Review Summary: TikTok Marketing: The Album
I saw Valley live in the fall of 2019, right before their meteoric rise to popularity and a major label deal. Their debut full-length MAYBE
from the same year was a bit overlong and spotty in places, but it still effortlessly captured the vigor and playful energy I saw from the band on stage. It was a cinematic, pulse-pounding pop experience highlighted by charismatic vocal performances, non-tired cultural references, and sophisticated syncopation. The youthful excitement and joy I witnessed at that show was waiting for me when I decided to listen to the record, and I was hooked. By comparison, Lost in Translation
is a soulless right hook to the face, a major-label blank slate that you could easily convince me was AI-generated. This is due in part to its inauthentic and mechanical instrumentals, and also because it sounds like the entire band is being held in the studio by Universal Music Group against their will.
Before I go any further, let’s just all agree that this trash Alvin and the Chipmunks vocal preset should be banned from all recorded music from this day forward. “theme” bravely decides to open the record by having Alvin, Simon, and Theodore wish us all good tidings before the one genuinely good song on this album shows itself, that being the title track. It’s still a step down from the quality of MAYBE
, particularly in the lyrical department, but its booming drums and larger-than-life chorus mostly make up for it. The lyrics only get worse as one makes their way further toward the center of the album, whether they be made up of meaningless mental health buzzwords (“I traded medication for meditation, amazing”), misplaced Gen Z slang (“like psilocybin, we’re vibin”) or unironically writing a song about leaving on a big jet plane. With the exception of the title track, the instrumentals don’t fare much better, and further confirm my hypothesis that Lost in Translation
is more of a digital marketing tool than an album. A suspicious amount of tracks fall in between the range of 2 to 2.5 minutes in length, often ending with no real resolution and only one ear-catching moment, which is the part meant to be used in TikToks, of course. The worst example of this is “break for you”, a song that doesn’t even sound finished, being made up of nothing more than a lifeless pad, a dead on arrival drum loop, and a melody that veers uncomfortably close to lifting from “Stay” by The Kid Laroi. This is probably the worst overall song on the album, but it doesn’t even come close to annoying me as much as acoustic numbers “Good, but not together” and “i thought i could fly”, which both aim for the same emotional space as the girl at your middle school talent show who just wrote her first original song and is performing it on the piano she barely knows how to play. Don’t ask me where I got that memory from, it’s too painful.
Lost In Translation
will likely make zero impact on you if it’s your first taste of Valley’s music, but it pisses me off so much more because I know what kind of music they’re capable of making. In their transition from one album cycle to the next, they’ve traded their maximalist, anthemic songwriting strategy for a flavorless social media strategy that makes them completely indistinguishable from any other artist attempting to occupy the same niche. Part of me wonders how hard UMG is going to push this record, and whether they’ll succeed, because they genuinely may have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. As Valley allude to themselves on this record, if nothing stands out and grabs someone’s attention, it will be scrolled past immediately, and Lost In Translation
makes the unfortunate error of backing them into that corner.