Album Review: Freedom Child by The Script

By Niy Birden

Columbia . Sony

The 3-year hiatus is a long and complicated one for music lovers. On one hand you don’t want to risk being annoyed with your music obsession after only one year, because you want to give them time (it’s an artist thing) and you don’t want to hate them (it’s a Stan thing). But on another hand, you also don’t want them to play around with your musical hearts, and instead let you consume the product that they so carefully place in front of you. 2 years is sufficient because it allows breathing time and a moment of clarity for both you and the artist. But three years?

That’s completely insane. What could possibly be so important for a 3-year break in recording and releasing new music? It seems like the best musical growths we’ve seen in the music industry happen around a 3-5 year hiatus. And these are of course by the top-ranking artists we’ve had in the last ten years. That’s Bruno Mars, Adele, Beyonce, and even Taylor Swift, who recently abandoned her 2-year break method to approach us with her new upcoming album. Apparently for rock band The Script, it can mean a lot. And 4 albums previously in your discography is a good excuse for a well-deserved break.

For those of you not who don’t listen to musicians hailing from Ireland, The Script is a lovely band from Dublin, who rose to fame in the late 2000’s with their self-titled album. They have also shown a legitimate knack for songwriting with their early hits “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved”, “Live Like We’re Dying” (which was later covered by American Idol winner Kris Allen), “Hall of Fame”, and everyone’s personal favorite (including yo momma’s) “Breakeven”, which has been the subject of many popular YouTube and singing competition covers around the world. Although the band hasn’t made a huge international impact in the same way other similar bands have, the work that they have done for heartwarming rock ballads have given them a solid fan base that’s allowed them to tour and release more chart-topping albums in those few years.

Which is why their new album, Freedom Child, comes at such a big surprise in the midst of all the pop, hip hop and r&b overload that’s come out recently. It’s almost a bit surprising that they did come back in the way they did, and during the time that they did. It’s even more surprising that they didn’t include a hip hop guest contribution, considering how many of our most traditional musicians are adapting to the hip hop aesthetic.

But luckily, there is a fresh hip hop moment in there (if hip hop is Taylor Swift circa 1989). Since their album’s new release in the start of September, there have been mainly mixed reviews (but this takes time), and it also seems as though the band is getting more honest…but maybe not in the album itself? This is referring to some of their most interesting interview statements as of recently, including “Find a band who sing as honestly as us. I dare you”, and even “That’s the first show of support that musicians got behind. Where the hell is Bono? Where’s Jay-Z? Where’s Beyoncé?” (referring to the recent bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert this summer and the relief show). But clearly The Script aren’t that aware of other similar efforts made by most of the bigger music celebrities. Bruno Mars donated $1 million to the reliefs of Flint. Beyonce just joined forces with other celebrities for the Hurricane Irma ruins. And don’t even forget that political statement at the Super Bowl! But it’s easy to forget all of the good or all of the efforts when the recent bad is seemingly outweighing it. And then, you know, because the world is either on fire or drowning right now.

The Script have claimed that their new genre-exploring album explores thoughts on most of the recent events, amongst other matters of the heart, and it seems that they aren’t in the least apologetic for their new album and how it almost completely abandons the sound we have associated them with. Even their very normal-sounding track Dived States of America seems like it is very oddly placed in the album. But there is an actual theme that goes to the album, and honestly that rewards them an automatic 10 points because it is something that isn’t commonly discussed in mainstream rock music anymore. There’s also lot of self-discovery that happens throughout the album. One of the songs, Written in the Scars, perfectly sums up the album’s previous track, Make Up, which also greatly reminds the listener of the themes in Alessia Cara’s Scars To Your Beautiful.

And the album art is equally self-empowering, featuring a silhouette of a figure standing in the middle of a neon-lit street. But the true eye-catcher is of course the much brighter wings attached to the figure. At 14 tracks long and almost an hour in, it takes a few listens until you can start to get the hang of it. But here are the songs that stuck out the most:
No Man Is An Island- Slamming in the doors with a beach boy-like guitar riff and bouncy beat, the lead singer’s voice sounds more processed than usual, and for good reason. There’s a slight reggae feeling to some of the echoed words and it matches very well with the lead up to the full-blown EDM-reggae combo chorus. O’Donoghue and the others definitely did very well with the production of the song. You’d never guess that a rock musician could choose the perfect synths and soundscapes to accompany an EDM song with so much reggae, but in fact much of what we consider to be modern EDM and rock has come straight from the islands themselves. And O’Donoghue’s silky falsettos are a great introduction to the opener. But it definitely isn’t the sound we are used to.

