For this week's album review I wanted to step out of the genres I've been reviewing and cover something I grew up on: hip hop. Not much in that scene has excited me lately after a brief love affair with chopped 'n screwed. I tend to gravitate towards new sounds so I thought I'd give Hollywood Undead a look since they're a new group. So new, in fact, that they only first played live at the Virgin Music Festival this past August.

The sticker on this album (Swan Songs) said "41 million HU fans online can't be wrong". Sounds great, but I'm sure that many people will go see the New Kids on the Block reunion tour and plenty of Disney movies open with ticket sales in those numbers, so I wasn't immediately sold. One of the strong points here is that we get fourteen tracks. I like getting a lot of tracks because when I spend money on music I want to think I'm getting a good deal.

In case you haven't heard of Hollywood Undead let me fill you in first before we get started. The band's seed was sown by members Deuce (AKA The Producer) and J-Dog when they posted a song on MySpace and got a lot of positive feedback. They went on to gather in Charlie Scene, Johnny 3 Tears, Funny Man and Da Kurlzz, all of them wearing masks to 'maintain an air of mystery'. By 2008 and they've got 400,000 friends on MySpace and their songs have been played many millions of times. Since they got signed they've spent the last 3 years working on this debut release.

To describe their sound I'd say it's gangsta rap with emo, more or less. If you blended up some Eminem, Ice Cube and Linkin Park you'd have a sound very similar to what Hollywood Undead offers. Gangsta emo? Yeah, we all knew it had to happen. And frankly, it's excuted quite well considering their goals. You get songs about partying, songs decrying the state of society and odes to life in Los Angeles.

It's all very catchy and so long as you don't mind the harsh rapping style of Eminem and the screamy sounds of hardcore punk or metal then you'll feel right at home. While it's not really to my tastes I'm not downplaying the fact that they're obviously a sound a lot of people will and do enjoy. My only real issue is that the sounds and lyrics aren't anything that wasn't happening about a decade ago. I hoped for something fantastically new, but this is more comfortably familiar.

Hollywood Undead's got a great image and I like the use of masks. It's nothing wildly inventive but they've packed together enough quirky stuff to be their own 'thing', if you will. They do seem to be trying to speak to kids today and in particular their track 'Young' provides an anthem that makes sense and addresses growing up in the current times in an interesting way. It feels heartfelt but as much as I want to like the group I get the sense that they're something of a record label creation by marketers trying to create the ever sought after 'next big thing'.

At the root of it, they've got bangin' beats, talented rap and a vibe that can handle partying as well as it handles thoughtful reflection. I don't have any problem recommending the album if you think it sounds like something you'd enjoy but I can't quite hail it as anything profoundly new and different. I think they're a concept who's time has come but I honestly don't expect to last much longer than than the nu-metal of the last decade, sadly.

So that's my cover of 'Swan Songs'. It's a solid album and worth its cost, but if you want something mindblowing you'll want to look elsewhere. The End.


Lyrics submitted by mike

Hollywood Undead - Swan Songs song meanings
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