Thirty Seconds to Mars’ newest album America catches your attention with minimalist cover art: black and pink. The band is most famous for its pop punk hit “The Kill (Bury Me),” and for its lead singer Jared Leto. Thirty Seconds to Mars was formed in 1998 and its second album, A Beautiful Lie, released in 2005, has been certified platinum and gold internationally. The band’s logo has three skulls and is red and white. Through its career, the band has made and played music primarily in the rock genre, but is sometimes described as metal. Hard rock has been identifiable in its music up to and including its album Love Lust Faith + Dreams released in 2013. The band has not changed its sound significantly since 1998 until now, 19 years later.
A listener unaware of the band’s past would probably describe America as electronic-indie or alternative. Featuring headliners in pop music such as Halsey and A$AP Rocky, this is the music of indie festivals and college parties.
The album begins with a synthetic beat and a chorus proclaiming “Times are changing”—lyrics accurate to the band’s musical theme change. The opening of the album feels a lot like a Chance the Rapper production—using a choir in his music is a hallmark of his success. The type of music in this album calls to mind a number of popular songs played on the radio. What is consistent with the band’s past works, however, are the lyrics and the message of the album.
The first song speaks to the political issues in America, which is the album’s title for a reason: “A thin line, the whole truth/ The far right, the left view.” The general lyricism in this album is a call to action. The words resound with a social and political reform along with angst-filled love themes that listeners often find in pop punk, “rescue me from the demons in my mind.” Through the album, the lyrical themes are consistent and all of the songs contain distinct rock elements that remind the listener that Thirty Seconds to Mars has not strayed from its roots. This taste of rock is mixed with beat drops and pop singers that make this album more accessible to a pop radio station. The album has an instrumental song, the fifth track Monolith, that sounds a lot like a song from The 1975, an electronica band. The interlude is bordered on either side by “One Track Mind (feat. A$AP Rocky”) and “Love is Madness (feat. Halsey).” After this trio, the songs do not change significantly until “Remedy,” the 10th song on America. “Remedy” is the album’s token acoustic song. The song does not stray with lyrical theme, but is played almost solely on an acoustic guitar. It is not what one might expect so deep into the album, but often indie or rock albums are broken up by an acoustic track.
This album has the lyrical ability to bring fans back to their freshman-year-in-high-school angst, but with the distraction and pleasantness of indie electronic beats. It was surprising to listen to an album by an artist from Warped Tour and hear so much change. The lyrics are about a broken person and a broken world, and the beats conjure sensations of other popular bands of today, even if Thirty Seconds to Mars has been making music for almost two decades.
Featured Image by Interscope Records