AAR’s new album has an agenda. Ever since the group’s 2005 Move Along, it has never failed to produce one or more hits on a record, but AAR refuses to let that define them.

The All-American Rejects

Kids in the Street

Artists such as 3OH!3 — after the success of its song “Don’t Trust Me” — begin to generate watered-down music by abandoning style in an attempt to please a more general audience. AAR’s previous album When the World Comes Down showed, with its success of “Gives You Hell” and the overall radio-friendliness of its other tracks, that the band was very close to going in this direction. After all, there’s a fine line between popularity and conformity.

But Kids in the Street aims to show there is no need to measure up to any previous mainstream successes. Given that it’s lacking any of the obvious hits that have come to be expected from the group, this is perfectly acceptable. The band remains true to its style — with the exception of some successful experimentation — and the tracks aren’t monotonous.

More specifically, a few of the tracks are shockingly differently from any of AAR’s other work. The song “Heartbeat Slowing Down” has an atypical amount of electronic instrumentation for the group, but not atypical for modern musical trends. Also, the band deserves much praise for not allowing themselves to be overshadowed by the computer’s effects.

But most interesting is the track “Affection,” which has the instrumentation of a classic musical-theater piece. The emphasis of the symphony and piccolo in the background gives the listener the feeling of taking a romantic stroll through the park on a beautiful day, and the song works surprisingly well with Tyson Ritter’s voice. The smooth qualities of his high-ranged voice actually resemble that of a musical-theater performer.

“Kids In the Street” is the second single to be released off the album, featuring a more go-with-the-flow, relaxing tone than former hits such as the vengeful “Gives You Hell,” the dramatic “It Ends Tonight” or the flirtatiously coy “Dirty Little Secret.” Perhaps this new perspective will generate some unexpected commercial success.

“Too young, too smart, too much for this one town, we’d get so high we got lost coming down,” is the storytelling form of “Kids In the Street,” which can be found in quite a few other places on the album as well. The songs don’t lose their poetry from getting caught up in the melody, as many do nowadays.

However, the general emotions of the album’s content are poorly strung together at times. If Kids In the Street wanted to follow the story of its title and be a reflective album on the days of youth, it could have had a more logical track order. The record has the potential to progress from being lovestruck, to heartbroken, to rebellious, to wanting to go back to the simple days of being “kids in the street.” Instead, the emotions are scattered, making things uncomfortably hot and cold while going through the album in listing order.

A smart move would have been putting the song “Kids In the Street” as the leading track, because it immediately narrates the overall theme of the album. Of course, none of this affects the quality of the record’s content, but as a whole, it needs more logic with its message.

The album is sure to please many fans of the band, if not all the Top-40 listeners. Lyrical originality, some shaken-up material and the famous playful rebellion of AAR creates a quality album that shows the group has nothing to prove.

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