3OH!3 fails to top its middle school glory days on ‘Night Sports’

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GRADE: D

It’s hard to be “that band” whose most popular and only memorable songs all came out a little less than a decade ago, serving as the soundtrack to every sweaty, hormone-ridden middle school dance of the late 2000s. On Night Sports, 3OH!3’S fifth studio album, the band tries desperately to ditch its teen angst image by switching out its intentionally obnoxious, taunting vocals and harsh instrumentals in favor of a more rap-heavy and mellow sound. Ultimately, the result comes off as something much worse than just “that band.” On Night Sports, 3OH!3 becomes the musical equivalent of “that guy” who somehow peaked in middle school and spent the rest of his life trying to convince people that his nauseatingly formulaic hypermasculinity was still something special.

“Fire In The Heavens,” the album opener, begins with an artificially deepened voice announcing the band’s name. This booming voice reappears throughout the album in stark contrast to Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte’s nearly indistinguishable voices as they alternate between rapping and singing. The two seem to be competing to see whose lackluster voice can take on a more distinctly whining tone — perfect for an album whose lyrics constitute little more than an inane pissing contest that no one else ever agreed to enter.

The lead single, “My Dick” — a track that can be written off as a trite attempt to be outrageous, at best — is the most prominent example of this. The majority of the song consists of the band members bragging about the size of their genitalia in different accents, languages and voices. The details of the lyrics are, perhaps, even more annoying than the song’s premise, if only because they make little sense. Foreman and Motte compare their theoretical competitor’s apparently inferior penis to everything from “the pope” to “Seth Rogen’s arm” to a “Nutter Butter,” none of which seem to indicate anything strictly negative even in the context of the song.

This theme continues through “BASMF” (short for “Bad Ass Stupid Motherfuckers”), the album’s second promotional single. Though this track is slightly more palatable, if only because it’s addressed to the band’s haters instead of some nonexistent entity, the lyrics are no less obnoxious. Here, the lyrical content is stuffed with awkward, out-of-place references to entities as disparate as King Koopa and frappuccinos. The song serves less as a diss to the haters than as a demonstration of the band’s own desperate but fruitless attempt to maintain any sort of cultural relevancy. Additionally, just as in “My Dick,” the band makes the most predictable hypermasculine powerplay by asserting its dominance through exaggerated claims of sexual prowess.

It is the much softer closing songs that push the album to its breaking point. They arrive far too late to redeem Night Sports in any way, long after the album has finished asserting itself as a collection of love songs to the band itself. Foreman and Motte display their vulnerabilities in “Claustrophobia” and “Hologram,” two tracks that eschew the rap/sung format of the rest of the album. The songs seem more like a barren final stretch that must be passed by on the way to freedom than a sweet farewell.

“Claustrophobia” describes the realization that all fun must come to an end eventually to make way for seriousness. The lyrics have all the quality of a badly translated poem. While the instrumentals are marked by the same attempt to emulate radio EDM-pop as every other song on the album, vocally this is the strongest song on Night Sports, as it is the only one so far to incorporate harmonies between the two band members. In “Hologram,” Foreman and Motte discover that they are each nothing more than a “hollow man.” The song ends with a plea to be remembered, which after 38 minutes of inanity, posturing and low-grade imitation, is best off ignored.

Both past the age of 30, the two members of 3OH!3 have crafted in Night Sports an album full of half-baked ideas that would do best to remain confined to a dark corner of the mind, just like any other embarrassing middle school moment. Here, 3OH!3 has created something truly awful to overshadow its past successes. And while this may not be the most advisable way to go about creating a new image, it certainly is the most ambitious.

Contact Sannidhi Shukla at [email protected].