X Ambassadors go grungy, political, and– frankly bold– in their latest release, “Optimistic.” Written to address the undeniable effect that gun violence has had on the country, the song directly criticizes the current administration as well as a society for causing gun-related deaths around the country.
Stylistically, the song is different from anything X Ambassadors has put out before. It feels more like garage rock than their typical slow-tempo alt-rock. Distorted guitars and frantic drums dominate the sound space. Accompanied by shouting vocals, the instrumentals have a sense of urgency to them. The tempo is fast and gets more distorted with every second the song goes on. Compositionally, it’s deceptively simple. While there’s little to no room for silence in the song, it actually only uses two instruments: guitar and drums.
But it’s the lyrics that truly hit home. The track opens with “I feel like clawing out my eyes, I feel like crawling out of my skin. Never again, never again, they say never again.” The frantic sound of the instrumentals makes this message feel urgent—because it is. It’s life or death. With gun violence having affected dozens of communities around the country, it feels necessary that a group of musicians finally approach the subject and call attention to it. Politically, the song is pointed. “Our president’s a racist prick, his daddy treated him like shit, he cakes the makeup on so thick, there’s nothing underneath it,” paints the president as a villain in no uncertain terms. The song truly hits home with the chorus: “She don’t wanna bring a baby into this world, I’m losing sleep trying to be optimistic.” These lines make “Optimistic” feel like a desperate plea to change the country for future generations, if not for our own.
When the heart-wrenching lyrics are combined with such a frantic and distorted production, the song feels desperate. Desperate for change, for answers, for optimism. Using such a dramatically different songwriting style than X Ambassadors usually does feels intentional. The song shocks the listener, causing them to dig deeper into the meaning and implications of the lyrics. The only optimism that can be driven from this track is the hope that the monetary donations it drives will bring about change. All profits from “Optimism” will be donated to Everytown for Gun Safety.