The year is 2005. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The world was about to be introduced to the power of Shonda Rhimes with the series premiere of Grey’s Anatomy set to air that fall. The new hit WB show, One Tree Hill, about two brothers, a basketball dream, and a whole lot of teen angst, was slated to premiere its third season, and finally, The O.C, the show that gave us an insight into the troubled lives of privileged teens was also preparing for it’s penultimate third season. Each of these shows has made an impact on television history due to the fact that they all share a significant aspect, and that is the element of music.
It was a revolutionary time when television and music united as one to create some of television’s greatest music moments. On the latter two shows, especially, there was a movement occurring where new bands were being introduced to the world directly through the series. On One Tree Hill, for instance, the popular hangout spot for the characters was “Tric,” a bar that served no alcohol, but delivered and introduced new music names to the residents of Tree Hill and to us, the residents of the real world. The majority of these musicians were bands; indie rock/pop punk/emo groups that just understood everyone’s teenage angst, and who perfectly fit whatever song your MySpace was going to play that week. It truly was a golden age for bands that were creating a new type of sound, a sound relevant to youth, and The Academy Is… arrived just in time for the hype.
It was ten years ago today that the The Academy Is… released their first full-length studio album “Almost Here,” and it was their official introduction to the industry. Listing ten tracks and spanning about thirty-three minutes, the album screams for our attention right from the start. In the first track, “Attention,” they sing to us “Attention! Attention! /May I have all your eyes and ears to the front of the room, /if only, if only for one second.” And they do. They have your attention. The rhythm is so catchy that you won’t want to leave this album without hearing the rest of what they have to say.
Their next song, “Season”, suggests they are the new season of music, while others with “heartless songs wont stick.” They are the ones who are “shapin’ up to be all you wish you could have been/ To write the hits and to turn heads.” They’ve found their voice and insist that “For the first time I know this is now who I am.” They’ve specifically found their voice in their emotion, and know that this is what strikes a chord with listeners, and so for the remainder of the album, we are the listeners to their story starting with “Slow Down,” then onto “The Phrase That Pays,” and the midway point, “Black Mamba.”
These three are probably the best tracks on the album. The first of which, like the name suggests, slows the tempo down, but picks right back up in the chorus, and quickly prepares us for the sense of urgency in the next song. In “The Phrase That Pays,” he fits his message in a lyrical story where he deftly sings a conversation he has with a doctor and finds out that the end is near for him. He musically converses, “I’m going to ask you a series of questions,/ And I want them answered on the spot, right now./ Is it serious?/ I’m afraid it is./ Am I gonna die?/ Well son, death is gonna catch up to all one day,/ But yours is coming quicker than ours, than ours.” It’s a message that resonates with the youth, but also anyone who’s afraid of change, afraid of making a risk. He passionately sings to us, “If we don’t take it, when will we make it?”
The next song, “Black Mamba” is a fast-paced tune that sends a message out to all their critics. They sing, “Oh, Mr. Magazine I never wrote one single thing for you/ Or your so-called music scene/ You don’t mean a thing to me.” They’re shrugging off all their haters, and we, as the listeners are right there with them, sympathetic to their conviction. The next couple of tracks have the same formula as the first ones. They’re upbeat, at times slow, but always unforgettable. On top of that, the lyrics are weaved together so cleverly that you can’t help but appreciate them. You can’t help but sing along and can’t help but think that they’re singing to you, about you, and for you. They finally close out the album with “Almost Here,” a track that musically encapsulates the previous nine tracks with a blend of fast and slow tempo, and a message to us, to the world that “Our time is almost…our time is almost here.”
Ten years ago, The Academy Is…promised the world that they were almost here. They were, and this album showcases just how present they were. They understood us, and created a sound that was interesting as well as inviting. That’s why I think this album is so special. The lyrics tell our stories, but more importantly, they tell the story of five young guys in a band that just wanted to be accepted, and they were screaming, crying, singing for us to let them in, to let them be here.