Hawk Nelson – Smile, It’s the End of the World
The very first review I ever wrote here at AP.net was of Hawk Nelson’s last album, Letters to the President. It received a paltry 4 out of 10, and I was quite critical of the band’s “cheese” factor and borderline lyrics. Nearly 2 years later, not much has changed, but this time I’m much more receptive to it. Now that I know what to expect from a band like Hawk Nelson, I’m not put off by how ridiculous the album is. There are some seriously asinine and childish lyrics on this record, like in the disgustingly catchy anthem “Bring ‘Em Out,” where Hawk Nelson instructs the listener to “pump up your fist if you twist like this.” All absurdity aside, this disc is beyond catchy, as much as I hate to admit it. Listening to Hawk Nelson is like eating a McGriddles sandwich from McDonald’s – you know it tastes like shit, but you can’t stop eating it.
Half of this record can easily be thrown out the window, but there’s more than a few tracks that are memorable for one reason or another. At first listen, with songs like “The Show,” I honestly felt like I was listening to children’s music. This is an unabashed pop record without a single hint of musical complexity, just big choruses for everyone to sing along to – “The Show” literally breaks into a hand-clap driven bridge with repeated lyrics – all so painstakingly childish that all you can do is shake your head…and listen to the song again. Some songs on the album contain awkward moments of musical ambition – “The One Thing I Have Left” enters a faux-hardcore breakdown in its climax after 2 minutes of sugar-pop. “Nothing Left to Show” has a gang vocal/scream section before it slides back into reality. Even though these parts don’t really fit with the rest of the record, it’s nice that they’re there to provide variety to an otherwise super-poppy record.
One song stands out from the pack, the piano-pop track “Something on My Mind.” With a simplistic song structure and unfairly catchy chorus, the song doesn’t offer any surprises, but still sticks in memory for quite some time, becoming one of those songs that you sing to yourself all day and hate yourself for it…and then have to listen to it again to get it out of your head. I will fully credit Hawk Nelson for having an incredible ability to write well-crafted pop songs full of hooks, no matter how ridiculous the lyrics are. The aforementioned song stats that “you’ll never ever, pull my lever, not today and not forever.” Who has a lever? While rivaling the ridiculous factor of a line from the previous record, “She says we were in love, I take a sip of my water, I guess we’ll carry on,” it is still catchy/absurd enough to stick into memory, willingly or unwillingly.
If you are a listener that loves big choruses and melodies, doesn’t care about quality lyrics, and doesn’t desire anything challenging from a listening experience, then Hawk Nelson is for you. They don’t pretend to be anything but teenage sugar-pop, and for that I respect them, albeit begrudgingly. However, if you’re like me, you’re going to feel sick by the 3rd or 4th listen. I’m not saying that’ll stop you, because it didn’t me, but it definitely slowed me down. And since half the album is instantly forgettable, you’ll be able to pace yourself and not make yourself sick. Now, if only I had that same discipline at McDonald’s breakfast then I wouldn’t order 2 McGriddles every time I went. So bad, but still so good. Sort of.
All this CD does is further the stereotype of 'Christian bands': They are second-rate copycats of the mainstream. Of course the sterotype doesn't apply to all bands of the genre, but Hawk Nelson is shameless when it comes to stealing melodies from other established punky-pop bands like Blink, Simple Plan, etc.
I liked a few tracks off their first CD but this second one isn't cutting it for me. I'm all for the pop factor but this is too far. All the songs sound relatively similiar and I couldn't get into it. I liked how "Head On Collision" started but once it hit the chorus, I lost interest. There's a few tracks that will probably make it up the charts on Christian radio, but none will break past that.