Gareth Emery‘s third studio album, 100 Reasons To Live, wouldn’t ordinarily be that deserving of criticism. Nobody would argue that it’s a collection of songs that challenge the electronic music status quo, but nothing in the album is a flat-out assault on the senses, either.
Nonetheless, Emery orchestrated a stunt that dug himself into a hole before the album even came out. The trance superstar recently teamed up with fellow Englishman Ashley Wallbridge for a farcical side project called CVNT5, setting out to make a mockery of EDM excess through track releases, videos and web content.
As entertaining as it was, the CVNT5 project implied that Emery’s own music has more integrity than the mainstream dance music he attempted to parody – but if he feels qualified to make such commentary, he should be prepared to hear that what he’s delivered in the form of 100 Reasons To Live is itself, at best, a cut above big room house.
When we caught up with him during Miami Music Week, Emery explained to us that his criteria for good music constituted, “Does it make you feel good, does it sound cool?” rather than, “Does it fit some specific criteria of what you think good music is?” Such arguments seem to be a common way for artists who pander to the lowest common denominator to justify their homogenized sound, because the album falls short of being memorable for much more than vocal hooks that you wish hadn’t gotten stuck in your head.
To its credit, 100 Reasons To Live does feature skillful sound design, and nobody questions that Emery himself was responsible for it. The album starts off on a strong enough note with “The Story So Far,” whose synth progressions evoke images of futuristic grandeur, before resonant plucks meet with saccharine vocals in “Cloudline.”
Around the end of “Far From Home,” though, the succession of tracks on the album gradually devolves into the sort of radio-friendly productions that get bought and repurposed for pop singers. Ironically, after “Reckless” and “We Were Young” comes CVNT5′ title track itself – as if Emery didn’t even realize the irony of him wedging his EDM parody between tracks so vanilla that you have to play them back several times to remember anything about them. “Make It Happen,” “Hands” and “Lost” are more of the same: Songs that true trance fans would irrefutably categorize as “trouse.”
Perhaps the strongest track of the album is “Save Me,” an uplifting trance anthem sitting right at around 138 BPM that balances some of the mass appeal of the other tracks on the effort with rolling bass kicks and a euphoric arrangement. Emery’s Ben Gold collaboration, “Until We Meet Again,” is a close runner-up, especially for being one of the few entirely instrumental tracks on the album.
Emery reminds us right away that these skillfully executed soundscapes were a departure from the album’s norm, though. “I Could Be Stronger” returns to the trouse formula exhibited in earlier tracks, and while “Sansa” isn’t quite as cookie cutter, it’s also far from challenging.
Before drawing to the close, 100 Reasons To Live features a “bonus track” titled “Cruiser” – which is odd, considering the likelihood that anyone would listen to it on a CD in this day and age. As far as the track itself is concerned, though, at least Emery can say that he ended the album on a strong note.
For the most part, Gareth Emery‘s 100 Reasons To Live is an easy target. It’s not an album that will go down in history as one of the great cornerstones of electronic music, and none of the tracks are memorable enough to receive much airtime, either. At best, it’s predominantly an album of filler with fairly respectable execution.
The album’s mediocrity might not have been as apparent had Emery not come across so pretentiously with his CVNT5 project, but that’s just the bed he’s made for himself. Maybe next time, he’ll think more critically before behaving in a way that would put such a massive magnifying glass over his music.
Gareth Emery's third studio album, 100 Reasons To Live, is not a full-on musical travesty - but if he's got the nerve to openly mock mainstream EDM, then what he releases a matter of weeks later had better be more than by-the-numbers trouse.