I came across this album browsing albumoftheyear.org, aka the best website on the internet. I didn’t know who Bleachers was, but I assumed it was an indie rock band. Bleachers is an indie rock band name. And I actually love the artwork, which I assumed was a photo of someone that was definitely not in the band. Boy was I in for a surprise! Turns out Bleachers is Jack Antonoff, formerly of fun. and co-writer / producer of hits with Taylor Swift, Sia and Carly Rae Jepsen. Gone Now is about as pure a mid 2000s ‘pop’ album as exists anymore. This is an album full of songs that are one vocal take away from being on a kids bop CD. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these songs were supposed to be the single, since they pretty much all follow the same ‘jaunty Bon Jovi piano verses into big, theatrical, over-the top, epic I HAVE SINCERE FEELINGS chorus’ formula. If this was 2009, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear any of these songs on the radio.
But it’s not 2009, it’s 2017. One of the best #1 hits on the radio this year was Migos’ “Bad and Boujee”. Bieber has owned the radio by pivoting from love songs to low-key Drake-washed trop house. Kendrick Lamar set a streaming record with an album about expectation-fueled depression and conservative politics. The two pillars of a successful hit in 2017 are Rihanna’s “Work” (repetitive minimalist song about fucking) and Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” (trap). What I’m trying to say is, Antonoff injected a corny, saccharine, over-the-top sentimental tween-friendly pop album into the worst environment he possibly could. Who the fuck is looking for a fist pumping choral refrain of “You steal the air out of my lungs, you make me feel it / I pray for everything we lost, buy back the secrets!” over 80s shotgun snares sung by Lena Dunham’s boyfriend when “HUMBLE.” hit number one? Who wants sappy saxophones blaring away while said white dude throws on all the reverb in the world to build through a pre-chorus of “But there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to settle up with Heaven / And today I gotta settle in Heaven”? Katy Perry’s much more adept songwriting team is floundering in the current environment. Gaga pivoted to acoustic. Sheeran is the poster-boy for sincerity and he killed a it this year with a repetitive minimalist song about fucking. Even the calculated, manufactured Song of the Summer © at least has Chance and Quavo on it.
There is little variety of themes or sonics throughout Gone Now. The run-times of the first 9 songs differ by less than a minute. Every chorus on here is ‘bombastic’. Every bpm is between 90 and 120. Some moments are worse than others. On “Goodbye”, there’s a Lena Dunham spoken word passage interjected into Antonoff’s singing that comes off as incredibly heavy-handed and indulgent. It’s as if it wasn’t enough for Antonoff to beat you over the head with how much being sad sucks on his choruses so he had to prove it by saying “Here, look at this! This is my GIRLFRIEND! This is REAL! This is RAW!” “All My Heroes” is like the 3rd grade cliff-notes of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends“. Antonoff actually does two reprises of songs he did earlier on the album, and neither of them are the closer. There is a song called “Nothing Is U”.
There is one moment on the record that shows signs of potential. The second track, “Goodmorning”, is plenty corny, rehashing the same “I make mistakes at night and feel ways about them but I’ll persevere!” theme that pretty much every track goes for (“Because I lied to you / I lied to your face in the summer”), but it’s as catchy as anything on here and the production is actually very interesting. There are plenty of moments were Antonoff isolates his voice completely in one channel, a risky move that leaves it very exposed. Other times the vocal production is almost Casablancas-fuzzy, and rather than crowd the chorus with a million synthesizers and choir vocal takes, he actually keeps the arrangement spartan and tidy. If the whole record took these kinds of creative risks, I’d say we might be in business. Sadly, Antonoff abandons such ideas by track 3 and the rest of the record is fucking wallpaper.
Score: 2 / 13