Despite Jared Leto’s career beginning in 1998 with the formation of Thirty Seconds to Mars, Leto didn’t become a household celebrity name until he played a transgender character in Jean-Marc Vallée’s film, “Dallas Buyers’ Club.” Since then, he has been known as one of the Hollywood weirdos, where seemingly everything he does is some sort of stunt. From bringing dead pigs on set or sending dead rats to his co-stars of “Suicide Squad,” the guy seems to be obnoxious, rather than an artist.
However, after completing a hike across the United States to promote “AMERICA,” Thirty Seconds to Mars delivers their fifth studio album, and it is immediately my favorite album of 2018 so far. In its entirety, the album functions as a conversation on the current state of America and its culture, without making any sort of extreme political statements. The album discusses war, change, faith and calls for unity amongst the people.
Leto, despite his reputation, with the help of fellow band members, guitarist Tomo Miličević and drummer Shannon Leto, takes an experimental leap, adding details of trap into their already unique rock/electronic sound and it just works.
The album begins strong with “Walk on Water,” which immediately begins the anthem-like sound that persists throughout the entire album. The orchestral elements add a certain dramatism that can also be found scattered throughout the album. The lyrics call for people to stand up and fight for what they believe in, no matter what it is, because there are others that will stand with you. Overall, “Walk on Water” creates the theme for the album.
“Dangerous Night” is a hip-hop beat in the background and lyrics give me my one major complaint about the album: It is mildly repetitive. With the kind of action Leto is calling for with his lyrics, he needs to do more than just two verses, a chorus comprised of the same sentence and a bridge that repeats the chorus. His cries become redundant after a while, and ultimately “Walk on Water” and “Dangerous Night” are the two songs I will skip most when relistening, as they are the tracks most guilty of repetition.
Songs like “Rescue Me” and “One Track Mind” show off the fantastic mixing talent Thirty Seconds to Mars has brought on board for this LP. The mixes behind Leto’s vocals exaggerate the sound into something I couldn’t stop bopping my head to. The constant snare and crescendos sound more trap than the usual electronic sound the band has, but it still works because of the hard-hitting choruses.
The electronic sound does not at all take away from any spotlight from the rest of the band, like what happens to a lot of modern alternative artists. Miličević performs an excellent guitar solo as the conclusion to “One Track Mind,” and Shannon gets “Monolith” all to himself, and he goes crazy on his kit to make an excellent minute and a half performance.
The cherry on top of “AMERICA” would be Leto’s vocals. Whether it has the typical slight autotune and echo, like in “Rescue Me,” or it’s stripped naked for the dulcet singing in the patriotic “Great Wide Open,” Leto’s voice has power, and it truly shines in “AMERICA.”
Thirty Seconds to Mars struck gold with their experimental digging style in “AMERICA.” By asking for a change in perspective and a coming together of the people, Leto’s, Shannon and Miličević have crafted what I would consider an accurate representation of not just the evolving America, but also the modern world.
IF YOU LIKED THIS ALBUM, CHECK OUT:
“Wake Up Call” by Theory of a Deadman