In Which the New Owl City Album is Mistaken for a My Little Pony Soundtrack

Owl City

All Things Bright and Beautiful

2011 Universal Republic

I have a feeling this review may unfairly paint me as a misogynist, which would be incorrect, and as an elitist, which may be less incorrect, for arriving at the conclusion that “All Things Bright and Beautiful” by Owl City is music for little girls. Most likely virgins, specifically mid-to-late teens who live in repressed, conservative religious households who are saving their first kiss for their wedding day and still unironically sleep with stuffed animals.

Here’s how I arrived at this odd and somewhat creepy diagnosis:

First, I listened to the record and felt my testicles tense up like they were about to get slapped; this typically happens when I hear something overly cloying and patronizing, but it also happens when someone threatens to slap my coin purse. By the end of my first excursion through this album I was assured in my assumption that this was not music for men. Now, let me be the first to swat down that volley of sneering from those who might think that by “men” I mean “guys”; I subscribe to the school of thought that celebrates all facets of emotionalism in masculinity rather than the limited and somewhat retarded view held by popular culture which pigeonholes “men” as giant wads of aggression, semen and sports statistics high-fiving their way down the street calling each other “bra” and “hoss”. In fact, I imagine that there would be more of those types who secretly cry to Owl City alone in their pickup truck then average men might. What I mean is that Owl City is not constructed for men in that it’s bubbly electro-pop music about dreams and flowers and starlight, and that’s not what men listen to. I don’t think I’m over-generalizing here.

Thus I deduced that it must be music for women. So, secondly, I held up to my idea of what “women” listen to. What I found there was either A) Sex, either implied implicitly or withheld, tucked behind a thin robe of innocence or weird father roles. B) Empowerment, or at least the idea of it since it’s usually tied in with sex and compensating for self-esteem issues rather than being empowered by working hard, being honest and treating people well. And C) actual good music.

Owl City featured none of those qualities either so that’s where I came up with this “unspoiled captive virgin” thing. Owl City is music for girls who still want to believe in unicorns and princes and the sweetness of nature and haven’t had that special tingle in their swimsuit area. Furthermore it’s for women who wear white sweatshirts with bears on them and have 9 lace covered throw pillows on their squishy corduroy loveseat. They have a favorite pillow that they hug when they’re watching ABC Family original programming and movies on Lifetime.

Owl City is for them and they can keep it. They can keep it on their corkboard next to the collage of meaningful images cut from old magazines and washed out photos of “The Gal-Pals” monthly romp at Applebee’s. “All Things Bright and Beautiful” is the music gay robots hear when they take mushrooms. It’s a face-puckering cocktail of persistent, blind optimism coupled with fantastical, Lisa Frank-ish descriptions of magical landscapes and love and hugs that seems dangerously close to mental illness.

Musically every Owl City track sounds like it could (and probably will) be featured in the trailer for the latest template “plucky girl makes it big and finds love along the way” romantic comedy, while lyrically… well, let’s just say “… I’m a chickadee in love with the sky / but that’s clearly not a lot to crow about…” and “…i swear, there’s lots of vegetables out there / that crop up for air / and yet I never thought we were two peas in a pod / until you suddenly bloomed…” sum it up nicely.  The album yearns to take the listener to a magical fluorescent foliage fantasy where seeing a dew drop on a rose petal causes such all-consuming joy that your entire being explodes into a shower of glitter and sunbeams. Instead it makes you want to eat your own face and carve the word “STOP” into your arm with a dirty bottle cap.

I didn’t think there could be a voice more saccharine and shrill than Adam Young’s but the butt-clenchingly twee performance by guest vocalist Breanne Düren in “Honey and the Bee” has shattered that notion. She sounds like a fucking Care Bear trying to flirt with a basket of baby rainbows. No, she sounds like a basket of baby rainbows doing baby talk to pocket-sized lavender elephants skipping through a field of singing, baby-headed daisies. And don’t even get me started on the RAP in “Alligator Sky”. Who the fuck is that for?! It lends about as much street-cred and edge as your mom knitting you a Crips bandana or inviting a biker gang to Chuck-e-Cheese for your birthday party.

HOWEVER. I have a weird thing about music being honest, in other words music created without the pretense of being cool, marketable or self-important. That’s a brief and summary explanation of a greater concept that I hope to go into more later. But, if there’s one thing nice I can say about Owl City it’s that it is honest music. No one would create music like this to be cool, it’s too odd to be bluntly mainstream and it does anything but take itself seriously. I mean there are songs about being in love with flowers and trees in here. Now, I don’t give music a pass for being bad simply for the argument that “some people might like it” or “it’s just fun music, what’s wrong with that?”; it’s that kind of thinking that leads to the stagnant middle where everyone stops trying and we all just ingest whatever we’re served by the marketing department. Believe me, it’s still all just awful but it’s awful in a very specific way. I know there will be people who love this record and I can’t fault them for enjoying music that somehow speaks to them, and in fact Owl City itself is actually doing minimal damage to “music” as a whole; I don’t predict many copycat acts and I don’t see a new scene of teenage fashion or hipsterism  popping up, revolving around love of nature and fascination with stars and birds – well, beyond the hippie crap that hipsters already subscribe to- so I think Owl City may just be a singular example of horrifying cartoon feel-good nonsense tossed into the swirling vortex of all the other shit about to gurgle out of culture’s toilet bowl.

