Fitz and The Tantrums are an indie-pop band that has fluctuated through many different sounds, consistently attracting new fans during each phase, while isolating old ones. Scoring huge hits, such as “The Walker” and “Handclap,” this band has flirted with fame multiple times, and typically found success with each album. With the release of “123456,” the lead single on their upcoming album, a retrospective look at the band’s shift in styles seemed all too fitting.
This six piece group has been making music since 2008. Fronted by Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, the band originally began as a neo-soul project. Their debut EP, “Songs For A Breakup: Volume 1” (comedically, no Volume 2 has yet to be released), contained five bass and organ led crooners. Upon this first release, it was clear that this band had the talent and artistic creativity to really turn some heads.
Taking a few of the tracks from “Songs For A Breakup,” the band released their first album in 2010, titled “Pickin’ Up The Pieces.” The neo-soul sound was further emphasized, as each song has its own take on the genre. The lead single from the song, “Moneygrabber,” hit 2 on the Billboard Adult Alternative Songs chart, and is easily one of the most fun and well crafted tracks that the band has ever produced. Nearly perfect from start to finish, “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” truly showed the talent of the band. From excellent saxophone work from James King, to powerful, soulful, and melodic vocals from the co-lead vocalists, this album is firing on all cylinders.
After a three year break for touring and promoting their relatively new band, the group came back together to release “More Than Just A Dream.” This is one of those quintessential indie albums. Synthesizers, strong hooks, bouncy vocals and anthemic lyrics. Another very solid album. With this kind of album, sometimes a dip in actual quality occurs, but the band was able to completely avoid this. Furthermore, their soulful roots are not absent. “More Than Just A Dream” seems like a fairly natural progression of sound, but unfortunately, not one that everyone would appreciate. Many saw the move as selling out.
Unfortunately, those naysayers would only be handed more ammunition, as the band released their self-titled album in 2016. “Handclap” became an inescapable song for many, and while it was a fun pop song, it was just that: a pop song. The rest of the album followed suit, as most of the tracks were mainstream, with the occasional indie touch added to it. Again, a fairly natural progression with some very solid songs in it. Fans that had fallen in love with the neo-soul roots of the band were completely disenfranchised, despite the still relatively high quality of the release. Regardless, the shift in sound attracted many new fans.
With the release of the new single “123456,” it appears that the band plans to stick with the sound of their previous album. The song is another fun song that is more of a dance song than anything. The instrumentation is more distinctly “indie” than some of what was heard on the self-titled release, but the overall mainstream appeal remains. Ultimately, the song is good, but does not want to appeal to any of the longtime fans, and can even be isolating to the fans that came in during the “More Than Just A Dream” phase. Fitz and The Tantrums has released consistently high quality material, although the height of their career was undoubtedly in their early days. They simply have not found a style to stick to, 11 years into their career, which may become a death nail for them in the future.
Noah Estes is a music columnist for the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, a 2018 graduate of Bartlesville High School and a student at Rogers State University. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on his YouTube channel, SMEB Reviews.