There has been a bit of an annoying phenomenon happening of late that we’ll refer to as The Max Martin Singles Controversy. If you’ve managed to bag him to do the majority of your album, like he does for Taylor Swift, Britney Spears or Ariana Grande, then you’re pretty much guaranteed an LP full of hit singles. If, however, he decides to just do a drive-by on your album, then listeners will be gifted with one killer single, one pretty good single, and then an album that just kinda sounds like watered-down versions of those first singles.
He did it with Demi Lovato when he gave her ‘Cool For The Summer’ (amazing), and then ‘Confident’ (pretty good) but then the rest of the Confident album was just … meh. The same happened to Adam Lambert with ‘Ghost Town’ (amazing) and ‘Another Lonely Night’ (pretty good), which left the rest of The Original High in the dust. The most high profile example would of course be giving ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ to The Weeknd, followed by ‘In The Night’, both of which were surrounded by the rug-pull that was the remainder of Beauty Behind The Madness. This isn’t a mistake that The Weeknd would repeat again, by having Martin’s fingerprints all over the recent follow-up Starboy.
All of this leads us up to DNCE, headed by Joe Jonas, who blew us away with ‘Cake By The Ocean’ last September, an immediate corker which just seemed to continue growing in size until nearly a full year later it became the song of the summer this year. Of course, the issue here is that ‘Cake By The Ocean’ was actually produced by Mattman & Robin, who have also been working with Taylor, Britney and Adam Lambert, and Max Martin isn’t anywhere to be found on the album. However, Ilya Salmanzedah, Rami Yacoub and several other writer/producers who have been working as assistants to Martin over the years are present and correct, so The Max Martin Singles Controversy is in full effect in everything but its title.
‘Body Moves’ was up next for the singles, which, according to the rules of The MMSC (its been acronymed, so you know it’s a real thing now), was pretty good, and then the rest of the album happens. Everything else on here sounds like a poorly Xeroxed version of those two singles, to the point where they actually start to detract from the quality of the two legitimately good songs on here.
Some of them aren’t entirely unlistenable, from the title track opening number, and the kinda fun ‘Pay My Rent’, but everything else is just Jonas straining to sound a fraction as sexual as his older brother Nick, while also wanting to sound entirely unthreatening. 90% of the album is just one bad synonym for sex after another, and the other 10% are ballads that a bad called DNCE shouldn’t really be attempting.
If you want one song to completely condense down the DNCE experience, then listen to ‘Naked’ – Fun, sexy… oh, it’s still going? Okay… this is… oh, it’s starting to get a little annoying… is that… is that a kazoo? Is that actually a kazoo? Okay, we’re done here.