The streets of Hollywood are paved with dreams.
Most of those dreams are broken, others are buried, and some are simply burned. On their new album, American Tragedy, Hollywood Undead dissect those very same dreams with a volatile and vibrant hip hop swagger, a magnificent metallic crunch, and a danceable industrial soul. At the heart of the band’s second release for A&M/Octone, these six musicians—Johnny 3 Tears, J-Dog, Charlie Scene, Da Kurlzz, Funny Man, and Danny—rhyme and rock from sharply hilarious jabs about vacuous clubs to unbridled, poignant musings on losing faith and struggling with addiction. Due out April 5, 2011, American Tragedy peeks at the death of the American dream from the rooftop of the hottest party in the world. This second offering from Hollywood Undead is a sanctuary for the disillusioned masses that made the band a Gold-selling sensation. It’s a middle finger to the safe, burdensome “norm.” It’s the future of heavy pop…
Hollywood Undead have been staring at that future from the moment they burst onto the scene with their breakout 2008 debut, Swan Songs. Since its release, Swan Songs has exceeded sales of 800,000 worldwide and is quickly approaching platinum status. The band embarked on a two-year world tour that saw them play countless sold out headline shows as well as prestigious festivals such as the UK’s Download Festival. In addition, the album’s leadoff single “Undead” received prominent placements in the trailer for Paramount’s hit film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Madden NFL 2009. In 2009, the band released the Desperate Measures DVD/CD capturing their magnetic madness on stage. The collection also featured a few unreleased gems and covers. However, everything merely serves as a prelude to American Tragedy.
Hollywood Undead began constructing American Tragedy in early 2010. Collaborating with producers Don Gilmore, Griffin Boice, and S*A*M and Sluggo, the band tapped into a myriad of influences and styles, yielding music that’s as diverse and dangerous. American Tragedy’s first single, “Hear Me Now,” is an anthemic catharsis of guitars and synths, colored by these six distinct voices. At the same time, “Been To Hell” creeps from an ominous bass line into full-blown aural assault and battery during a distorted refrain. “I Don’t Wanna Die” is a funeral march for any and all enemies in Hollywood Undead’s path. Meanwhile, “Comin’ In Hot” could set any dance floor off with slickly sharp rhymes and “Levitate” floats into mainstream crossover territory on a soaring chorus.
For Hollywood Undead, American Tragedy was a natural progression from Swan Songs. About the band’s sophomore album, J-Dog exclaims, “Similar to our first record, there’s something for everybody. Some of the songs have bigger hooks, while others are a lot heavier. We wanted to expand our creative palette as a band and grow. We wrote the first album years ago. Mentally, we’re not in the same place we were then. We got better at what we do lyrically and musically. We wanted to experiment more and embrace new elements. It’s heavier at points because we are a rock band, for the most part.”
Johnny 3 Tears goes on, “American Tragedy is what Hollywood Undead is. We can incorporate anything into the landscape of our songs. There are no boundaries. Musically, I like songs that go against the grain. I want to create art that doesn’t conform to the status quo. We choose to take everything a step beyond that.”
“Hear Me Now” encapsulates that sentiment. Blending an arena rock stomp with rap attitude, the song’s a venomous and vicious strike. All six members hunkered down in the same Hollywood rehearsal room to write “Hear Me Now” together, and it brandishes the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of all their personalities. On December 21, the band officially released “Hear Me Now” digitally, and within two short days, it hit number 2 on the iTunes rock chart. The song covers the current state of affairs, calling listeners to arms.
“Obviously, it’s a struggling song,” declares Johnny 3 Tears. “Everyone is going through a rough time, and the song is very appropriate for this day and age. We aimed to make something that you can sing along to, and the message gets delivered in between.”
One song that examines hopelessness is the bludgeoning “Been to Hell.” In between a wall of raging rhythms and angry rhymes, the band comments on failed purposes. “Growing up in Los Angeles, we’ve seen a lot of people come out here with grandiose ambitions and, 99.9 percent of the time, they don’t do shit,” continues J-Dog. “They end up partying, getting on drugs, and just going home. You’ve got to go through those hardships to actualize your dreams. The song’s about getting off your ass and working towards a higher goal. I hope it actually inspires someone to follow through with what they say.”
Hollywood Undead continue to work themselves to the bone. Every night on tour, they spill blood for packed venues of diehard fans all over the world, and they’ll continue that tradition. There’s no doubt that every track on American Tragedy will resonate with those fans too. J-Dog states, “People are having a hard time right now, and kids go through the same problems everywhere. I feel lucky that they come to our shows, and it’s their release for an hour.”
Songs like “Levitate” and “Street Dreams” show another side of Hollywood Undead. The band’s sense of humor remains in tact, but they also brandish a pop prowess that’s simply undeniable. About touting so many styles, Johnny 3 Tears exclaims, “I want fans to feel like they got their money’s worth with a full album you can’t categorize. This is a step up. We want to be a band that’s special to kids. We want to signify what they feel. I’d love for them to have the same feeling I had when I listened to Korn or Nine Inch Nails as a kid.”
That revolutionary spirit courses through American Tragedy, and the band place their hearts on the line for their music once again. J-Dog concludes, “As a band, we collectively put our blood, sweat, and soul into this. We couldn’t have done anything better than we did, and we love it. We are honest, and kids connect with that. They know we’re not bullshitting them. When you’re true to yourself, people connect with you.”
That connection to Hollywood Undead will only grow stronger with American Tragedy.