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24 thoughts on “In Which the New Owl City Album is Mistaken for a My Little Pony Soundtrack

  1. Pingback: The Hot Sauce Committee Convenes « Bollocks!

  2. Music for men??? Who Are u to say what is and what is not music for men? Ur just a crappy journalist that never made it far in life. Or maybe ur not.I don’t know a single thing about u so I’m not going to make any state ments, unlike u. I read the first paragraph of ur article and stoped. I’m a man, not gay, and I enjoy listening to owl city. This was a great album and it took me until I listened to it 100 times to realise that. The lyrics are genius and His songs are comforting and relaxing. I also don’t feel the need to bring ur testicles into the picture. There are so many other things u are wrong about but I’m not even going to get into that. If u want more 10 people to read ur work, stop making up bull shit and don’t criticise bands that people love. There is no food or bad music in this world

    • Wow…. WOW! My first angry comment! I’m so excited!

      Unfortunately your comment is so full of basic spelling errors, bad grammar and unnecessary shorthand that your argument is invalid and I can’t respond to the extent that I’d hoped. I’m sure you might have made a point somewhere in that bus crash of word shit but I honestly can’t find it. Something about… I don’t know… durrr?

      Look little fella, if you only read the first paragraph then you don’t get to comment.
      If you make a statement (that’s how it’s spelled, by the way) then follow it by saying you’re not going to make any statements, you don’t get to comment.
      If you honestly believe that everyone has to like the same band you do and can’t criticize (also, note the spelling there) them in a review then you’re going to be angry for a lot of your life because a lot of people hate music that other people love. It’s how the human mind fucking works; we have different opinions and tastes and you should be thankful for that.

      Anyway, I was going to go on and on here about how retarded you sounded in your comment, but it’s a really nice day here and I’d much rather be spending time in my lawn chair drinking beer than arguing about stupid shit on the internet with you, you illiterate fuckwit.

    • The tears of the illiterate are like the sweetest wine upon our lips. More, please.

  3. It took me 100 times reading Justin’s review of the new Owl City album to realize that he is completely correct about them.

  4. Bah, I’ll take Adam’s fantasies over the real world any day. He says as much in the first song.

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  7. Owl city is where it is because of creativity and people hate that because deep inside they know they have not accomplished anything like that in their angry jealous lives

    • Yes yes yes, I’ve heard them all. “There’s no bad music”, “all critics are just jealous and bitter”, “who the hell am I?”, “I have no room to talk since I’ve never put out a record”, blah blah blah. Fact is if I came out and said this record was fantastic I’d have your evil twin from a parallel universe writing me a comment saying I was full of shit, too.

      I’m sorry I shat on an album you like but if you think that deep down inside my gnarled, venomous heart I gave Owl City a bad review because I secretly long to be “creative” like Alex Young then you’ve got a very naive outlook on criticism. The exchange rate between the artist’s level of success and a critic’s opinion is not 1:1; I don’t have to be as famous as the people I critique in order for my opinion to be expressed. Fuck, my opinion doesn’t even have to be CORRECT to be expressed. This review is a piece of editorial melodrama that’s writ large for effect; it’s 75% snark, 20% wisecracks and about 5% valid points.

      I didn’t like this record. Lots of people did (though I don’t actually know any of them). If you feel that you’ve done your internetly duty and stood up for a recording artist, whom neither of us know personally, by leveling a cliche’d generalization at me from the void of the internet then have at me, but if I can have one final request: lighten the fuck up.

  8. I feel like there’s a few great Scumbag Steve memes here.
    Like: Writes a whole page about Owl City’s tastelessness…… Listens to dubstep / faceless rap / hipster indie (you probably never heard of it.)
    Or: Abuses a music group with mismatched allusions (the equivalent of a high school boy calling everything gay.) ……. Tells others to lighten up with their slight criticism
    And: Owl City’s album is a waste of time and energy…… Lengthy page and lengthy responses to comments

    But seriously dude, why bother tearing down a music group that only works to do good and encourage people? You don’t sound very mature at all. No one who spends their energy mudslinging a successful and uplifting thing sounds mature and legitimate themselves.

