By Aisha Sharipzhan
American alternative rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars have come a long way since their grungy “30 Seconds to Mars” (2002) and “A Beautiful Lie” (2005) days, now experimenting with pop music trends in their fifth album “America,” released April 6.
Thirty Seconds to Mars formed in 1998 in Los Angeles as a collaboration between Oscar winner Jared Leto and his brother Shannon Leto. Since their beginning, the band has always seemed to be ahead of the rock music scene; their songs were uniquely textural, confrontational and electronically experimental. “America,” on the other hand, sounds slightly outdated, even in its attempt to address relevant political issues.
“Walk on Water” was a promising lead single to the album with provocative lyrics commenting on the current political divide in the U.S., perhaps even addressing President Donald Trump with the question “Do you believe that you can walk on water?”
While a little repetitive, the song is Thirty Seconds to Mars in its essence with Jared Leto’s signature raspy voice and a melody that demands attention.
Another clue about the album’s commentary appears in its several versions of cover art. All of them consist of various lists such as “A.I., Bitcoin, Fake News, Russia,” described at the bottom of the cover as “four hot topics in America.” The cover art featured on iTunes lists “six popular sex positions as reported by AskMen.”
However, the band’s attempt to make the album relevant through the appearance of social commentary is hindered by the rest of the package, as “America” lacks the personality needed to successfully tackle such topics, due to the band’s transition to mainstream pop.
“America” features EDM producers Zedd and Yellow Claw. While this seems to be an effort to keep up with the times and assimilate to what the kids listen to these days, the effect is boring and outdated. The pop synths and dubstep-style drops are just so 2010 and bring nothing unique to the table, sounding sparse and anticlimactic to the songs’ buildup.
Thirty Seconds to Mars’ transition to mainstream pop risks them blending in with the rest of the crowd and greatly takes away from what the band had been known for: music that provokes not only through its lyrics, but also in its sound.
Despite these drawbacks, “America” remains in the realm of Thirty Seconds to Mars, echoing sounds of “This is War” (2009) and “Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams” (2013), especially in the euphoric “Live Like a Dream” and with Jared Leto’s impressive vocal display in “Great Wide Open.” Written by drummer Shannon, “Remedy” also stands out as the album’s only acoustic number with raw, seductive vocals believed to be provided by Shannon himself.
According to an interview on “Good Morning America,” “America” is the soundtrack to the band’s film project “A Day in the Life of America,” coming out later this summer. The film will display a single day in America, shot by film crews stationed across the nation. It will also include footage submitted by fans..
In the interview, Jared said the film is “a portrait of our country in a really important time, a time of change, a time of some instability and uncertainty, but also a time of hope.” We will see if the film does a better job than the album of representing and confronting such issues.
Thirty Seconds to Mars will be kicking off their worldwide tour, The Monolith Tour, in June.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Thirty Seconds to Mars’ Facebook page.
Aisha Sharipzhan is a senior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.