In the past couple of weeks, I have witnessed the very opposite ends of the spectrum of experimental post-hardcore’s current state (I’ve always understood that to be the politically correct term for emo, so that’s what we’re going with). As a result, I feel the need to drain my brain and flesh out what this all means in the grand scheme of things because boy howdy am I overwhelmed. Never in my 23 years of over-the-hill scene kidery did I think that the following happenings would be existing concurrently.
On Tuesday, my favorite experimental entity nothing,nowhere. dropped a video for “Rejecter.” If you remember from my highly unbiased look at his latest full-length Ruiner, this track is a definitive standout. If you’ve missed my 20 other articles about this one-manner, the TDLR is that he made music in his basement, put in on Soundcloud, and now he’s cosigned by Pete Wentz. Despite his success story, he tries to keep his personal identity on the backburner. The quality for which he’s best known besides his musicianship is covering his face with his hand.
While n,n. decisively sings and raps within the context of the same song, the vocals on this track run both styles simultaneously together, creating a smooth and seamless in-between. While this approach has seen some popularity across the scene, it’s hard to pin down where it began. Nevertheless, it meshes well with the interlacing of guitar work and trap drums. The rhythm and tone of his voice bounce back between the slow beat and floatier, more atmospheric moments. Together, there’s a degree of patience, restraint, and more than anything, honesty.
While nothing,nowhere. dedicates most of the track’s visuals to stewing in the reflective fog of Vermont, the malaise is pierced by scenes of him acting out one of the toughest lines. “Laying on the freeway/thinking ’bout what she said/waiting for a semi truck/I don’t even give a fuck” is an unmatched display of inner demons. Transparency and suicidal feelings are a good combo, yet the unnerving qualities of watching the act come to life, I would argue, is a deterrent. In this case of nothing,nowhere., it’s hard to make the “kids want to copycat their idol” argument when he puts so little emphasis on his name, outfit choices, and so on. Rather, the n,n. entity is a mere conduit to the music itself. Past acts have fallen short in this department, which is a nice segue into Ronnie Radke & the Spooky kids.
Because this is Drunk in a Graveyard and not Pitchfork, I actually want to go on record of acknowledging that Falling in Reverse is an easy target. Obviously if you’ve made it this far you know that I’m not about to take issue with this song just because I think rap and rock need to stay in their own lanes, or because scene bands like FIR are just for idiot kids. While I can’t make too many sweeping generalizations about the latter ilk due to choice predators, I can say that I have always appreciated most of it for what it is. In fact, before Ronnie Radke got kicked out of Escape the Fate, he sang “Situations,” which still instantly takes me back to being 14 and having no peripheral vision in my right eye. Unfortunately, he chose to pick up the pieces by being front and center in Great Value ETF, also known as Falling in Reverse.
My reason for wanting to discuss Radke and the gang stems from a hate comment I recently got on an article about an artist who occasionally combines his signature deathrock style with hip-hop. A very enraged lad in his Urban Outfitters Joy Division t-shirt asserted that all of this newfangled Soundcloud stuff utilizes both rock and hip-hop but doesn’t do either particularly well. After I unleashed my own angry inner white boy and punched a hole in the drywall right next to my Hatebreed poster, I calmed down enough to realize that there is a context in which those accusations are founded – Falling in Reverse’s “Losing My Life.”
Radke is hardly a stranger to accusations. The video for 2011’s “The Drug in Me is You”—in which Radke appears in court while looking suspiciously like the overlord of Tanacon—personifies the difficult conversations we’re now having about our emo overlords. But, even attempting to put Radke and FIR’s central themes aside for a second, the songwriting itself is a case study in why people get all white-boy-mad/white-boy-smash by both post-’core and rap-rock fusion (all Limp Bizkit aside).
Right out of the gate, Radke showcases his clumsiness as a rapper, but I really don’t want to dwell on that fact because it’s about as productive as saying water is wet. What’s even more troubling is that the chorus’ resemblance to Bring Me the Horizon’s “Throne” (2015) is so uncanny that you can sing along with BMTH’s lyrics. While we’re on the topic of BMTH, synth can be brought to metalcore in a way that’s thoughtful. While BMTH might have started out playing deathcore, they incorporated more keyboard work and advanced production over time in a way that felt fresh and organic. Others, like Motionless in White, did so from the start in a way that just straight-up slapped. In these examples, the building of atmosphere feels like it was at the crux of the writing process and not an afterthought that slithered in at the end – the latter being the case with Falling in Reverse. This shortcoming points to the overarching issue that the track is awkward and un-blended. The rapping and singing sections are so disjointed that it feels like two different songs glued together.
The visuals themselves possess the campiness of many post-hardcore videos, but none of the self-awareness. The same could be said of their maker, Radke, who is somehow still reveling in the fact that he’s music’s bastard son of Scott Disick and Jake Paul. Haters are always going to hate, but they’ll hate even more when you write lazy songs and beat up your girlfriend.
Now that I’ve gotten all of that out, I think we’ve reached some conclusions. While post-hardcore hip-hop from the Soundcloud sphere unifies the best memories of listening to Senses Fail and Three 6 Mafia, choice ’core artists are grasping at the life support of other genres as Warped Tour takes it last run. If dudes like Radke want to keep evolving, and ultimately, surviving as a post-hardcore band in 2018, they need to get back in touch about what they really love about music and put aside the personality cults on which they’ve always rested. Dwell on simply being a genre alchemist instead of indulging visions of your next great come-up. Otherwise, instead of being the best of the past, you’re just the worst.
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