    • You kinda make a lot of assumptions about Justin that are just as unfair as you think he’s being to Owl City. It’s okay for you to like them and him to think they suck. There is room in the world for more than one opinion about this band (and all bands). Lighten up.

  9. Look, I’m not hating on your “creativity” or whatever, but can you please tone it down about how much you dislike Owl City? My family and I love Owl City, especially the album ATBAB, and we’re not religious, half of us aren’t virgins and I sure as hell know I’m not frigid.
    And what’s up with bringing your testicles into the situation?
    I don’t believe in princes and unicorns, but I do believe in the sweetness of nature. In the album he uses examples in nature of how much he loves a a person or how he feels.
    I understand not everyone is going to like him, but you didn’t have to be so harsh about it.

    Thanks. GITD x

    • Sorry to offend your family. It was reckless and foolish for me to express a sarcastic, overblown opinion almost 13 months before you decided to sniff around on some jerkwater music blogs for reasons to inject some sorely needed passive aggression into the otherwise rational and measured internet. I also truly apologize if my review was the first time you’ve come across the word “testicles” online. What a difficult and confusing time this must be for you. Unfortunately, since the internet is forever I can’t go back and retroactively be less “harsh” about how much this Owl City record makes me want to pull pieces off of my face and feed them to my goldfish. Going forward, I hope you and your family can heal from this tragedy and look toward a brighter future, a future where experiencing the internet is akin to sitting in the dining room of a Denny’s and you get to be the assistant manager who’s charged with shushing customers who are talking to loud or using swears.

      However, until that day, I’ll use the current model to poke fun at music to get a laugh out of my friends and do whatever I need to do online to exercise my “creativity” or whatever, even if that means talking about MY TESTICLES.

      • Maybe you should poke fun at yourself, instead of hurting others. Learn to laugh with people not at people. Great Job all Owl City fan responders. Besides if you dislike Owl city for some odd reason, then you probably haven’t heard all his hundreds of songs, I am pretty sure guys can relate to something out of all that! And yeah the internet is the internet, and bad things do pop up. But I can also use the internet to voice truth back!

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  11. “Toning it down” is expressly forbidden in the official Bollocks! Charter. That I just made up.

  12. At first I thought this was just a troll, but now I think you really believe this is true.
    I see where you’re coming from and you have a couple of good points. However, the very reason that you dislike Owl City is the reason I love his music. I love the brightness, optimism, fantasy, and corny lyrics used in his songs, it gives me the happy feels that I find lacking in most other music. Let me say that while I don’t consider myself to be the most manly person in the world, I’m definitely straight and I disagree with the stereotypes you gave. I think Owl City’s music is well structured, melodic, undeniably imaginative, and can therefore be appreciated by a large audience. I personally like looking at things from a brighter perspective and Owl City helps a lot.

  13. you need to take a look at yourself sir
    read this article over, does it make sense? no. you look like a fumbling idiot who is just looking for someone or something to hate.
    you need to think your shit trough a little bit.
    at least you dont use the fact that he uses a artist name “Owl City” instead of his real name

    • Your just finding someone pure and honest to pick on (talking to author)! I know many guys who love owl city music. All his songs are different in a good way. His new album mobile orchestra is off the hook! I love how he is true to what he does and isn’t afraid to stand up for his religion. And since he is true to his self, then it is working if you are just trying to put something stupid. If you got a nasty perverted idea from one of his songs then you are the weird one. No one wants to know when your soldier stands at command. Keep things to yourself, and don’t make an unsupported page on the web from nothing. Your the typical jerk that thinks he knows what a man is. Get a clue every person is different no matter what there sex. Besides, It’s good that some girls like Adam’s music, he’s getting the girls. To me you seem to be lacking the side of a gentlemen! And remember “fireflies” is big in over 24 countries, so I guess you are calling a lot of men not men then! Good luck explaining that! Do your research next time.

  14. I know these articles are old, but I just wanted to let you know that you are 100% right and you should keep fighting the good fight. You articulated my hatred of owl city into words far better than I ever could.
    Not to mention your article on overrated guitarists, which while I don’t exactly agree with you on Jimmy Page being there, is a well thought out list and its refreshing to hear someone else calling out the shredders for what they are. I mean fuck, call it for what it is, fitting 32 notes is definitely an athletic achievement of the fingers but certainly not a musical triumph.

    ps. Owl City sucks rancid balls.

  15. This man’s music is pure poetry. It is not just for little girls searching for Unicorns but for people wanting to find depth in the resonance of words. Why would anyone criticize such beautiful and elegant music such as Adam’s. Men with nasty minds always hate beautiful things. Sorry but I do not care if Adam Young is a repressed virgin his music is full of meaning. I wish I could write like this man and make someone smile and get lost in my words. I write poetry but not lyrical poetry like his music. My poetry is about social political problems. His music sings of the beauty of God and nature. There is nothing wrong with that.

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