Photo credit: Kirsten Smith
You don’t have to be a rock critic to recognize a great rock song. Hell, you don’t even have to be a fan of rock for that to occur. As long as you have ears to hear and a mind open to the endless possibilities presented by the medium you too possess the ability to sort the truly talented from the average. History itself has proven this true time and time again, as songs such as “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Another One Bites The Dust” have become international sensations. Their success overcomes language and cultural barriers for the simple reason that they’re just too damn good to ignore. These songs, like so many other timeless greats, elevated the talent behind them to heights they never witnessed while simultaneously creating a deeper appreciation for the artist or group’s entire catalog. They consolidated a lifetime of trial and error into one moment of pure genius that set the world on fire, and as a result, changed music as a whole.
Emarosa has been on the cusp of such greatness for some time. Since adding vocalist Bradley Walden to their lineup in 2014 the band has outgrown their post-hardcore roots and slowly, but surely ascended into the mainstream alternative rock hierarchy. The group’s last release, 2016’s 131, showcased a band at their most self-aware. Walden sang of heartache and longing against a beautifully orchestrated alternative rock sound that did its best to rip open the listener’s chest in a well-intentioned effort to make even the coldest of hearts feel something. It was a critical and commercial success in a genre many have written off as dying or dead, but that wasn’t enough for the band. Emarosa knew they were capable of something more, and they appear to have delivered just that with their latest single, “Givin’ Up.”
Abandoning on preconceived notions as to what a new song by Emarosa should sound like, “Givin’ Up” makes an immediate impression. The catchy opening riff soon gives way to a bombastic verse and chorus pairing that introduces a world of sound to the band’s identity. The horns are most notable, providing a jubilant accompaniment to an already upbeat track, but it’s Walden who really shines as the star. HIs voice, combining angelic smoothness with a just enough grit to make your knees weak, is given ample room to showcase its many talents. He’s abrasive, yet somehow still gentle, like a lion playing nice just long enough to get you within its reach. Pushing his voice to the breaking point has worked until now, but with “Givin’ Up” he’s stumbled onto something even more captivating that also manages to lift spirits despite the lyrics dripping off the tip of his tongue.
“Givin’ Up” also shines because of its ambiguous lyrics. Walden told Forbes that it was through writing the song that he found the inspiration to continue on, stating that he came to terms with the fact he couldn’t let something he loved as much as being in the band go. That comment provides insight into his motivation for creating the song with his bandmates, but it’s a message delivered so slyly that is can be applied to any situation one may confront in their life.
Richard Bach famously wrote, “If you love someone, set them free.” People have twisted his words over the years to find confidence in moments of uncertainty, but Emarosa presents a different perspective with “Givin’ Up.” Life can and will beat the hell out of us from time to time. Our greatest aspirations may prove unreachable, our biggest crush may choose someone else, and our highest hopes may be dashed in a moment’s notice, but letting go of the things that give life meaning should never be someone’s first choice. If you love something, I mean truly love something, you cannot just walk away when things become difficult. You have to fight for what you love, regardless of who the opponent may be, especially when your greatest adversary is yourself.
That idea, coupled with high-gloss production that encourages one to dance away bad vibes, is what makes “Givin’ Up” a song poised to become a modern classic. It’s a track catchy enough to grab the attention of radio programmers, memorable enough to commit to memory without effort, and far too much fun to ignore. Emarosa has perfected the elements of their sound that made people give a damn initially while simultaneously reinventing themselves. The group has reached their final form, or at least, the best version of themselves to date. The next album, Peach Club, won’t arrive until February 2019, but “Givin’ Up” ensures they will remain a topic of conversation well into the new year (and beyond).
AuxCord contributor Kirsten Smith caught Emarosa live at The Bottom Lounge in Chicago, IL on November 16. You can view a selection of her photos below: