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What does "Karma" by AJR mean?

What does "Karma" by AJR mean?

“Karma” Lyrics Meaning

The singer of “Karma” (not necessarily Jack Met, though it is likely from his perspective) is questioning his view of karma, now that after a year of honorable and selfless living his life appears to be declining, and he is still “feeling empty.” The song takes place during a meeting with his therapist, where he tries to explain that he has done everything possible to do good, and still he suffers through no fault of his own.

“Doctor, should I be good this year?”

This line encompasses the question that the song “Karma” asks: “If nothing changes when I do good, is there any point in doing the right thing?” The point of view the song is sung from is likely autobiographical and from the perspective of Jack Met, one of the three members of AJR. However, because it is not yet certain if the song is autobiographical or only borrows a detail or two from Jack Met’s life, he will be referred to as “the singer”, meaning the narrator of the story “Karma” tells.


I’ve been so good

I’ve been helpful and friendly

I’ve been so good

Why am I feeling empty?

I’ve been so good

I’ve been so good this year

I’ve been so good

But it’s still getting harder

I’ve been so good

Where the hell is the karma?

I’ve been so good

I’ve been so good this year

The chorus underlines the central theme of “Karma”, the idea that what is put out into the world should be given back in equal measure. The singer is frustrated because he has “been so good this year” and has made himself “helpful and friendly,” but rather than see his life improve he feels as though things are “still getting harder.” This leaves him confused and asking himself, and his therapist, “Where the hell is the karma?”

Verse 1

Why are you asking me why?

My days and nights are filled with disappointment

Fine, oh, no, everything’s fine

I’m not sure why I booked today’s appointment

Although the singer hasn’t yet revealed that the person he is addressing is his therapist or someone with a similar occupation, it becomes clear later. His therapist is asking him “Why [his] days and nights are filled with disappointment?” To which the singer responds “Why are you asking me why?” He doesn’t know why his life appears to be going downhill. He sarcastically tells his therapist that everything is fine and he is “not sure why [he] booked today’s appointment.” His desire to not discuss the details of his current life is a sign that they are even worse than he is willing to discuss in the privacy of his therapy session.

Verse 2

What? Am I normal or not?

Am I crazier than other patients?

Right, I’ve done everything right

So where’s the karma, Doc? I’ve lost my patience

The roles switch slightly in this verse. Instead of being the one trying to answer the question of why his life is in ruins, he asks the therapist. “Am I crazier than other patients?” is asked either in a desperation to understand why he can’t make sense of his life, or is a sarcastic comment pointed toward his therapist who the singer thinks is likely blaming his poor circumstances on the singer’s faults. He responds to this unspoken accusation by declaring it’s not his fault and he has “done everything right. / So where’s the karma, Doc? I’ve lost my patience.” He wants to know when life will turn around for him as a result of the good things he has done.


Time, I know we’re out of time

But what if sad thoughts come and I can’t stop it?

Bye, I don’t wanna say bye

If only I could keep you in my pocket

To give me some diagnosis of why I’m so hollow

Please give me instructions, I promise I’ll follow

I tripped on my ankle and fractured my elbow

But doesn’t that mean that the tour’s gonna sell, though?

I try to explain the good faith that’s been wasted

But after an hour, it sounds like complaining

Wait, don’t go away, can I lie here forever?

You say that I’m better, why don’t I feel better?

The universe works in mysterious ways

But I’m starting to think it ain’t working for me

Doctor, should I be good, should I be good this year?

The singer laments that and his therapist have run out of time. He still feels completely unprepared to handle the negative events taking place in his life (though they are not detailed). To stall for time he asks his therapist “what if sad thoughts come and I can’t stop it?” He wishes he could bring the wisdom and comfort of his therapist with him “in [his] pocket” so that he could finally receive “some diagnosis of why [he’s] so hollow.” He wants the “instructions” to follow, the magic formula to change his life for the better. He attempts to be optimistic and say that because he tripped on his ankle and fractured his elbow the tour will sell. Though this line is a little confusing, it does provide a strong case for this song being autobiographical in nature. He tries to tell his therapist that every time he attempts to “explain the good faith that’s been wasted” as he waits for karma to work, “it sounds like complaining.” He concludes with the desperate confession that while “the universe works in mysterious ways” he believes “it ain’t working for” him. Finally, he asks the question that’s been plaguing him. If the good he does, doesn’t guarantee a good life, “should [he] be good this year?”

Deeper Meaning of “Karma” by AJR

“Karma” is a song that most people who have gone through difficult times have related to for at least a moment. When we do our best to be good people, it can feel as though we should get something back for that. It can feel like we deserve to have a job, a significant other, no student loans, kids who appreciate us, or parents who love us. Whatever stage of life, there is something inside that can make us feel entitled to good when we do good things. Many people who don’t believe in “karma” still probably find it unfair when there is an injustice in this way. The thing we need to come to terms with is why do we do those good things in the first place? Is it simply so good things will happen to us? If that’s the case, we’re missing the point. Doing good things is rewarding, yes, and often blessings follow. But the motivation can’t be us getting what we want if we hope to be fulfilled in life. As hard as it is, the struggle to do the right thing regardless of the consequences is worth pursuing, and it helps us build character. At the end of the day, it’s better to be proud of our actions, than comfortable in our lives. But, as the song “Karma” reminds us, it’s only human nature for us to desire both, and to feel hopeless when we don’t get it. It is the realization that we have contributed to something bigger than ourselves that gives us purpose and allows us to continue trying our best to do the right thing through difficult times.

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