The Script try to justify their own existence on new album Freedom Child, which arrives at a time when, if mainstream pop gets any more plain and edgeless, it’ll fucking disappear.
Maroon 3 – Now Maroonier Than Ever might be a more accurate moniker for Danny O’Donoghue’s trio, so perfectly have they mirrored that bands trajectory. Promising early material, a slump in sales, heartthrob vocalist coaches on The Voice, lose all sense of identity and piggy-back on every idiotic trend in pop.
The Script have done everything to stay relevant, from pimping their frontman on a talent show to dumbing down their content and writing choruses that literally go “oooh-ee-oooh-ee-oooh“. They even recorded with will.i.am during that brief and regrettable period from 2010-2013 where pop music, confused and afraid, made the boneheaded Black Eyed Pea its biggest star.
They’ve found a new trend to pump. Lead single ‘Rain’ seeks to take advantage of the new opportunities that have sprung up in the hinterlands between pop, R&B and EDM. The electronic murmurs, tropical drum clashes and reggaeton beat are references to Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ and reggaeton smash ‘Depacito’, just drained of all energy and imagination.
‘Rain’ isn’t without its merits though. McCartneyesque whimsy flickers in the chorus. And so we await the post-chorus; how does Danny feel? What does this experience feel like?
Of course this great shaft of vacuous towering toss is one thing, but O’Donnoghue has always written more convincingly about the details. Getting into the guts and gubbins of a faltering relationship, as on ‘Breakeven’, or a doomed lover’s last stand on ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’. The quality of prose is about to sky-rocket on breakup track ‘Love Not Lovers’.
I understand that it’s lazy for a critic, even a total hack, to resort to just pasting out lyrics verbatim, but I think they speak for themselves. The levels of sheer, unremitting cringe on Freedom Child are beyond measure. Each track has at least one lyric, but usually far more, that make you actually wince. It’s like having a vivisection.
The writing here is so bad even by the substandard hackery on which The Script’s entire career is based. Through these fourteen songs, the most dramatic of life’s events are made uneventful. In the world The Script inhabit, the heartbreak one feels at the death of a relationship is just a vague concern, one they cannot quantify or articulate.
In their world, the greatest events in history must have been dry and uninvolving sideshows. Mandela’s walk to freedom was just some light cardio. The fall of the Berlin wall was a widely publicised subsidence claim. They make the world boring; and that is the antithesis of pop.
I’ve said all of this without even touching the many rap songs that can be found on Freedom Child. This from the track ‘Mad Love’:
What takes this beyond mere contempt is the sickening, simpering belief by those involved that Freedom Child is in any way a political album. These intentions are laid out with characteristic sensitivity on tracks named things like ‘No Man Is An Island’ & ‘Deliverance’ & ‘Truth, Justice, Freedom’ & ‘Divided States of America’ & ‘Semper Fi’; yes I made two of those up, but you can’t guess which can you?
The subject or thrust of Freedom Child may well be political, but it’s a tacky, wan, bland and corporate view of these woes. It’s like a McDonalds Happy Meal that comes with a patty, fries, a bag of grapes and a plastic toy of the Gaza Strip.
If you think you’ve heard this bland AOR-channeling-EDM before then you’re right; Imagine Dragons and Linkin Park have released more or less the same album just this year. Freedom Child is pap and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.