The Script have finally done what they’ve been threatening to do since their last album, No Sound Without Silence. They’ve turned into a dance pop group.
The leadoff single, “Rain”, is catchy with an almost dance hall vibe. Though I did not fall in love with it at once, I was reserving judgement until the whole album was released. And now that I’ve heard the rest of it, my overwhelming thought is that it’s formulaic and too calculatedly radio-friendly, as if the band concentrated more on crafting hits instead of songs that actually mean something. This is Max Martin’s territory, not The Script’s.
I don’t know if the album feels rushed because they posted regular updates about the work in progress on social media, like they were almost rushing to meet the fans’ deadlines. I wasn’t as active on Twitter in the run-up to No Sound Without Silence so I don’t know how they marketed that. (And if there’s one thing The Script’s social media team is good at, it’s cultivating their online presence, posting throwbacks regularly so the band is never out of mind even when they’re not touring.)
They seem to have aimed for being “of the moment” rather than being timeless with their usually well-crafted melodies. There’s a reason that the standout track is “Arms Open”, the only song that doesn’t sound as sterile as a pop factory song. Everything else sounds like something you’d hear if you were to listen to radio for more than 5 minutes. One reason I adore The Script is because they’re one of the few bands that still have a guitar-driven sound. They stood out because they sounded different from everything else getting airplay. But in Freedom Child I can barely hear the instruments for all the loops and machines.
Speaking about how pop music has turned out since The Script went on a hiatus after their last album No Sound Without Silence, Danny O’Donoghue said “If you take a listen to radio now, there aren’t too many bands – guitar, bass, drums, vocals. Everyone has some kind of production element.”
Really, Danny? You just described your own album.
As a fan, of course I still love them. After all, one misstep does not ruin everything. (Even U2 had their NLOTH). And I can’t wait to hear these songs live. But mostly because I hope they will sound better on stage. “Mad Love” is bordering on annoying at the moment, with its weak lyrics about great whites and piranhas and Marc Sheehan going overboard on his rap. However, songs like “Rock the World”, “Wonders” and “Love Not Lovers” are pretty good. But there’s no single track that draws me in and unlocks the whole album for me. I hear the songs and recognize how other fans can love them, but I’m emotionally disconnected. As exhilarated as I was over No Sound Without Silence, Freedom Child has left me drained.