Motivational pop rock anthems are in. From Lady Gaga’s self-love proclamation “Born This Way” to Pink’s defiantly encouraging “F**kin Perfect” and her equally rousing anthem to individuality, “Raise A Glass,” not to mention Katy Perry’s “Fireworks,” the message is clear: Life may be hard, but hope and perseverance will win the day.
However, it is Canada’s own boys from B.C., Hedley, who have stolen my heart and lifted my spirits with their fourth album, Storms. A sincere tribute to hard-won optimism and grit-your-teeth determination, Hedley’s latest offering hits all the right notes and provides a soundtrack to resilient living.
Hedley is no stranger to the theme of getting back up after being knocked down over and over again. While cheery, cheeky pop hits like “Cha-ching!” form a recognizable part of their extensive (and accomplished) canon, the songs that stand out for me are the ones where I can hear the hearts breaking and feel the emotions surging; yet which in the end leave me standing unbowed and resilient (like, “On My Own,” off Hedley’s 2006 self-titled album, and “For the Nights I Can’t Remember,” from 2007′s Famous Last Words.)
The first single released off this latest album, “Invincible,” was also the first track I heard when the song’s riveting, visually captivating music video was featured on MuchMusic. Since its August release, “Invincible” has become Hedley’s fastest selling digital track of the band’s career, and for good reason. The song is a chronicle of an inner monologue that runs through many people’s minds and which the vast majority of us can relate to: “Took a long hard look at my life / Lost my way while I was fighting the tide / A big black cloud / Stormy skies followed me / Oh, I was living a lie.”
It tells a story about aiming for the stars but crashing into the gutter time and again. But then redemption comes with raw, honest, hopeful lyrics like “But I’ve found the strength inside to see / Found a better part of me / And I’ll never let it go… / I’ve come a long, long way / Made a lot of mistakes / But I’m breathing, breathing / That’s right, I made it, made it . . . / I’m a little run down / I’ve been living out loud / I can beat it, beat it / That’s right ‘cause I’m feeling, feeling / Invincible.”
The song is emblematic of their entire album.
Right from the opening bars to the final note, Storms weaves and builds upon a theme of embracing the damaged parts of ourselves and forging ahead through the hurts of the past and the storms of the present. Hedley, in this latest release, is issuing a challenge to every listener to focus on the “living” part of life and charge headfirst into every storm, fuelled by confidence.
With this album, which they have referred to as “a record the band spent its entire career working towards,” Hedley draws from its proven formula of blending fun, sometimes slyly deprecating pop songs (“Hot Mess”) with soulful love ballads (“Beautiful”) alongside thrashing rock anthems (“Bullet for Your Dreams” and the pop-infused “Young”). It is an effort that has elevated their sound to an impressive new level.
There is a sense of potent urgency in “One Life,” a feeling that should the world end before its time, let it not be a world of regret left behind: “If it’s your last night in these streets / You’d be a fool to take a seat / You’ve got one life, one life.”
On “Heaven’s Gonna Wait,” melodic vocals and soaring riffs give rise to the idea that what everyone else does may not the best example if you’re destined to forge the path to your own greatness: “Always walking straight home like the other good girls / Careful what you wish for, they can never be like you / It’s not the right thing, baby, but the right thing suits so few / Let’s take the other road, baby, ’cause it looks so good on you.”
The unshaking resilience of deep love is evident in the lyrics of the eight-and-a-half-minute long, “I Won’t Let You Go (Darling)”: “And even if it sounds crazy darling, I won’t let you go / And even if it don’t stop raining, darling, I won’t let you go / And even if the world’s burning darling, I won’t let you go.”
On the Babyface-produced “Stormy,” Jake Hoggard’s plaintive, reaching vocals bring home the idea that no hardship is impossible to bear with the right person by your side: “Baby, if you think there’s no way out / Somewhere the sun’s still shining /. . . It’s stormy now but the sun’s gonna shine again / Even the worst storms gotta end / We’re better if we weather it out / Together we’re never gonna fall.”
Talking about the album on their website, Hedley has noted that the inspiration for the music was drawn from the real lives and trials of each of the band members, all of whom consider each other family after almost a decade together.
“We’re brothers now and we feel far more unstoppable because we’ve been through a lot,” Hoggard said. “We’ve been really angry at each other, and unsure of our future together, but all of these elements make up the complexity of a family.”
This emotional honesty is evident throughout the record, and resonates long after listening. When on the track “We Are Unbreakable” Hoggard sings, “I’m beat but I can’t be broken / Knocked down but you gave me hope,” it is all too easy to relate to the truth of the words.
At once gut wrenching, uplifting, soulful, and boldly optimistic, Hedley’s Storms dares you to battle your inner demons to the death and rise to the challenge of simply being happy.
01. One Life
03. Heaven’s Gonna Wait
04. We Are Unbreakable
07. Bullet for Your Dreams
08. Hot Mess
10. Last Call
11. I Won’t Let You Go (Darling)
12. Hiding Place
13. Carry On