Talking about “What if Nothing” is hard

Walk the Moon performs. Photo by Dorrit ’19

Though they are most widely known for their Summer 2014 anthem “Shut Up and Dance,” Walk the Moon has been by my side since 2012 and guided me through my freshman and sophomore years with their freshman and sophomore albums. I waited three long years for their third album. Yet, while struggling to push through my first semester of junior year, I also struggled to get through their newest release, “What if Nothing.”

On one hand, the band is my childhood. Each track on their self-titled album floods me with nostalgia; the wonder and sublimity I experienced the very first time I heard “Anna Sun” will never disappear. This 2012 album creatively wove indie pop influences, alternative rock and personal narrative into carefree and mystical songs that sound best when blasted in their designated order on the stereo of a Jeep Wrangler on a cross-country road trip.

“Talking is Hard,” their second and slightly more pop-influenced album, was released prior to my first general admission concert experience. At the Hollywood Palladium in March 2015, I watched through throngs of fans as front man Nick Petricca pounded synthesizers and blew bubbles into the crowd, his fur vest and neon face paint dancing below the lights. I had never witnessed such genuine passion for the intersection Petricca created between art and mindfulness.

I would go on to witness this passion three more times in three different venues. Each time I pushed closer to my dreams, finally reaching the barricade in May 2016 and holding onto Petricca’s hand during “I Can Lift a Car.” Each time the synthesizer grew louder and the personal anecdotes grew softer. Though my experience had arguably become jaded, the band seemed tainted by their brief moment of public fame and starvation for life in the public eye to continue.

True fans saw it coming a mile away; commercialism is visible and toxic. It’s happened to countless artists throughout music history who attempt to change their image to adapt to the times and adhere to pop standards, forgetting that the classics always stay true to who they are. The question is whether Walk the Moon will realize it for themselves and be able to make a comeback.

It is one of the most devastating experiences to be forced to criticize the work of your all-time favorite band, but as with any relationship, people change. Walk the Moon still stands for the same values they did as four liberal college students in Ohio in 2009: unity, wanderlust exploration, and gratitude. They’ve just been led down a few wrong paths by capitalist music management and mindsets, so they’re now showing “Different Colors.”

“What if Nothing,” their latest release, is anything but genuine. Its 13 tracks are ridden with unnecessary beat drops and cliché lyrics that leave you feeling absolutely empty inside. Though none of the songs are worthy of praise, the album’s lowest point is definitely “Headphones.” Its build is nonsensical and includes more yelling than singing, and it sets a totally underwhelming stage for the remaining 11 tracks that follow it.

“One Foot” was the single they released prior to the rest of the album, which accurately represents the electronic and fabricated aura of the entire album. Though moderately catchy, the single sounds much more like a Maroon 5 hit than a song from any kind of band claiming to be alternative.

According to their new tour, they’re “Pressing Restart,” though not for the right reasons. Why start over when what you had going was great? When I return to the Palladium in February almost exactly three years after they first changed my life, I expect that the atmosphere will be altered and the energy less palpable. Face paint will be faded, as will passion.

As my future seems to be the only topic of discussion nowadays, Walk the Moon’s is also in jeopardy. I hope we both manage to see the light and persevere because I don’t want to be forced to live vicariously through old albums; I want to be part of their future and them part of mine. Though I hate being “Down in the Dumps,” they’ve been the soundtrack of too much of my adolescence for me to simply let go. 

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