DJ Steve Aoki disappoints with pop-punk-tinged single ‘Halfway Dead’

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Grade: 2.5/5.0

DJ and producer Steve Aoki released his new single, “Halfway Dead,” on March 6. And while fans may have been excited to take a trip back to their childhoods, the pop-punk song inevitably fails to fully encompass the charm of the glory days.

Featuring rapper Global Dan and, appropriately so, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, “Halfway Dead” is an electro-pop smorgasbord of punk sounds and nostalgia. The song does deserve credit for doing a good job of adhering to the stylings made familiar by the 1990s and 2000s pop-punk movement, and it is a solid attempt to revive this atmosphere. Listeners can clearly hear influences from Blink-182, Sum 41 and Third Eye Blind, to name-drop a few pop-punk legends.

But the elephant in the room cannot be ignored: Global Dan. While his energy matches the song, his vocals are extremely out of place. He lacks the proper emotion the rest of the song conveys, sounding nonchalant and flat. His vocals are excessively auto-tuned, detracting too much from the rest of the song to make it truly enjoyable.

If Global Dan was either less auto-tuned or, even better, replaced by another, nonauto-tuned singer, “Halfway Dead” would be more than barely halfway decent. If Aoki truly meant to pay homage to pop-punk, he would’ve kept the vocals raw and pure instead of canned and processed. It is more than possible to produce a song with electronic tones without overusing an electronic voice to accompany it. Global Dan’s role simply makes the song hollow and kitschy. Lyrics such as “Told you don’t waste my time/ One step closer to be my enemy” are generally meaningless in their delivery, even if they attempt to pay tribute to the angst of pop-punk.

Apart from the shortcomings of Global Dan, the song’s production is done well overall. The drumming is tight and catchy, with the beat sticking in listeners’ heads. Aoki brings a new strain of pop-punk to the table, melding deep electronic beats with the pop-punk genre’s upbeat nature. The drops are smooth, and the guitars and drumming blend well together. Aoki proves his chops as a DJ and composer with “Halfway Dead,” but only regarding the tune’s instrumental components.

While the pop-punk influence is carried out successfully for the most part, the vocals prevent “Halfway Dead” from fully embracing the genre’s light-hearted beauty. As the lyrics state, “Don’t waste your time” with “Halfway Dead.” It only gives listeners a lukewarm pop-punk taste, leaving them longing for a better time.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].