Thirty Seconds to Mars. They’re back baby. And they’re back at a time where their frontman, Jared Leto, seems to be at a public reception all time low. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but before 2016 my thoughts about Jared Leto were that I didn’t really have any. He’s been in a lot of movies over his lifetime, and a number of them I actually really like and love - but not because of Jared. Being a method actor who puts his whole body and soul into a role is such an integral part of his brand, yet even at his best it feels like his characters could be played by someone else entirely and nothing will be lost. It wasn’t until a decade into Leto’s acting career that we got Thirty Seconds to Mars’s debut album, where even early on he proved to be even less compelling as a musician than as an actor. They started off as a mediocre space rock influenced alt rock band on their self-titled record, then shifted into being mediocre emo inspired alt rock band on “A Beautiful Lie”, before settling into the sound they have today on records such as “This Is War” and “Love Lust Faith + Dreams”, which can only be described as the middle point between modern Muse and modern U2…except worse. And that’s saying something, cus neither of those bands are doing well right now. I think it says a lot that despite being 20 years into their career and being one of the few remaining successful rock bands, they’re only really remembered for one song (which, I will admit, “The Kill” is a banger and a 2000’s emo staple). Like their frontman’s acting career, Thirty Seconds to Mars in the mainstream felt like they’re just kind of there, like they don’t really matter.
It wasn’t until 2016 where people’s indifference towards Jared Leto’s projects turned into annoyance. There was the multiple different headlines of all the ways Leto was being an ass on set to the cast and crew of “Suicide Squad” for the sake of THE METHOD and getting inside The Joker’s mind, only for people to see the movie and his performance being one of the most notably goofy things of the last decade (in case you haven’t been told yet, method acting is total bullshit). Then there was Thirty Seconds to Mars’s fifth album, subtlety titled “America”, which by all means the universe seemed to agree completely sucked. It seems like they were trying to tap into that specific brand of mushy, overblown, gentrified rock/pop/electronic/hip-hop sound Imagine Dragons pioneered that unfortunately ruled the rock airwaves in the late 2010’s, and the result was an album that seemingly appealed to no one. Then there was multiple instances that painted Jared in an unflattering light - uncharismatic interviews, reports of him being condescending and aloof to fans, an absolutely bizarre performance in “House of Gucci”, an annual Thirty Seconds to Mars retreats that the band delightfully calls a cult and by all means it does look like a cult, a number sexual assault allegations. I’ll also say from my own personal experience I had the misfortune of seeing Thirty Seconds to Mars open for Muse, and it was nothing short of uncanny and weird. And who can forget, “Morbius”; a movie iconic for no one wanting it, no one seeing it, and no one liking it. “Morbius” became the new standard of mediocrity in film, and what made it even more of a collective punching bag for dissatisfied consumers tired of cynical, formulaic media was the fact that nobody who worked on the movie seemed to get the joke, and Sony even rereleased it thinking there was an actual demand, only for it to bomb the box office again.
I’m honestly surprised Jared released anything so soon after “Morbius”. The public narrative of him is that of an uncharismatic egomaniacal dickhead who takes his artistry way too seriously and thinks his art is next level shit even though its become so increasingly mediocre that it has become a collective joke. I would think he would want to take some time out of the limelight or at least rethink how he approaches his work since the writing on the wall is that it desperately needs a change. But Thirty Seconds to Mars have taken five years to release their newest album when they promised it would only take thirty seconds, dammit. Apparently him and his brother Shannon had written two hundred tracks for their newest album in 2021 and were just waiting for the right time to release it, even saying they were sitting on three albums worth of material. I guess the band felt like the time was now to put something out, and I guess curiosity got the best of me. I hoped that Thirty Seconds to Mars had learned something from the last fifteen or so years of increasingly negative reception, maybe switch things up a bit and do something different because the formula hasn’t been working for a while, and I don’t see why said formula would work in 2023 when music is so much different from where it was even five year ago. Maybe they would get their heads out of their asses and stop making their typical brand of ego fueled, pretentious, generic, bland stadium bait and instead release something that feels like it was created by someone with thoughts and feelings.
And then as I was about to listen to this I saw its Windows Screen Saver album art and its title: “It's the End of the World but It's a Beautiful Day”.
Yeah, I don’t think that’s happening.
