By Conner Tighe The Wonderlands went for something fresh and daring with their latest single, “Friends,” which features DJ artist Hilliard. This is the first piece of music The Wonderlands have released since their last single, “The Push,” back in February. After at least five listens, my opinion remains unchanged. The single is a new sound and demonstrates the band’s willingness to push past boundaries of what fans expect and what the band wants to explore, but is more stagnant than other releases. The Wonderlands were founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Ball State student Miles Jena (lead singer/guitarist) and friend Adam Steele (bassist/vocalist). The duo grew into a five-person band with Jill Gavigan (keyboard/vocalist), Derek Johnson (drummer), and Patrick Oakes (guitarist/vocalist). The band first released music in 2018 but dropped their first album, This Digital Life, in 2020.
Hardships of love“Friends” is not the first love-themed single to come from the band. Tracks “Danced Herself to Death,” and “The Push” cover that playing field. The Wonderlands have touched on many relatable topics known to young adults everywhere: love, friendship troubles, and finding oneself in a constantly evolving world. With a world heavily divided by everything possible and life pulling us in all directions, The Wonderlands know how to put it out there for the world to hear. The Wonderlands have built their reputation and sound off their emotion and storytelling through young adult experiences. Each track they’ve released has had emotion at its foundation, and it’s for that reason that the band can carry their fanbase for so long. The band wants to be relatable, fun, and in their unique way, quirky, which they achieve.
I know that you said I was the one/But I’m starting to think that we’re not even in loveThe single is repetitive and although much of their other tracks share the same quality, this track doesn’t feel like The Wonderlands. Whereas most tracks they released go for the “feels,” “Friends” goes for something tamer and “too relatable.” Love ballads with a pop sound and the groundbreaking theme of “love” at its core are tiresome and overachieved at this point in music history. It’s a classic single of one-sided feelings and dealing with those feelings. Their latest piece is nothing exceptional, but speaks to what unrequited love is when friendship becomes not the best label for two youngsters.
A new genreThe band has dabbled in many genres: jazz (“Feels Like”), soft rock (“The Push”), and many beautiful piano presentations (“Trying to Reach You”) but haven’t touched pop until now. “Friends” is pop with the fast-paced beats you would hear on the radio today. The single doesn’t feel like the band’s usual music as it makes a sense of conformity to what’s “hot” today. It’s good to know the band leaves nothing off the table, and it’s expected The Wonderlands will be leaning into additional territory as their career continues to take shape. Something about the presentation was just off to me. Jena’s vocals are impeccable, and the male-female duo was a nice touch, but it’s not what I’m used to hearing from the band. It’s possible that The Wonderlands are in a transition period, blending popular themes and the unique sound they’ve always had. “Friends” will leave fans confused on what to expect from the band next, which can be both good and bad.
I don’t think I can love you like I did when we were kidsLead singer Miles Jena provides most of the spotlight here, but the band brought in Gavigan for a solo of her own. This is the first time I’ve heard The Wonderlands go for something like this. It works for the most part but becomes repetitive and can run dry after the first run-throughs. It’s possible with other tracks like “Danced Herself to Death” and “The Push” that it will bury “Friends” with all the love the two have received on Spotify.
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Sources: Byte, The Wonderlands Band, Facebook, Spotify Featured Image: Facebook