Monday Motivation: The Used

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

Since the beginning of the music business the people who work at the very top of the industry have been trying their hardest to understand the behavior of consumers under the age of twenty-five. Research has shown that young people are often the most passionate supporters of media, and their outspoken support of an artist or group can do far more in terms of raising awareness for a particular talent than any amount of paid advertising. The problem is, the attention span of this demographic has always been short, and it has become even shorter since the dawn of the digital age. Even if you can manage to hook young listeners on a new artist or song, the likelihood they stay engaged with that talent beyond a few weeks or months is incredibly low. Many have tried to curve this trend with advertising and elaborate promotional plans, but any industry veteran knows the only way to truly win fans for life is by crafting material that reaches through speakers and headphones to make a personal connection with the listener. Music fans need to feel their life is somehow tethered to those who entertain them in order to keep them engaged, and in my experience there are few bands who have managed to engage fans that way better than The Used.

No one could have predicted what happened when The Used first burst on the national radar. Their 2002 self-titled debut album arrived like a shotgun blast fired in close proximity to the chest of alternative music. Fans of punk, hardcore, and every slight variation in between found themselves becoming obsessed with the emotional and unabashedly honest lyrics of Burt McCracken, which were perfectly complemented by the group’s unpredictable take on modern rock. One song would be so heavy you’d think the members collapsed in a fit of sweat and shortness of breath as soon as the recording was cut, while other tracks arrived with the delicacy of a dove. To say people wanted more would be an understatement, but the band refused to simply do more of the same for their follow-up, In Love And Death. That record, which arrived in 2004, boasted bigger hooks and more arena-ready production than their debut, but still found its energy in the unpredictable nature of the band’s individual members. You still didn’t know what to expect from song to song despite having become familiar with the group’s flair for the overdramatic, and that continues to be a theme of their records to this day.

Any artist existing in the modern age is lucky to release even two albums without losing a significant amount of their initial fan base, but The Used have continued to maintain their stranglehold on the edgier side of alternative music throughout six full-length records, two EPs, and two live albums. Their latest, Live And Acoustic At The Palace, may be the most peculiar yet. As the band has aged their reliance on digital production, synth, and additional inorganic sounds to bolster the ferocity of their music has become something of a second wave signature, but on this record all that added noise is nowhere to be found. For over an hour all fans hear are the sounds of light instrumentation, McCracken’s ever-so-slightly gruff voice, and the scream-singing of fellow fans. The tracks cover the band’s career from beginning to now, though not necessarily in that order, and as they play you’re reminded of why this band has made it this far without losing much, if any, of their initial popularity. The Used is more than the members of the band, and in a way The Used is more than the combination of the members and their fans. The Used is a movement, born out of a shared feeling amongst music fans that their may be no place for them in the world outside of concert halls and the space between left and right headphones. From that place a community has blossomed, and each member of that community carries the torch for the band’s music to others around the world. To be a fan of The Used is to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and that feeling of belonging is more powerful than any hook McCracken could hope to write.

Some may say records like Live And Acoustic At The Palace are little more than greatest hits compilations, but to think that way is to reveal a complete misunderstanding of why this album was created in the first place. Those who listen to The Used do not need to be reminded of why they love the band, nor do they need another version of songs they have already bought once, twice, or even three times in the past. This album exists, at least as far as we can tell, to showcase the power of uniting people around the idea that everyone feels bad sometimes and that feeling is perfectly normal. This album exists to empower an already strong community to keep their faith in a better tomorrow despite what often looks like a worsening socio-political climate. This album exists to remind people of the power of community and of being part of something bigger than yourself, which sadly is not something everyone walking this planet today knows. As long as The Used exist however, there will be an open door waiting for those who need to flee their own thoughts and lose themselves in art. And in the end, isn’t that what music is all about?

James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.