American Tragedy (album)

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American Tragedy
Studio album by Hollywood Undead
Released April 4, 2011 (2011-04-04)
(see release history)
Recorded June–December 2010
The Beat Suite
Hollywood
Genre Rap rock[1]
Length 50:41
Label A&M/Octone
Polydor
Universal Music Australia
Universal Music Group
Producer Don Gilmore (also exec.), Griffin Boice
Hollywood Undead studio album chronology
Swan Songs
(2008)
American Tragedy
(2011)
Notes from the Underground
(2013)
Singles from American Tragedy
  1. "Hear Me Now"
    Released: December 21, 2010
  2. "Been to Hell"
    Released: March 15, 2011
  3. "Coming Back Down"
    Released: March 15, 2011
  4. "Comin' in Hot"
    Released: April 9, 2011
  5. "My Town"
    Released: September 2011
  6. "Bullet"
    Released: March 16, 2012
  7. "Levitate"
    Released: April 22, 2012

American Tragedy is the second studio album by American rap rock band Hollywood Undead. Production for the album began following the induction of Daniel Murillo into the band in early 2010 and lasted until December. Don Gilmore and Ben Grosse, who helped produce the band's debut album, Swan Songs (2008), also returned to produce the album along with several other producers including Kevin Rudolf, Sam Hollander, Dave Katz, Griffin Boice, Jeff Halavacs, and Jacob Kasher. The album is musically heavier and features darker lyrical content than the band's previous effort, also focusing largely on rock music rather than rap. Originally set to release in March, American Tragedy was released on April 5, 2011 in the United States and was released on various other dates that month in other countries. A remix of the album, American Tragedy Redux, was released on November 21, 2011.

The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200, selling approximately 67,000 copies in its first week in the United States, and ended up becoming the 142nd best selling album of 2011 in the US. It also charted in a few other countries, including Canada and the UK, a first for the band. The album also had five singles: "Hear Me Now", "Been to Hell", "Coming Back Down", "Comin' in Hot", and "My Town", with music videos being made for all of them except "Coming Back Down" as it was released on the same day as "Been to Hell". The band participated in three headlining tours: the Revolt Tour, the Endless Summer Tour, and the World War III Tour, as well as other supporting tours throughout 2011 to promote the album. Upon release, American Tragedy received mixed reviews. Critics consistently noted the darker and more serious tone of the album, but to mixed reception. Lyrics were widely criticized while the energy and instruments were praised in most reviews.

Background[edit]

Since the release of the live CD-DVD Desperate Measures (2009), the band had begun writing material for their tentative second studio album. However, in early 2010, clean vocalist Aron "Deuce" Erlichman was voted out of the group due to not arriving at the airport when the band was scheduled to leave for a tour, which left Erlichman and Hollywood Undead on poor terms. Erlichman then released a track, titled "Story of a Snitch", aimed at J-Dog and Johnny 3 Tears. In late 2010, the band confirmed that former touring member Daniel "Danny" Murillo, who was an American Idol contestant in its ninth season and also the lead singer of the band Lorene Drive, would take over as Erlichman's replacement, providing clean vocals.[2]

Recording for the album began in summer 2010 and was originally set to release in fall of that year. Recording lasted until November and was mixed after Thanksgiving.[3] James Diener, head of the band's record label, believed that it would launch the band into more mainstream success, making it a "big next step" for the group.[4] This was proven correct following the commercial success of the album's number four debut in the United States.[5] The band has also confirmed that producer Don Gilmore, who also worked on their debut album, had returned as executive producer for the album.[4] On the recording process, J-Dog said in an interview, "[It had] been a long time, were out of the studio, done recording, beat the shit out of ourselves to make sure our second record is better than our first. It was hard but we finally finished it and we're excited our first track is out there."[6]