What are we doing here? What are we doing here. There are only so many hours in a day, why did you spend your limited time making this and why are you asking other people to give theirs to hear it? I am genuinely asking you, Jared and Shannon Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Because from where I’m sitting, it feels my time was wasted by one of the most milquetoast, flavorless, and soulless albums of the year simply because you were bored and wanted another car. “It's the End of the World but It's a Beautiful Day” is an album that is one of the most lacking in care, heart, emotion, soul, personality, ideas, and effort I’ve heard in a while, and that’s saying something because “ELEVATION” and “Honestly, Nevermind” came out just last year. This sounds like thirty minutes of an AI recreation of a Chainsmokers remix of an Imagine Dragons cover of a new Post Malone B-Side. It’s like the duo have studied the charts circa 2015-2018 and algorithmically spat out every poorly aged millenial pop trend nearly a decade too late. Thirty Seconds to Mars claims that they wrote over TWO HUNDRED SONGS for this album, and THIS was the best they had to offer. Jared Leto, you are fucking with me. You have to be fucking with me. You would think that if you spent five years writing 200 songs that you would come up with *something* interesting at least by accident, but it’s like Thirty Seconds to Mars is trying to go out of their way to make music so bland, manufactured, generic, formulaic, and devoid of humanity that it’ll appeal to literally no one.
From beginning to end, the production on “It's the End of the World but It's a Beautiful Day” feels like it’s trying to take from what the band thinks is popular and puts the most derivative, uninspired take on it they possibly can without bringing anything new to the table. Opener “Stuck” tries to cash in on the recent queer leaning dance pop revival with the most flat, colorless sounding EDM beats I’ve heard in a while, the perfect encapsulation of the “H&M changing room music” criticism that has become shorthand for generic pop these days. As if that wasn’t enough, the main riff/backend hook sounds like a bastardized take of “Disturbia” and “Bad Romance”, except substituting Rihanna’s cool mystique and Gaga’s artsy weirdness we get Jared trying to sing “dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah” in the most ear grating way possible. Meanwhile, I’m guessing the duo saw that their attempt of being Imagine Dragons on “America” didn’t go over well and instead of realizing it was a bad idea to begin with, they decided that they needed to literally get the singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, to co-write and produce the next track, “Life Is Beautiful”, (god, what a fucking eye roll of a title). And yep, this sounds exactly like Imagine Dragons - and I do mean that as an insult. The barely existent verses that artificially inflate the chorus, the overblown Hans Zimmer BRAAAM drop, the “Well Will Rock You” stomp claps, the poorly implemented trap hi-hats, the faux soul Dan Reynolds mini hook, the atmosphere sounding like it was made by a boardroom for a car commercial - this sound was already overdone, growing old, and receiving loud negative pushback back in 2018 when Thirty Seconds to Mars released their last album, who the fuck is this for in 2023? It’s cheesy, gaudy, and tacky, and it brings out the worst of both bands. These songs aren’t good by any means for the reason I listed above, and they may arguably be two of the worst here, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for actually preferring them because they’re the only songs that poorly attempt some sort of edge - because from this point on, the rest of the record sounds like it was made to be the soundtrack for “The Bachelor”.
“Love These Days” sounds like modern Maroon 5 circa “JORDI”, and I don’t just mean Maroon 5 as in generic but as in it sounds exactly like Maroon 5, with it’s predictable, formulaic melody, its stale trap beat that shows the band is aware of hip-hop but not enough to be any good at it, and its “oh, this relationship has so many problems and we fight so often and we’re toxic for each other - but god, the sex is out of this world” lyrical theme. Also, “Getting high on heartbreak, hooked on to the pain, kind of fucked up and fake”? Jared, why would you say that? Why was Olivia Rodrigo’s last record more emotionally aware and intelligent than this whole album. You’re 51 years old, knock it off. “Lost These Days” (no, this isn’t a typo, there are actually two songs with virtually the same title) continues the Maroon 5 route, opting for their non distinct sad pop sound on this one with an outro that sounds like it would fit right in with the Chainsmokers era of radio pop, while “Never Not Love You” sounds like if someone dared to ask “what if Skillet remixed a song from ‘Dear Evan Hansen’”, and trust me, no matter how gross that sentence sounded to you the actual song is much worse.
Meanwhile, “Seasons” sounds like if the band tried to recreate “Sunflower” by Swae Lee and Post Malone from memory with its breezy atmosphere and electronic drums, except they sucked all of the catchiness and charm out of it and intended it for suburban moms to listen to it instead. After that, “Get Up Kid” is uncanny with its flat, corny, faux sentimental vibe, sounding like pouring out your traumas and mental health problems to someone and just for them to say “just be positive and you’ll stop being sad :)”. Both of these songs suffer from being just two of many notable instances of Jared’s vocal production and mixing being just ugly to listen to. Say what you want about Jared, but the man *can* sing - his style is overdramatic as fuck but he *can* sing - yet here, it sounds so fake, unnatural, and digitized, loaded to the brim with processing and Melodyne audibly dragging his voice from note to note, that I’d believe if you said they actually used AI to recreate his voice. And while we’re on the vocals, how can I forget: the millennial whoops. Thirty Seconds to Mars are no strangers to overusing vocalizations to add a bit a bit of catchiness and fake emotionality instead of writing meaningful lyrics and well crafted songs, and they’re here in spades on this album. The “oh-oh’s”, the “you-oo-oo-oo’s” the “aye-oh, aye-oh, whoa-oh’s”. They’re here on almost every track trying to get you to feel something and bait the stadiums into singing along, but they just come across as soulless and as a way to fill up space where they couldn’t find a line. I know I must sound like I’m nitpicking some non-existent issue but I promise you the minute you notice them you won’t be able to stop, and they’ll get increasingly annoying every time they come up. All of these shifts from one gentrified pop trend to the next are not only bland and obnoxious as hell, but it makes the band feel like they have no real identity, sounding like some gray soup resembling pop music you’ve heard before but not being particularly good at any of it.
