Thirty Seconds To Mars 'America' (Album Review)
Thirty Seconds To Mars return with their 5th studio album 'America' the follow-up to 'Love, Lust, Faith + Dreams'. Recently the band which now, only consists of Jared & Shannon Leto has come under fire by fans for going too commercial with their most recent album 'America'. The band found success from their sophomore album 'A Beautiful Lie' with hits like 'The Kill (Bury Me)', 'From Yesterday', and 'Attack'. Their 3rd album 'This Is War' was their career defining record which launched MARS to superstardom releasing songs like 'Kings & Queens', 'This Is War', 'Closer To The Edge', and 'Hurricane'. Today their newest album has had mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Fans have either praised the new direction the band has gone or have completely ripped it apart calling the band "sellouts'. After nearly a week of listening to the album in it's entirety I can whole heartedly say the album is not perfect but it's not bad or as bad as people have said it to be.
The first song on the record is the first single released by the band late last year, 'Walk On Water'. WOW is a good example of the new direction Thirty Seconds To Mars is heading, lyrically the song is very political, a call to arms. The mixing and sound of the song are good but contemporary as well. 'Dangerous Night' is where the band/duo jump into their more pop sound. The music itself sounds good but very overproduced, the added layers of instrumentation don't add much to the song which would be great if the song had more of the guitar chords heard leading into the chorus. At it's core the song is a love song and will hit the right demo the song is aimed at. 'Rescue Me' at the start excites me with the guitar play but quickly adds the percussion synths which is a good touch but the layer of strings in the song keep me more engaged during the chorus, and just as Leto belts "Rescue Me" the song samples a little EDM that doesn't fit and only serves as a bridge into the second verse. The sound isn't as original. Lyrically the song is at it's best, with what sounds like the inner conflict Jared has but again doesn't fit the music and could really pack a punch with the right instrumentation. Good lyrics, good music but it just doesn't fit. 'One Track Mind (feat. A$AP Rocky)' is a slower song with the percussion and synth dictating the beat and speed, it's a simple song musically and Jared's voice is great with the whisper element but I don't know what the song is about. After many repeat listens I think Leto just strung up some words and that was it. Unlike many people I don't mind the song but it doesn't feel real or at the very least genuine. 'Monolith' is the instrumental song of the album and serves as a great middle for the second half of the album. What 'Monolith' proves is that the band can still produce a good song with the bombastic horns and intense strings attached to it. If anything the song is a great example of how good the band would be if they decided to score a film. 'Love Is Madness (feat. Halsey)' is actually a good song and I feel it's what Leto really feels about the concept of love. The song itself is a lot of the EDM that the duo is experimenting with, and at times it works, especially when Halsey and Leto are singing during the chorus. The horns blast and it feels epic but it shouldn't feel epic, lyrically the song should feel more subdued like 'One Track Mind' but at the same time it feels like a statement that Leto is making about his view on the notion of love. We arrive to 'Great Wide Open', the 7th song on the album and it serves as the albums ballad of sorts and I think the inspiration for the albums name 'America'. Musically the song is a great listen and very soothing. This is also the first time Leto has ever used his falsetto and it sounds quite nice. The song is a pleasant and welcomed surprise from the other songs on the album. The lyrics are especially powerful, "set me free" is the one line I find interesting and is the one Leto sounds the most vulnerable in. 'Hail The Victor' is another song that feels too over produced and I'm not sure what it's about. It's another call to arms type song which, since 'This Is War' the band has been known for but this song doesn't feel necessary. The song reminds me of a lot of the songs produced on Panic! At The Disco's 'Death of A Bachelor', okay songs with no real meaning or message. 'Dawn Will Rise' is another song that doesn't need to be on the record. I think if the music in the song stayed the same but the name of it was changed it could work better. 'Remedy' is the first song on this track that has a clear message, meaning and it isn't Jared Leto singing. Shannon Leto who in his own right is a great musician shines in the song. The simple guitar and lack of over-production help it stand out and is a pure joy to listen to. More Shannon please. 'Live Like A Dream' is the 11th song in the album and it's a song that along with Remedy showcase the best of the band which is a clear meaning behind the lyrics and music. You can understand what Jared is saying more and it feels like a send off. The song has it's "ooh ooh's" but damn it Thirty Seconds To Mars make it sound good. 'Rider' is the last song on the album and musically it feels like a culmination and fits the placement on the album. Musically the song is great and it further proves my point that I have made above that the production MARS bring to their song-writing could be great as a film score.
Overall, 'America' is a very unsuitable name for the album. Some of the songs lyrics and music don't fit well together or even at all. You can definitely tell the writing on this album wasn't lazy but directionless which probably made it even harder to write and why we have songs on this album that don't feel like they belong on an album together. At it's best if you took half the songs off this album they would make decent EP's. As for the stand-outs, 'Remedy', 'Live Like A Dream' and 'Great Wide Open' are a nice step to a different sound MARS are wanting to continue and explore and that aren't a huge departure that it leaves you scratching your head. The best way I can describe this album is with an analogy, MARS tried learning to run before learning to walk. A few good steps and then they stumbled. Is 'America' perfect? No, but it has potential with the 3 songs mentioned above that were stand-outs. It wasn't as bad as fans and critics made it out to be but it did feel at times directionless. Every band has an album that isn't universally loved but it doesn't mean that the band has disrespected you or forgotten about the fans. Bands grow, they succeed, they fail, they learn from those failures and they are better for it. Not a failure but room for improvement.