On January 11, 2011, the band confirmed the title of the album, American Tragedy,[6] and released a preview video of the album with an instrumental snippet of the then untitled track, "Been to Hell".[7][8] In an interview, Johnny 3 Tears explained the meaning of the album's title. The "American Tragedy" refers to the concept that many American youth grow up believing in certain ideals which are discovered to be false upon entering adulthood.[9] On January 19, the band released a photo of their new masks as well as new member Danny's mask. The band reasoned these because, "they represent [Hollywood Undead] as a band, and as a whole. We all felt it's years later since the first record and time to start a new chapter." In addition, the growing fan base of the group made Jerry Constantine, the band's molder, to point out that some of the fans masks started looking better than the band's. "So we stepped it up", J-Dog reported in a press release.[10] Each member designed their own mask, with the new designs being much closer to the original concept the band envisioned than before. Johnny 3 Tears feels the masks are more sophisticated and reflect how different the new album is from their previous efforts.[9]

Johnny 3 Tears described the album as being much heavier than their debut album, Swan Songs (2008). "There is more rock, heavier sound and more pain in the songs", Johnny 3 Tears stated, relating this to the situation of the country at the time. "When you write songs, you're very sensitive to what is happening in the world, and I would say that we have incorporated into the song much more than what we see around us at this time. It is hard to write happy, cheerful songs, when 14 percent of the population [was] unemployed."[9] On February 25, the band confirmed the official release date of the album as April 5, 2011.[11] Speaking about the album as a whole, Johnny 3 Tears said that, "American Tragedy is the record I always hoped that Hollywood Undead would write, we couldn't be more proud. We hope all the fans love it as much as we do. Our fans mean everything to us, and we dedicate this record to them."[12] On April 1, 2011, at Midnight, Hollywood Undead streamed the full album of American Tragedy for free listening on their Myspace page.[13] The release of the album also boosted sales for their debut album, Swan Songs, bringing it back into the Billboard 200.[14]

Music and lyrical themes[edit]

American Tragedy opens with the single "Been to Hell". J-Dog said that the song is, "the truth about what really happens to people when they move to L.A., to be actors or models or God knows what other delusions people have... failure. It's all too true, but most people aren't there to see it first-hand. But we are, so it's our interpretation of it all."[15] The track is followed by "Apologize", a track that directly addresses critics and states the band's defiance in the face of negative opinions, as evident by the chorus, "We don't apologize and that's just the way it is, but we can harmonize even if we sound like shit."[16][17] Third is "Comin’ in Hot", a party song and the album's fourth single that uses humor to describe what happens in night clubs.[17] "My Town" is the fifth single and a mid-tempo song talking about Los Angeles and Hollywood. Next is "I Don't Wanna Die", a song about the fear of death fueling the need to kill another person.[17][18] "Hear Me Now" was the lead single from the album and is about the troubles each band member was going through at the time the song was written.[19] The song's lyrics tell the story of a person who is depressed and hopeless, taking a very somber tone to the track. Despite this, the instruments and melodies contrast to make an uptempo track.[20] Next is "Gangsta Sexy", a party anthem song about heading to nightclubs and pursuing women.[18] The following track, "Glory", is a metal-inspired song which drew influence from war and fighting. "Lights Out", the ninth song on the album, is about Deuce, ex-vocalist of Hollywood Undead. It is a response to "Story of a Snitch". "Coming Back Down", the third single released from the album, is a rock ballad song with acoustic guitars on the track. The lyrics describes about a story of an unknown loved one who has recently died, with the narrator having difficulty trying to live without them.[11] "Bullet", the eleventh track from the album, is an uptempo pop song about suicide. It is played in an upbeat tempo with energetic vocals, which gives contrast to the dark lyrical content. Rick Florino called the track, "heart-wrenching genius".[17] "Levitate" is an uptempo discothèque song about sex, while the verses of the song talk about suicide and alcoholism.[18] It was also featured in the Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed trailer, "Autolog Drift Challenge", as well as on the game's soundtrack, where it was ranked eighth on ProGamist's list of "Top ten songs featured in racing games".[21]

