Review Summary: Big Bad World is a step down for a band that had nowhere to go but up.
In music, when a band finds success they will often try to duplicate that sound over and over again. It isn’t the most artistic thing to do, and it certainly isn’t the most honorable way for a band to augment its career. However, it is a pretty simple formula that will almost always result in at least moderate success, as nostalgic fans will desperately latch onto the redundant sound in hopes that it will somehow prove itself to be equally as good as the original. When this strategy fails to succeed, it is often a giveaway that the band is either a.) defunct or b.) not talented to begin with. In the case of The Plain White T’s Big Bad World
, it would seem that both are the case.
The Plain White T’s entered the studio to record Big Bad World
as one of the most beloved pop artists of the year. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Tom Higgenson’s sensitive lyrics on the earnest sounding “Hey There Delilah” earned the band more than its fair share of time on the Billboard’s Hot 100. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the radio-listening population is completely unaware that the band had other much, much
better songs. They had a tendency to be extremely corny, but The Plain White T’s sounded refreshingly catchy and upbeat on albums like Stop
and All That We Needed
. But whatever goals the band had in mind, assuming they had goals other than money and (12 year old) women, were essentially wiped out when “Hey There Delilah” became an international hit. Now the band is adored by millions of pre-teens who continuously hope for more of the same. Not because they necessarily like the sound, but because nobody understands them
and because The Plain White T’s lyrics are so deep and thought provoking
! To be fair, the band is also endorsed by a portion of the adult population, such as those who create grocery store soundtracks and those who purchase the album for said pre-teen daughters. Anyhow, it is clear that The Plain White T’s entered the studio with one goal in mind: to milk their success for all the money it was worth.
“Big Bad World”, the title track, kicks things off with a chorus that emphatically states We’ll do it again (doin’ it again), we’ll do it again my friends
. I would say that it is ironic, but truth be told Higgenson is just being honest because from the get-go, the band really is just reusing and recycling their own old material. In this case, the best one can hope for is that the songs will at least be catchy. That is not even the case, at least not on a consistent basis. “Natural Disaster” and “Meet Me in California” are moderately enjoyable tracks if you can overcome the vomit inducing lyrics:
I don't know what this girl was after
She's a natural, natural disaster
She's so sexy
I had to have her
She's a natural, natural disaster
Meet me in California
I'll be there waiting for your call
I'll be there waiting for you
'cause you know in California
There's something better for us all
Meet me in California
These lyrics are an insult even to the simplest of poets. The music however, as I mentioned, has enough hooks to be enjoyable background music. That is about where the line is drawn not just for these two songs, but also for the entire album.
The remainder of this rather short ten song record falters on all levels. Tracks such as “Serious Mistake”, “That Girl”, and “I Really Want You” do nothing to capture the listener’s attention and really do not even expand upon the meaning implied from the title of each respective track. More often than not, these songs are just composed of Higgenson repeating the title of the song over and over again. The musical components of the songs are equally as insulting, with the exact same three-chord progressions and drum cycles present on nearly every single track. You would think that a band would want to incorporate other sounds into their repertoire, if nothing else out of curiosity or sheer boredom. But alas, The Plain White T’s stand rigid in their refusal to do absolutely anything out of the box on this album. “Sunlight” shows some initial promise, but this too ends up being a disappointment as one slowly starts to realize that the Crosby, Stills, and Nash influence present is inevitably butchered. Big Bad World
’s most successful single, “1, 2, 3, 4” is nothing more than a failed attempt at recreating “Hey There Delilah.” From one track to the next, the album simply fails to inspire any creativity from the band, let alone the listener’s imagination.
As a whole, Big Bad World
is a colossally unoriginal and pitifully uninspired album. The lyrics are horrendous from start to finish. The ideas are half-baked and never even reach the basic level of competency shown on the band’s previous releases. There are some fun moments, but they are immediately erased by several follow-up moments of bland, tiring music. It is difficult to be genuinely disappointed by a Plain White T’s album, considering how low one’s expectations should probably be heading into the experience. However, Big Bad World
manages to be a disappointment regardless, from those who had no expectations to those who actually thought the band would use this as a chance to expand upon their sound. It is clear the Plain White T’s are in this for all the wrong reasons, as their music doesn’t suggest a willingness to do anything remotely interesting or exciting. Big Bad World
is a step down for a band that had nowhere to go but up, and they fail to capitalize on their own simple formula concocted by 2007’s breakthrough single “Hey There Delilah.”