This month’s Freegal review may be the least obscure, most mainstream album I’ve looked at on this blog. It’s the most pop leaning to be sure which will probably hurt my street cred. I guess this is just my way of selling out. Welcome to another Freegal album review, a blog series where I highlight awesome music available for our patrons to stream. If you’re not familiar with Freegal, it's a free music streaming service available to Caldwell Public Library card members. You can read more about Freegal here.
For better or worse, Good Charlotte drastically changed the face of pop-punk with their 2002 release, The Young and the Hopeless. Critical reception of Good Charlotte’s sophomore album was somewhat mixed with Rolling Stone only awarding it two stars. Many reviewers were critical of the album's production, with some arguing that the sleek pop sheen was a poor attempt to elevate what was ultimately a derivative and uninspired pop-punk cash in. However, record sales and radio charts told a much different story, with many of the album’s singles crossing charts and the album itself eventually reaching triple platinum status in sales.
The Young and the Hopeless is a tightly produced album that fully embraces the pop side of pop-punk. Every element works. Each layer adds depth and substance to the sound, elevating the songs and refining the presentation. When a chorus hits, it hits hard. Eric Valentine is credited as producer, and he pulls out all the stops. If you compare The Young and the Hopeless to Good Charlotte's debut album sonically, it's like night and day. I’m usually one to argue that less is more, or to favor a more organic or raw approach, but Good Charlotte sounds best with all the extra adornments.
This album is packed with hits. “The Anthem”, “Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous”, “Wondering”, and “Girls & Boys” are all absolute killer tracks and insidious earworms. The layers of vocal harmonies flow like sweet honey across a soundscape of crunchy guitars, tight drum lines, and heavy bass. These tracks continuously evolve, with slight variations, additions, and openings that carry the listener through.
The common critique of shallow lyricism is often leveled at The Young and the Hopeless, but what really counts at the end of the day are the hooks and this album has them in spades. That’s not to say that the album is devoid of substance, but it doesn’t try hard to be something it’s not. Often heartfelt, the lyrical themes are direct and relatable. Exactly how a pop album should come across.
The Young and the Hopeless once felt like a guilty pleasure that I had tried to avoid, but twenty years later it’s a pop-punk classic that’s guaranteed to have me singing along. It’s shocking to realize just how much time has passed since Good Charlotte's heyday. Their greatest hits are approaching classic rock status and my pants seem to keep getting higher, but It seems The Young and the Hopeless will endure.
Do you have fond memories of this album or are you discovering it for the first time? Good Charlotte’s follow up, The Chronicles of Life and Death is a worthy successor for anyone that enjoyed this release and I highly recommend giving it a listen. That is, if you’re a poser like me.