"Pour Me", the last soft song on the album, is a dark ballad that has been often compared to Eminem's "Stan".[17] Johnny 3 Tears stated that, "We were messing around with chord progressions and that came out like a more major chord style than we were used to it. It's melodic and poppy sounding. We're talking about drinking obviously because all of us sometimes drink too much. It's one of those basic every day things that people go through but they don't know how to voice it or others around them don't know to voice it. It's almost like you're looked down upon, but no one actually talks about it."[22] "Tendencies", which is the closing track for the standard edition of the album, is a high tempo alternative metal song about murder. Johnny 3 Tears said, "When we wrote Tendencies, I wanted to make a song that kids would just go nuts to when we played it. Kids start moshpits at our shows. Not every song we have is the best mosh song, so I wanted to make a song kids could go crazy for."[22]

While the band was touring with Avenged Sevenfold, the guitarist Synyster Gates spoke about "S.C.A.V.A." stating "Holy shit, that's the craziest verse I've ever heard! The lyrics are insane."[22]

Singles and promotion[edit]

A hooded man covering his face with a bandanna performs with a band of six other masked men in a garage.
The band performing in the "Been To Hell" music video. From left to right: J-Dog, Johnny 3 Tears, Da Kurlzz, Charlie Scene, Danny, Daren Pfeifer (touring member), and Funny Man.

To promote the album, the band participated in three headlining tours and several other supporting tours. The first headlining tour, the Revolt Tour, began on April 6 and spanned across the spring until May 27, playing with Drive-A, New Medicine, 10 Years, and others at various House of Blues venues across North America.[12] The second headlining tour for the album was the Endless Summer Tour with All That Remains and Hyro Da Hero which began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and ended in Knoxville, Tennessee.[23] The third tour was the World War III Tour, which the band called the biggest tour they had done yet. The tour was co-headlined with Asking Alexandria with support acts We Came As Romans, D.R.U.G.S., and Borgore, with different local openers for each location.[14][24] For supporting tours, the band began with the Nightmare After Christmas Tour with headliners Avenged Sevenfold and supporters Stone Sour and New Medicine on January 20, 2011, which was the first supporting tour for the album.[7][8][10][25] Outside of official tours, the band played several festivals throughout 2011 including UFEST in Mesa, Arizona,[26] Rockfest, and Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[27] The band also played various holiday shows, such as a Cinco De Mayo show in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Flogging Molly and others.[28]

The album spawned five singles in total. On December 8, 2010, the band released the artwork for the album's first single, titled "Hear Me Now". The track was released on December 13 for radio and was made available online a week later on December 21.[19] "Hear Me Now" was the album's most successful single, charting variously on the Billboard Heatseeker charts, Alternative charts, and the Rock charts.[29][30] On March 22, the band appeared live on the late night talk show Lopez Tonight as a musical guest where they performed the single "Hear Me Now" to promote the album.[31] The band reportedly almost drank the entire bar behind the Turner Broadcasting System set, with George Lopez saying to J-Dog, "Drink all of it. Go ahead, I don’t care. But I've never seen anyone drink that much."[32] The album's second and third official singles, "Been to Hell" and "Coming Back Down", were both released on March 15, 2011. "Been to Hell" was previously released as a promotional single with a lyric video on February 6,[15] but was then released as a single with a music video,[33] leading to it chart on Billboard's Heatseeker and Bubbling Under Hot 100 charts.[34] Because "Coming Back Down" was released on the same day as "Been to Hell", the track did not get a music video. "Coming Back Down" previously surfaced due to a leak on February 18 and was later confirmed to be on the album and was produced by Kevin Rudolf. Brian Voerding noted that the song showed the band's strength in both singing and rapping while comparing the sound to Linkin Park.[11] The album's fourth single, "Comin' in Hot", was released on April 9 with a music video to celebrate the album's release. Similar to "Been to Hell", "Comin' in Hot" was originally a free promotional single released on January 21, but was later released as an album single following the release of American Tragedy.[35] The track was reviewed by Evigshed along with "Hear Me Now" after it was released as a promotional single, who gave both "Comin' in Hot" and "Hear Me Now" a perfect ten out of ten score, noting that "Comin' in Hot" was much more upbeat and was extremely catchy.[36] On July 8, it was announced the fifth single for the album would be "My Town". The band began shooting the music video in early July and announced that fans would be featured in the video if they recorded themselves performing the song in front of a famous landmark. The video has no release date yet.[37]

