By: The Busted Amp Staff
Derek: In 2010, I read about an up-and-coming neo-soul band on my favorite music website at the time, Antiquiet, and their debut album Pickin' Up The Pieces soon became one of my favorite albums of the year. Their blend of throwback soul with modern pop aesthetics was refreshing, and the obvious Motown influences were enough to sound familiar, yet not enough to be a complete rip of the decades-old soul sound. A few years later, the band's sophomore release More Than Just a Dream departed from much of the throwback sound in favor of a more pop forward, singles focused record, and their resulting commercial success signaled a new, reinvented chapter for Fitz & the Tantrums. The one constant between the two eras was the captivating and energetic live shows, which I had the pleasure of seeing twice, once in each album cycle. While I was happy to see the band gain more fans and continue putting on great shows, I was apprehensive of where their sound was heading. My worst fears were realized on this album.
The transformation of Fitz & the Tantrums from a neo-soul band into a generic, soulless pop band has been completed. Michael Fitzpatrick, like Dr. Frankenstein before him, has created such a grotesque monster of an album that I fear nothing can save the band that I once knew and loved. Whereas their debut had beautifully written songs about heartbreak and loss, this album has lyrics like "It's complicated / When we get naked / But I can take it / (I love to hate it babe; I can't say no)". The music isn't much better. Just as the lyrics are dumbed down on this album, so has the music, which features forgettable dance beats, terrible synths, and a complete lack of depth outside of a few admittedly catchy hooks sprinkled throughout the 36-minute runtime. I have to wonder why Noelle Scaggs continues to take the backseat in the group; she has been featured less and less as a vocalist despite her obvious talent. At this point is she really anything other than a hypewoman telling the crowd to "put their hands up" during their live sets? She certainly doesn't contribute anything of note on this album outside of one bridge on "Complicated".
There's no doubt that the singles on this album like "Handclap" will see airplay on both radio and TV, but this is nothing more than a shallow, poorly produced, poorly written pop album.
Joseph: A lot of times when a band drops a pop-heavy album, I will enjoy it far more than Derek does. Fitz's sophomore album, More Than Just a Dream, was a textbook example of this: I was ok with Fitz & the Tantrums having more pop influences than neo-soul on their album. After all, "The Walker" had one of my favorite hooks of 2013, so there's no doubt these guys have the ability to blend the two genres together. Buuuuuuuuuut we will agree on this pile of crap.
What are you doing Michael Fitzpatrick? I really want to think that he's just trying to express himself creatively, but my cynical side is screaming sellout. And I just might have to let my cynical side win out here, because I KNOW Fitz & the Tantrums have more talent than this. I think that's what really gets me here and why I'm right down in the gutters on this travesty with Derek: I know these guys can do better. Even from a pop perspective this album lacks hooks on almost every song besides "Handclap" and "Burn it Down." Noelle Scaggs has nothing to do here, and can take the title of "Most talented musician completely wasted" to this point this year, and AGAIN my cynical side comes up at this point because part of me thinks she has nothing to do only because Michael Fitzpatrick knows she's a FAR better singer than he is, so he wants to limit her role as much as possible. I hope that's not true but dear Lord I can't shake that thought out of my head.
Ultimately, this album is a disaster. I can only hope that at this point Fitz and the Tantrums attempt to bring their fans back to their neo-soul side with a "triumphant return to their roots" or something, but with Michael Fitzpatrick seemingly settling into his newfound love of the electronic genre with a recent (and very lackluster) collaboration with Cash Cash, I'm not holding my breath. As it stands this may be the most disappointing fall for a group that I have ever seen.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.