You know that feeling when one of your favorite rock bands goes on a hiatus and you’re forced to spend years listening to mediocre music while you wait for that band to release new music, so that they can finally show the newbies what real rock music is supposed to sound like? Well, after a five-year break and a play upon an extremely over hyped concept, 30 Seconds to Mars debuted their fifth studio album, “AMERICA”, which hit just about every genre of music but rock, and was anything but original.
The story behind the album is to essentially tell the story of America, which seems fitting considering the title. However, none of the twelve tracks come off as political or having some sort of deep, inherent message addressing issues within our country. The album is a sad attempt of an iconic rock band trying to squeeze itself into the tight gap of ordinary, and extremely overplayed, pop music. The band’s lackluster comeback is a real let down when compared to their exceptional musical talent on previous albums.
The most creative part of the entire album is its packaging. The album has various different covers which list popular things in America, including but not limited to: Russia, Bitcoin, Logan Paul, spring break, fake news, Kanye and Apple.
The first song on the album, “Walk on Water”, is the most successful song on the album because it actually sounds like a rock song. A rock song from a rock band, what a concept! With strong, striking beats and a choir in the background echoing the lead singer Jared Leto’s voice, the song is very anthem-like and one of the few that has some sort of lyrical context.
The shouting of “times are changing” throughout the song initially sounded like it was referring to the current stance of our country and the overwhelming desire to create change, hence the album title. Unfortunately, that disire to create change started and ended in the three minutes it took to listen to the song. The more you listen to the album, the more it seems that “times are changing” is a reference to the band and its shift from authentic rock to uninspired pop.
“Dangerous Night” is the one song I wouldn’t skip if I came across it on a playlist, but that’s only because it sounds like every single pop song I listen to on the Top 40 list. The melody doesn’t fall flat and there is a nice contrast between the slow, dark synths and the fast rhythmic guitar in the chorus. However, the lyrics are quite bland and contains lines that can be found on any given modern song.
“Rescue Me” is both the third song on the album, and what I blurted out after listening to the album all the way through. Last I checked, the English language has at least 100,000 words. Why do I have to listen to Leto yell “Rescue Me” 25 times in three minutes?
The fourth song takes a dramatic change of tone from the rock band image the band has spent a decade trying to establish. Correction, the song takes TOO dramatic of a change. “One Track Mind”, featuring A$AP Rocky, was by far the least exciting of the bunch because of its mellow, monotonous beat and uninspired lyrics. If the point of the album is to inhibit change, shouldn’t the words be strong enough to make people want to listen? It was a failed attempt to be modern electronic sounding, which is extremely disappointing for a band who was once the prevailing image of rock music.
The addition of A$AP Rocky was supposed to make the song more relatable to a larger audience by sounding “cool and hip”, but lyrics like, “heard it’s only Thirty Seconds To Mars / and it took you even less just to get to my heart,” are just straight up cringeworthy. If not for the random uncomforting screech of “there isn’t any other way” by Leto in the middle of the song, you almost wouldn’t be able to identify this as a rock track.
Luckily, the fifth song, “Monolith”, was good enough to forgive the band for the previous disaster of a song. This one has my vote for best track on the album, but only because it’s instrumental. Heavy tuning aside, I could actually hear the fundamentals of rock in the song (at this point anything that sounds remotely like it came from an actual instrument is an answer to my prayers). Lyrics are my favorite part of any song, but I’d rather not have any if you’re just going to murder them.
The sixth song features Halsey, which I’m assuming is another attempt to break into pop music. “Love Is Madness” is a decent transition from the last song because it flows in the sense that it has the same dark and mysterious undertone. However, it feels like a Halsey song featuring Jared Leto, not a 30 Seconds to Mars song featuring Halsey.
“Great Wide Open” is just really sad and that’s the only description I can think of. It’s slow and sounds like any other heartbreakingly optimistic song ever, just with fewer lyrics. It’s extremely underwhelming, but on the bright side, the “Oh-oh”s that seem to be on every song, do not disappoint! I’m not sure if the “Oh”s serve an actual purpose, or if they are just an excuse to not have to be lyrically creative.
Song eight, “Hail to the Victor”, has a lot of potential. Not on a rock album, but most definitely as an EDM track. It’s a few words combined with super heavy synths and claps and there’s zero trace of a band whatsoever.
The ninth songs starts off with a women speaking in french because nothing says modern-hipster wannabe quite like french lyrics do. “Dawn Will Rise” has more lyrics than a lot of the other tracks and is actually musically enticing, but all of that goes down the drain due to the amount of autotune on the track. Jared Leto has an exceptional voice, however it’s sad to see it get lost in the song.
Next comes “Remedy” which is an acoustic song whose lyrics sound like a seventeen year old boy wrote it in hopes of finding a ‘remedy’ that will make him feel less lost after his first breakup. It mentions hanging by a thread and standing on the edge and finding a place to stay. The bridge which goes “Talk about it / Scream about it / Laugh about it / With anyone” feels like it should be sung by a girl group that rose to fame on the Disney Channel.
Track eleven,“Live Like A Dream”, has another overflow of “Oh-Oh”s, but I don’t mind them because this song actually has solid lyrics and is reminiscent of the ballad-like feel of the first song on the album. The song features Leto harmonizing, drums building, and the guitar echoing cohesively to create a solid song. WHERE DID ALL THIS TALENT GO WHEN PRODUCING THE OTHER SONGS?
The final track on the album is “Rider.” The album would have been much better off without this song. At least then it would have started and ended with an anthem and you would have forgotten the atrocity that fell in between. The song feels like an accompaniment to a car commercial with Matthew McConaughey racing the latest Lincoln model on a dark, empty street.
If I didn’t know that the album was by 30 Seconds of Mars, I would say that it was decent. However, it’s frustrating to see how a band that was once the epitome of rock music has slowly deteriorated into a wannabe millennial favorite by mimicking tracks that teenage artists produce on their laptops in their at-home garage studios. The only difference being that those teenagers write songs that are far more lyrically enticing.
The album has an infinite amount of room for potential, but it seems the band did the bare minimum. The album has the same musical sound, the same uninspiring and repetitive lyrics and the same chanting on every single song.
The band will be performing all the new songs on their Monolith Tour starting in June 2018, however the word “performing” may be a bit of a stretch considering that most of the musical content on the album was produced from inorganic sounds coming out of a machine. I was hoping to hear genuine music produced by a rock band featuring sick guitar and drum solos and instead I got Jared Leto singing over a DJ set and for that, I give “AMERICA” a solid C.
Lilit Zakaryan is the Social Media Editor & Music Columnist at The PCC Courier. She is double majoring in Journalism and Communication Arts and plans to continue her studies in Pop Culture, with an emphasis in Music and Media, upon transferring in 2019. When she’s not laughing in the newsroom, she can be found interning at SiriusXM. Her goal is to work in Artist Relations so that she can combine her love of communication with her passion for helping artists manifest their musical dreams.