Reception[edit]

Commercial performance[edit]

Prior to release, American Tragedy was projected by several publications to sell about 65,000 copies in the first week of release in the United States, and was expected to reach number three on the Billboard 200. When the official sales week ended, the album exceeded expectations and sold about 67,000 copies, but was outsold by Radiohead's The King of Limbs and so debuted at number four on the Billboard 200. Weekly sales topped albums such as Wiz Khalifa's Rolling Papers and Chris Brown's F.A.M.E., and was right behind Adele's 21, Britney Spears's Femme Fatale, and Radiohead's The King of Limbs.

Upon learning of the album's first-week sales, Jordan Terrel, also known to fans of the band as "Charlie Scene." jokingly remarked, "I gotta be honest with everyone: I was really looking forward to the opportunity to be on top of Britney this week, but being right behind her and Adele is a memory we’ll relish forever."[38] The album also debuted at number one on the US Hard Rock charts, number two on the US Rock, Digital, and Alternative charts, and number 11 on the Tastemaker Albums charts. Outside of the US, American Tragedy charted number five in Canadian albums charts and number 43 in the UK albums charts.[5][39]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[40]
Artistdirect 5/5 stars[41]
BBC Music 1/5 stars[42]
Los Angeles Times 2/5 stars[43]
The Minaret Online 4.5/5 stars[16]
Revolver 4/5 stars[44]

Upon its release, American Tragedy received mixed to positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 59, based on 6 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[45]

Rick Florino of Artistdirect gave American Tragedy 5 out of 5, particularly praising the band's choice to avoid duplicating their debut album, Swan Songs, and instead choosing to create a, "darker, deeper, and far deadlier ride this time around." Florino compared various elements of the album to the Wu Tang Clan and Nine Inch Nails, particularly comparing the album's production (which was done by various producers with executive producer Don Gilmore) to Nine Inch Nails' second album The Downward Spiral (1994). He also lauded the irony of the quality singing on, "Apologize", combined with the lyrics, "But we can harmonize, even if we sound like shit." Florino concluded that, "Hollywood Undead's genius lies—in that dangerous space between unforgettable and unsettling," pointing this out in the track, "Bullet", for it being the, "sunniest and catchiest tune on American Tragedy," while still telling, "a potent and poignant tale of longing for suicide." The other track Florino pointed out for being unforgettable is, "Pour Me", calling it, "an evil power ballad that everyone who hears it will feel."[41]

Revolver magazine reviewer Jeremy Borjon gave the album four out of five in his review, calling American Tragedy, "one hell of an album that will leave fans’ heads buzzing long after the clubs have let out and the hangover sets in." Borjon complimented the shift in moods throughout the album and the lyrical quality compared to Swan Songs. He praised several tracks including "Been to Hell", "Apologize", "Comin' in Hot", "Bullet", "Levitate", and "Tendencies" as numerous outstanding points in the album. Borjon did criticize the slower songs, "Coming Back Down" and "Pour Me" but dismissed that that were, "easily forgotten among the album's many undeniably addictive future hits."[44] Richard Solomon of The Minaret proclaimed that, "If you’re a Hollywood Undead fan, you'll love American Tragedy. As for people who didn’t care for Swan Songs, you'll probably still love American Tragedy." Instrumentally, Solomon noted one of his only complaints of the album, being that, "At times, the synthesizer seems a little too heavy handed, but it succeeds more often than not." Solomon complimented the album being different and further encouraged the Deluxe Edition tracks in addition to the album itself.[16]

Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times was more critical in his review. He praised the energy of the album, pointing out the, "Booming groove," of "Apologize", and the "disco-metal urgency," of "Levitate". Wood's biggest complaint of the album was that the band has, "filtered out any sense of humor from its music, which makes American Tragedy virtually impossible to listen to for longer than a few songs at a time."[43] Alistair Lawrence of BBC Music said that the album is, "The result is that they’ve ditched some of the early, growling quirkiness that at least gave them an initial, oddball appeal." Lawrence finishes his review noting, "Hollywood Undead are content to deliver clichés – more out of a lack of imagination than cynical opportunism, but it still smacks of both. That's why to seasoned ears or any genre fan requiring more than more of the same, they’re very, very boring."[42]

Accolades[edit]

Year Nominated work Award Result Place
2011 "Been to Hell" AOL Radio: Top 10 Rock Songs of 2011[46] Won 5th
"—" denotes a nomination that did not place or places were not relevant in the award.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written and performed by Hollywood Undead, with specific writers detailed for each track.[47]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Been to Hell"   Jorel Decker, Daniel Murillo, George Ragan, Jordon Terrell Don Gilmore 3:23
2. "Apologize"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan, Matthew St. Claire, Terrell Griffin Boice 3:27
3. "Comin' in Hot"   Dylan Alvarez, Murillo, Terrell Griffin Boice 3:43
4. "My Town"   Alvarez, Murillo, Ragan, St. Claire Sam Hollander, Dave Katz 3:36
5. "I Don't Wanna Die"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan, Terrell Griffin Boice 3:59
6. "Hear Me Now"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan Sam Hollander, Dave Katz 3:34
7. "Gangsta Sexy"   Alvarez, Murillo, Terrell Don Gilmore 3:54
8. "Glory"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan Don Gilmore 3:34
9. "Lights Out"   Alvarez, Decker, Murillo, Terrell Ben Grosse 3:51
10. "Coming Back Down"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan Kevin Rudolf, Jeff Halavacs, Jacob Kasher 3:23
11. "Bullet"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan, Terrell Griffin Boice 3:18
12. "Levitate"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan, Terrell Kevin Rudolf, Jacob Kasher 3:24
13. "Pour Me"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan Don Gilmore 4:03
14. "Tendencies"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan, St. Claire Griffin Boice 3:32
Total length:
50:41
Deluxe edition
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
15. "Mother Murder"   Decker, Murillo, Ragan, Terrell   4:10
16. "Lump Your Head"   Alvarez, Decker, Murillo, Ragan, St. Claire, Terrell   3:37
17. "Le Deux"   Alvarez, Decker, Murillo, Ragan, Terrell   3:45
18. "S.C.A.V.A."   Murillo, Ragan   4:04
Total length:
66:17

Personnel[edit]

Credits for American Tragedy adapted from Allmusic.[47]

Musicians[edit]

Production[edit]

Charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog Ref
European Union April 4, 2011 Polydor CD, Digital download B004NTVMRY [52]
Deluxe edition CD and digital download B004QHBMZK [53]
United States April 5, 2011 A&M/Octone CD, Digital download 15275 [47]
Deluxe edition CD and digital download 2762142 [54]
Australia April 8, 2011 Universal Music Australia 00602527621425 [55]
Japan April 13, 2011 Universal CD, Digital download UICA1058 [56]
Deluxe edition CD and digital download UICA9031 [57]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Ryan (April 3, 2011). "Review of "American Tragedy" by Hollywood Undead". Alternative Addiction. Retrieved July 23, 2011. 
  3. ^ Rick Florino (May 16, 2011). "Hollywood Undead - Nashville, TN - Aug. 5, 2011". National Shows. Retrieved July 30, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b AP (April 8, 2010). "Hollywood Undead lives vibrantly on alt scene". News group. Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 1 September 2010. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
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