what you get with Minneapolis musician John Mark Nelson’s new album Waiting and Waiting. Young’s greatest saving grace has always been his solid skill with putting a melody together with some interesting lyrics—usually over surprisingly simple chords. When the songs are strong, you tend not to mind so much that he can’t sing a lick. With not a lot of strength to his voice, on Waiting and Waiting Nelson doesn’t have a capable hand with the songcraft to pull him through.

“Home,” for instance, begins with a sing-songy chorus of “oohs” accompanying a pleasant if not intriguing ditty. Then, Nelson sings nonsense in thin, lackluster tones. “Only now and then do I see your face/ Another lonely afternoon has put me in my place/ I hate to hope to hold you but I have to confess/ When the winter turned to spring I found you pounding in my chest.” The words here want to paint a picture but don’t create any imagery. And the closings lines, desperately amateurish, go “Wake up! Won’t you wake up please?/ You will know the difference when I sing and when I bleed/ Help me help you stand up tall!/ We will shout in grateful voices ‘We’ve got nothing at all.’” Standing up tall to be grateful for nothing at all? These are random lines plucked out of nowhere and stuck together for the sake of rhyme and in hopes that they’ll be mistaken for a subtle and poetic sensibility.

“Overture,” which opens Waiting and Waiting, is flat-out ridiculous. Done up to approximate classic country music—complete with a recreation of the static-plagued old-time radio shows that really is pretty clever—it has the trappings of a smart homage but comes off as a slick imitation. Including the lyrics, “Baby, are you mine all the time?/ Sometimes when you stay out at night I wonder if your love is true/ Baby, I will be waiting here for you to come home.” What could have been a witty little cut starts the album off as a throwaway, all originality having gone completely by the wayside.

The album is a self-contained outing. All songs written, arranged, performed, recorded and mixed by John Mark Nelson. Frankly, he could’ve used some help with the creativity.

8 thoughts on “John Mark Nelson’s “Waiting and Waiting” was not worth the wait

  1. “Desperately amateurish”?  Dear reader: go check out Dwight Hobbes’ music.  It’s generic, sonically thin, 70’s soul rip-off/regurgitated, lyrically cliched, boring, unoriginal garbage.  A) He obviously doesn’t get this music and B) He’s just jealous that this kid has accomplished more in the last 3 months than he has in his entire non-existant musical career.  

    Mr. Hobbes, you don’t have to like it but to tear it apart like this is unnecessary and simply in poor taste.  Oh and based on your youtube video, you might want to learn how to play the guitar and sing in time (you know, basic musical skills) before you go bashing a clearly competent, arguably prodigious 18 year old kid.  What’s wrong with you???  “Shallow pipes?”  “…not a lot of strength to his voice?”  It’s folk-pop, not opera.  Have you heard yourself sing?  You are no Pavarotti.  Get a clue.   

  2. You sound incredibly arrogant when you dictate that Nelsons’s lyrics are “random”. As if you are in a position to decide. You have no clue what influenced the song, what the words mean to him, and what he’s going for. Some constructive criticism would be nice, instead of simply putting down his music. A child could have written your review; your tone of voice and simplistic writing make it clear you are not on the side of the music industry nor new music. I think it’s very impressive that he wrote the whole album by himself. Good for you Nelson.

  3. Sorry Friend, but all you have to your name are 3 mediocre open mic performances. In each of these performances, you hopelessly strum a dismal three chord pattern while trying to stuff a little soul into your pathetically tired voice. This goes without saying, “Pretty Girl” and “End it All Over Again” sound identical.

    John is an extrodinarily talented musician with a great ability for constructing coherent, emotional tunes. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but you are just being rude. I’m happy to see your stagnating in a field of mediocrity. 

  4. Wow.. What a mean spirited review. It almost sounds personal. Picking apart the lyrics was just stupid because you could do that to literally every song by the beatles, or the stones.. The dude is 18 for christ sakes. The twin cities does tend to cheerlead their musicians too much but instead offering fair critisims you have totally trashed the album for what comes across as personal reasons.

  5. I heard this guy on NPR this AM, checked out “Moon and Stars” on the web and bought Waiting and Waiting from iTunes.  Listen through on the way to work and a second time at work.  The songs hold up well so far.

    I do not know the artist and am in no related to the production of this album.

    I found the songs to be very well written, especially for someone so young. The melodies and arrangements are far above average for many of the folk artists I see here at various Chicago venues.  Lyrically they are pretty strong.  It may not be perfect but it’s an excellent beginning effort.  His voice is soft, but not weak.

    My 2 cents.

  6. Just what the music world needs, another shitty cynical critic who has absolutely no idea what he is talking about and uses big words and metaphorical sentences in hopes of confusing the average reader otherwise. I would love to see what’s up with your musical talent but obviously you have none otherwise people would be writing about you…not the other way around. Nobody asked for your opinion, save your hate for big time recording artists that you probably worship, not some kid from Minnesota who only plays shows in and around his hometown. Kook.

  7. I know everyone is intitled to their opinion. But man have you got this all wrong! You mention that Jon Mark Nelson is a”singer with shallow pipes and songwriting that, at its best, is pedestrian” I can’t dissagree more!! His voice is actually so increadibly mature for his age. I think anyone would be lucky to have a voice like his. I am amazed that you don’t apperciate the talent that he has. Sure this type of music might not be your cup of tea- but then you have no business analyzing it. You need to stick to what you know and clearly this is not something you are an expert on. Also a musicians lyrics are always personal. So just because you don’t find meaning in them, doesn’t mean that there simply isn’t meaning in them. I for one believe they are much more powerful and deep than alot of songs even by the artists who have made it big. I just think you need to learn more about music before you can be a good constructive critic. And for your information John Mark Nelson’s songs have been on the raido, on the news, and now on MTV. So if everyone else in the music world thinks he is worth something and you don’t then you need to open your ears and actully listen.

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