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Emblem3, ‘Nothing to Lose’ – Album Review

Emblem3 Nothing to Lose
Columbia

Judging from the 11 tracks on the standard edition of Emblem3‘s debut ‘Nothing to Lose,’ the Cali trio never, like, ever has a bad day. Equal parts Hot Chelle Rae and One Direction, they’re cute and they make crazy catchy anthems with golden melodies and saccharine harmonies.

Emblem 3, who competed deep into Season 2 of American ‘X Factor,’ co-wrote much of the album, including the hit single ‘Chloe,’ a song which probably makes most 8th grade girls wish that was her name.

The album, as a whole, is the sonic equivalent of a large cup of Pinkberry frozen yogurt. It’s very L.A. and it sure feels good going down. It may not have the same nutritional value of, say, a steak or a plate of kale, but it still tastes good.

Emblem3 — Keaton Stromberg, Wesley Stromberg and Drew Chadwick – are more than your average boy band, since they do pen their own tracks. ‘Nothing to Lose’ stays the course (upbeat pop) from start to finish. While that approach offers little in the way of dynamics, the boys have perfected a formula.

1. ‘Just For One Day’
With tropical percussion – it really sounds like island music — this sun-splashed, keyboard-driven opener will transport you to the blue sky paradise of your choice. It’s an ebullient opener and the rest of the album maintains that pace.

2. ‘Spaghetti’
Grab some oregano and some pasta sauce! ‘Spaghetti’ is another uptempo anthem with a communal sing-along that promises everything is gonna be alright. Since the boys are from California, their songs sound reared along a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway. This track, complete with horns, is as addictive as a caffeinated beverage.

3. ‘XO’
This rhythmic track is E3 at their most urban, complete with a G-rated rap in the bridge. It leans back, but just a little. It’s pristine when it comes to production and melodies, which is the case for the entire album.

4. ‘Chloe (You’re The One I Want)’
The album’s first single is a grower — as in, it grows on you. It’s a top down, feel good track that makes most ladies want to be the girl the boys are singing about. The track reminds us of a more pop version of rock band Sugar Ray and their hit ‘Fly,’ since it has a smidgen of reggae and world influence in the instrumentation.

5. ‘Girl Next Door’
With shimmery percussion, handclaps and raps, Emblem3 have pretty much perfected their formula by this fifth track. There are no surprises here, but the boys are certainly penning tracks that will make teenage girls who are self-conscious about themselves experience a boost in self-esteem.

6. ‘Nothing to Lose’
The threesome demonstrates surf boy hip-hop chops here. There’s nothing tough or hard about them when they spit rhymes. They are about as edgy as a circle. But those killer harmonies lend such buoyancy to the song and their sound, even when their cheesy raps fall flat here and there. The rapping doesn’t work for Karmin and it doesn’t always work for Emblem3. But the layered sounds are super catchy. They get bonus points for their Taylor Swift reference — they sing “You won’t be writing breakup songs like that Taylor chick.”

7. ‘I Love LA’
E3 have penned a love letter to their home state of California. It’s very Bieberian in its mix of pop and urban stylings. Espousing one’s love for the Golden State is nothing new in pop music, but Emblem3 do it in their unique fashion here. It’s like the unintentional sequel to Katy Perry‘s ‘California Gurls,’ complete with neighborhood shout outs.

8.’ Sunset Blvd.’
The beat-driven ‘Sunset Blvd.’ is the continuation of the exaltation of L.A. in the song before it, with a bit of a tougher, urban vibe. The song feels a bit out of place, but then again, on an album of sugary pop confections that sound incredibly similar, this is a low riding track that sticks out like the sorest of thumbs. In a good way.

9.’ 3000 Miles’
Ah, the ballad. There it is. We were waiting for this one to rear its head. The slow, contemplative track laments someone the boys love who happens to be 3000 miles away. We’ll go out on a limb and assume she’s East Coast-based and not in their beloved California. The song is piano-driven and reflective. We like the ruminative side to Emblem3.

10. ‘Teenage Kings’
With a title that’s self-referential, where they are calling themselves royalty, Emblem3 puff out their chests and get a little boastful. But it’s got a choppy melody and you’ll be dancing and singing along, as opposed to questioning their motives.

11. ‘One Day’
A lazy, acoustic guitar-launched track closes the record. It still laced with loads of reggae groove and it sounds like something you will listen to while hanging on a hammock between two trees on some paradise island, with a cool (and non-alcoholic) drink in your hand. It’s full, with lots of layered group vocals. Lyrically, it’s about the dream where we wars don’t exist. So E3 get social and political over a Bob Marley-approved melody line. We don’t really need or want them to get serious, but despite the subject, the song is still fun and an easy, breezy listen.

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