Rain- With a bouncy piano-guitar combo guiding O’Donoghue’s voice, this could easily be a great contender for the new recent Ed Sheeran sound. It perfectly gives off the summery vibe they described they were going for, in addition to that poppy sound that is hitting the charts, which once again combines the island singy-songy vibe with modern pop. It’s quite hilarious though, the odds of how similar their music sounds, because Danny was recently interviewed and stated that he passed on Ed. “…..He’s always asked can we come down to the studio but we haven’t had time. But we aren’t much of a collaborating band and I would prefer to collaborate with a female.” Ouch. This is quite a contrasting statement considering how they also recently stated that “traditional bands” were in “danger” (which is a fair point). But it seems they didn’t need Ed after all!

Arms Open- While it definitely is more optimistic than their usual sound, this is perhaps one of the most closest songs to their original music. It also wouldn’t be hard to believe if they were once again pulling from the Ed vault with this one, since the acoustic guitar strums and the lyrics are the epitome of guy-with-a-guitar repertoire: “I can’t unfeel your pain/I can’t undo what’s done/I can’t send back the rain/But if I could I wouldMy love, my arms are open/[Pre-Chorus 1]So when you feel like you can’t take another round of being broken/My arms are open/And when you’re losing faith and every door around you keeps on closing/My arms are open”. O’Donoghue’s voice also brings in a bit more of a dream-like rasp to it, helped by the raw recorded vocal quality. But a female vocal would have definitely fit well with it. This type of song would particularly call for another raspy vocal singer, like an Ellie Goulding or even Julia Michaels, both of whom are noted singer-songwriters themselves. And thankfully, there is more of an electric guitar reminder near the end.

Mad Love- If you consider the peak of hip hop and pop’s marriage in modern music as Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, then you will either be secretly dancing to this in your office chair or completely livid. With a beat that almost resembles Taylor’s highly-discussed song, a musical theme that reminds you of Muse’s song “Madness” and the very catchy, sure-to-be-added-to-a-shirt-in-Forever21 phrase “I got mad, mad love for ya, I got mad, mad love”, this is quite the change for The Script. Some of the funniest lyrics in the song even have animal references: “I’m your great white, you’re my piranha/We don’t give a, we love the drama/I’m your snakebite, you’re, you’re my charmer/We don’t give a…” It would be a bit naive to think that they weren’t hoping for a highly-publicized parody video to emerge from this particular tune.

Love Not Lovers- Another EDM-saturated track, this song sounds like it would actually be something crafted out of a master recording session for The Chainsmokers, Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara, for that new, youthful and still soulful effect. While the lyrics aren’t absolutely ground-breaking, the lyrics do confront some very tough dilemmas that only the millennial population would truly understand: “Swiped right on Tinder, had a little fun on the phone/You made up but he got so drunk that you had to swipe left, had to send him home.”

Awakening- This track has been included in here because you hardly see musical interludes in mainstream rock albums anymore. You definitely hear them in the indie world, or even in hip hop, both mainstream and underground, but this is a rarity. The flowing of the song really helps sink in the last song of the album, which is helped out by its rising synth sound and pounding drums, which bear a strong musically thematic resemblance to Coldplay’s equally political and lovey-dovey album Mylo Xyloto. It has a unique soundscape, and at only 47 seconds it ties the knot.

Freedom Child- Ending the album on a truly patriotic note, this song honestly sounds like a self-readied tune you would hear a character on a Disney Channel movie perform while giving their friends a family-friendly lesson on terrorism or hatred in your country. The belted chorus honestly doesn’t do much for the musical intent, however its optimism is what keeps the album in the same theme and gives it appeal. If the band were looking for a crowd-pleaser, this could come in with a clean 5th place.

A truly adventurous effort for The Script, Freedom Child is probably not the album you would spend a lot of time listening to altogether due to its length and scattered genre compilation. But this serves as something of equal opportunity for the listener. This means that the album is pretty versatile for listeners, helping them gain a much wider reach to audiences. While there is no guarantee that their next album will be just as adventurous or that this album will do much on the charts, it wouldn’t be surprising if you see them performing at big music awards shows for their crowd-pleaser round of songs and musicality.