Plain White T’s burst onto the music scene with their iconic hit single Hey There Delilah in 2007. With raw and heart wrenching honesty, the track brought forth a rather unique sound in mainstream music. If we read their new album American Nights as an update to how the Plain White T’s have progressed, the band must feel awfully confused, as the album is a strange mix of tracks that don’t seem to connect.
The album does showcase a few memorable tracks, these only being the ones in which the band explores pop-rock elements. The tracks American Nights and Pause are decent pop songs that have good momentum. Never Working is a really good punk ballad and is the best track on the album because the deep lyrics resonate the emotive nature of Hey There Delilah. The track Heavy Rotation is a love and hate track. You love it because it’s catchy and fun – you hate it because it’s corny and very cringe 80s rock. Stay is also another memorable track that shows musical exploration with heavy drum rhythms and twangy guitar arpeggios.
The rest of the tracks on the album don’t feel memorable and they don’t provide anything exciting in lyrical expression either. The tracks Dance Off Time and Here Come That Sunrise strangely play with the folk/country genre, which honestly is really confusing on a pop-punk album. Within their folk tracks, the band sounds nothing like themselves. The track Love Again has the same problem as they play with an acoustic ukulele feel that sounds nothing like anything else on the album.
This album doesn’t simply reek with confusion but many of the tracks are also awfully reminiscent of other artists. The rock anthem-like tracks sound like FUN, the folk songs sound like any hipster band in the folk renaissance of 2010 onwards and in some songs they emulate a Maroon 5 style. It’s not just the genres they tap into that do this, but for example the verses in Someday You’re Gonna Love Me sound so much like Don’t Stand So Close to me by The Police.
In the end, the tracks don’t fit together and you wonder what the Plain White T’s are trying to achieve. They don’t know whether they want to be a pop rock, folk or Hawaiian. I always talk about the need for diversity in an album, but this is just too much diversity. Though there are decent tracks on the album, I felt quite disappointed because nothing felt as honest and emotional as Hey There Delilah. The Plain White T’s are really good at pop-rock ballads and I think that is where they should stay.