I’m not quite sure what my thought process was when I decided I’d like to review DNCE this month. Maybe Cake By The Ocean came on the radio at a particularly happy moment and I mistook it for a good song. Maybe I wanted to see if Joe Jonas has improved since the nostalgic Camp Rock days. Maybe I’m just a bit masochistic. Because the sad, yet predictable truth is this album is beyond disappointing.
The 14-track album is entirely characterised by bad vocals, worse lyrics, and horrendously bland melodies, which the band tries to hide behind with overpowering funk-pop instrumentals. The opening number, DNCE (yes, just like the band AND the album’s name) is the epitome of these characteristics – starting off with a whisper of the band’s name’s and taking the listener through almost four minutes of agonisingly high-pitched vocals shrieking about getting drunk and telling us that we “better D-N-C-E, dance”.
The lack of effort to have any kind of variety on this album is fascinating. It could all so easily be mashed up into one, giant, whiny track. I say “whiny” because somehow, that’s what the unnecessary and overpowering falsetto element of every track reminds me of. A lot of current male artists skilfully slip in a line or two in falsetto in a song every now and then, and more often than not, those lines stand out melodically and emotionally for all the right reasons. What Joe Jonas sadly failed to realise is that this impact is made only when the falsetto is used within limits, not when every chorus of every track is entirely dependent on it. While listening to the album, I was almost compelled to turn down the volume on multiple occasions, especially on tracks like Toothbrush, when the listener is hit with an excessive falsetto from the first second. It’s almost as if DNCE wants to shock their listeners into paying attention.
The band has described themselves as one with “disco-funk hits”. To give them some credit, I will admit, some of their beats are catchy. Be Mean, Body Moves, and even Cake By The Ocean all have a foot-tapping, danceable rhythm, and I’d even go as far as to say they might be much more enjoyable to watch live. That being said, one of the bigger flaws of this album is how heavy the dance instrumental portions are. Tracks like Naked and Blown are some of the weakest of the album, lost underneath a flurry of fast-paced musical interludes which aren’t too catchy themselves, and do little besides distract the listener from the rest of the song. Almost and Truthfully, on the other hand, are two of the tracks which show off what the band could potentially do if they dared to be more understated, with simpler, more acoustic backing and Joe Jonas’s full voice being put to use with an actual melody, the band shows some promise.
However, even after multiple listens, for me, this album is in no way memorable. The majority of the tracks feel like something you’d hear in the background of a retail shop or a peppy advert, and instantly forget about. I can’t help but question why DNCE thought they needed 14 assorted tracks about dancing, hooking up and breaking up to make an impact. Had they had a slightly more skilful and varied approach, half the number would have been more than enough.