It’s always a letdown when one of our favorite genre-specific bands – whether that genre be country, rap, R&B, alternative or anything else – take on the mainstream pop persona. We’ve seen it happen time and time again, and now we’re seeing it with once alternative rock stars, 30 Seconds to Mars.
Other alternative music fans and I keyed into the 30STM album, “America”, drop on Friday, April 6 – the group’s first drop after a four-year hiatus – and to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. Where were my beloved electric-guitar standout moments? You’ve let me down, 30STM.
I was excited to hear that Jared Leto still took the forefront of the band’s vocals; however, he was unexpectedly joined by pop-stars such as A$AP Rocky for “One Track Mind” and Halsey for “Love is Madness.” Now, I’m not saying these songs are terrible, actually I really enjoyed “Love is Madness,” where Halsey brought in a sultry tone that complimented the lyrics well. However, it’s not the classic rock music that I was expecting to hear from 30STM.
I will say that I was thankful that, even though 30STM has swerved from their musical roots, they at least maintained their use of religious messages throughout their work. Although many people have debated whether or not 30STM is Christian or not, “America” resurfaces those familiar, ambiguous messages. Personally, I have always interpreted their music as pro-Christian as they send messages of praying and acting in kindness toward others while resisting the temptations of the Devil. In “America,” these religious themes can be seen in songs such as “Walk on Water” and “Great Wide Open.”
According to an interview with Rolling Stone, when asked about his lyric choice for “Walk on Water,” which says, “Making love with the devil hurts,” Leto elaborated, “it’s the old story about the rabbit that wanted to ride on the back of the crocodile. And, at the end, he eats the rabbit and says, ‘I’m a goddamn crocodile. What did you expect?’ So, if you make a deal with the devil, there are certain things you can expect. ‘Walk on Water’ is a song very much about the times we’re living in.” When asked if the Devil portrayed by Leto was a symbol for the Oval Office, Leto replied, “You could take that as one example. I played it in Paris to 15,000 people and I was stunned how loud they sang that song. You can write a song about America, but these are global concerns.”
“Great Wide Open” begins with the lyrics, “is this life?/ that we’re living/ Say the prayers of/ a thousand tongues/ Is this love?/ Some new beginning/ Or a night of your wildest dreams/ Into the great wide open/ Across a land of blood and dreams/ I will save your heart from breaking/ Won’t you stop, please/ Set me free.” Throughout the song, Leto sings different lyrics that show a struggle between God and the mortal world. He talks about how he’s a thief and we’re liars, but we “lived our wildest dreams.” This song tells a story of accepting the fact that humans aren’t perfect, that these mistakes and imperfections are what make the human race human. This song rouses a lot of soul searching, which is what I have always admired about 30STM; however, I wish they did so in their rock style, rather than EDM.
Throughout the album, 30STM also incorporated relevant political issues and cultural happenings. Leto made it no secret that he voted for President Obama in 2012, when he tweeted on social media asking for people to vote for the Democratic Party. Hence, his song “Hail to the Victor” undoubtedly references President Donald Trump as the “victor,” and his use of the word “hail” symbolized his comparison of the President to – essentially – Hitler. The song’s chorus says, “Is everybody out here crazy?/ Anybody want a war?/ Everybody out here crazy/ Crazy, hail to the victor.”
Despite the powerful lyrics and the success of a few standout tracks on the album, I fear that 30STM will lose many members of their loyal fan base for their decision to stray from their alternative rock roots and immerse themselves in a mainstream genre with pop, R&B and HipHop artists. Overall, I give the album 3.5/5 stars for their EDM music, that they most-likely wanted to create a house-party vibe to. However, I’m sure their alternative-rock fans would disagree with me, as the album has only received 3/5 stars on Salute, and 1.5/5 stars by Sputnik Music.