But the worst part of “It's the End of the World but It's a Beautiful Day” isn’t just the fact that it’s completely derivative and generic, it’s how the record is all style and no substance. The booming basses, the big hits of stomps and claps, the overdramatic vocal performances, the stadium bait millennial whoops; they all point to a common problem of the band trying to come across as profound with material that just has no content. The Ed Sheeran co-written track “World on Fire” is beating you over the head with its air of “THIS IS DEEP, THIS IS MEANINGFUL” with its melodramatic vocals, pounding drums, big synths, and melodic guitar leads, yet the song is packed to the brim with clichés of “Life leads us out of the dark, Let there be light, And we’ll set this world on fire” that are not only unoriginal but completely unspecific. The meaning of “life is beautiful” is that…life is beautiful. Why? I don’t know, it just is I guess. Oh, and you should rise up against…something? I guess? The closer “Avalanche” drops these loud burst of vocoder choirs, clearly trying to set the mood as larger than life with some sort of great knowledge, but then vapid lyrics are literally “Time, time to live our lives, Set the world on fire, From the ashes, we will rise, Life, don't let it pass you by, Open up your eyes, From the ashes, we will rise”. Like…do I have to say it? They’re not saying anything! These words are so cliché that they practically don’t mean anything. They’re aren’t meaningful lyrics coming from the heart, these are empty slogans you hear at MLM events trying to convince you to ruin your life. Not only are they completely predictable with rhymes you can see coming a mile away, they just sound vapid, surface level, and fake deep.
And that’s the problem with this whole record. From the overblown instrumentation to the exaggerated performances to the calls to action for nothing in particular, this record is trying so hard to be big, grand, meaningful, and profound, yet every attempt at trying to be impactful comes across as hollow. It’s empty grandiosity and the definition of being pretentious. More than anything, it reminds me of bad Christian rock. Think about it, the overdramatic performances, attempting to sound huge yet feeling incredibly limp and flat, calls to action to do…something, attempting to sound deep and meaningful yet coming across as cliché and meaningless, trying so hard to sound sincere that you sound anything but. Thirty Seconds to Mars is just using the aesthetics of bad Christian rock while taking out the religious part of it. It’s basically a non-religious Newsboys. But while I think bands like Newsboys suck, I’ll give them this - they do have a message that they do care about, and I think they’re earnestly trying to spread it, even if I think it’s in one of the most ineffective and corniest ways possible. Thirty Seconds to Mars has no message. I don’t think Jared Leto cares about anything, I’m not even fully convinced he likes music; I think he’s just so far up his own ass that he thinks his surface level stoned ramblings over stadium bait atrocities are just THAT good and THAt meaningful and will sell records to continue to fuel his celebrity lifestyle.
So yeah, I don’t like this Thirty Seconds to Mars record. In a lot of ways, I actually feel like “It's the End of the World, But It's a Beautiful Day” is the album equivalent to “Morbius”. Stay with me for a second, I’m not just doing some jokey clickbait. There seems to be no purpose behind it existing besides it could make money and the fact that it can. It’s generic, dull, insipid, unoriginal, unimaginative, run of the mill, nondescript, and has no point of view whatsoever, and as a result it has no appeal besides being vaguely similar to other media people are already tired of and not even being a particularly good resemblance. It’s trying to hype itself as a big event, and yet the final result is just pure background noise, with anything that does stand out being gaudy, tacky, and flat out gross. And most importantly, it’s got Jared Leto making a big deal about how much of an artist he is while having nothing substantial to show for it, leading to him further looking like an egotistical ass. It feels like an album made with no love and a record made for no one, with music and lyrics that come across as inauthentic, insincere, manufactured, and lacking in substance when it’s desperately trying to act like it’s not. I’ve seen lifestyle gurus that charge $6000 for a three day wellness stay that come across as more genuine than this. Like I said above, this is just hollow, fake deep, empty grandiosity. There might be albums that I rank lower this year on my worst list - we’ll see when we get there, I’m being 100% real with you when I say I don’t know yet - but I can tell you right now that there is nothing else that I’ve heard this year that feels this cynical. “It's the End of the World, But It's a Beautiful Day” by Thirty Seconds to Mars is completely absent of soul, care, effort, feeling, emotion, and anything resembling good.