“Greatest Hits” – Waterparks Album Review
Written by wmscweb on February 22, 2023
By Ian Love
Waterparks saw critical acclaim after their third studio album Fandom in 2019, leaving both fans and critics excited for what the three person band had in store next. As it turns out, the process of writing their next album, Greatest Hits, would be a challenging one for frontman Awsten Knight, for after writing over 100 songs, he had to narrow it down to just the 17 featured on the album. Though it was odd to call an album full of new music Greatest Hits, what resulted was and still is an eclectic album full of different musical styles that provoke just about every emotion with just one play through.
The journey of releasing the album started on September 25th 2020 with the release of “Lowkey as Hell,” the first single and track 3 of the final album, though audiences would not know that just yet. The song featured much of what drew audiences to Waterparks in the first place- a fun balance of a bright and pop-esque synth sound carrying the verse, while the chorus turned to the more driving guitar sound that brought in punk influence. The lyricism on the song seemed to harken back to Fandom’s “Watch What Happens Next” with its ideas of fan expectations for Waterparks and how Knight feels about performing and making music for the band, even featuring some of the same lyrics as its predecessor. Although the single brought in the Greatest Hits era for the band, the full album name and release date of May 21st 2021 wouldn’t be announced until the release of the second single “Snow Globe” on February 26th, 2021.
“Snow Globe,” the sixth track on the album, sees Waterparks delve into a more lo-fi sound, with less focus on guitars and more on a soft piano and punching bass for the pre-chorus, as well as the chorus. The song divided fans, with some playing into the ideologies of songs like “Watch What Happens Next” and being upset that the band doesn’t have the same sound as previous albums, while others embraced the new and welcomed it with open arms.
Almost as if the band knew the reaction some fans would have to “Snow Globe,” the third single “Numb” was released on March 29th, 2021. Through the familiar electric guitars and rage inducing energy of the song, Knight dissed fans who only wanted him to make the same kind of music they are used to without any concept of branching out. As it came to be, “Numb,” the fourth track off Greatest Hits, would be widely seen as one of the best songs on the album by fans.
The final three singles released before the album were “You’d Be Paranoid Too (If Everyone Was Out to Get You,” ”Just Kidding,” and “Violet!” These were track numbers six, ten, and five and were released on April 28th, 2021, May 12th, 2021, and May 18th, 2021 respectively. These three songs detail the inner working of Knight’s mind and anxieties, whether it be the anxieties of people disliking him set to the punk rock backing of “You’d Be Paranoid Too (If Everyone Was Out to Get You),” of not being enough and self loathing set to the more mellow and stripped back instrumental of “Just Kidding,” or even of being stalked set to an almost disco pop background of “Violet!” I was much more of a fan of “You’d Be Paranoid Too (If Everyone Was Out to Get You)” and especially “Violet!” than “Just Kidding” at first, but I enjoyed all three tracks nonetheless, and I think “Just Kidding,” although more laid back and stripped down, speaks volumes through its lyrics more than anything.
This all led to the release of the album Greatest Hits on May 21st, 2021, and it did not disappoint when it came to delivering an all encompassing experience. It starts off with the ambient noises of the titular opening track. “Greatest Hits” turned quickly into a disjoint set of sounds to put the listener off track, something that it does incredibly well. Although it repeats the same lyrics of having the strangest dream over and over again, it really helps put the listener into the mindset of the album and its journey of following a night of sleep.
The second track on the album, “Fuzzy,” is the true opener of this album, and what an opener it is. Kicking off slowly with drums and light guitar, among different percussive noises like silverware clanging and even a dog barking, the song quickly delves into a heavy guitar riff, overtaking the chorus and after chorus. The more slowed down and moody bridge provides a great little pause in between the madness that is the rest of “Fuzzy.” The lyrics go hand in hand with the idea of dreams as the character the album follows falls asleep and is overcome with dreams.
This then leads into a string of singles from the album, with the next new songs being “The Secret Life of Me” at track nine and “American Graffiti” at track ten. These two tracks feature similar themes of picking at Knight’s mind, but the different perspectives on this idea matched with almost polar opposite instrumentals helps set them apart. “The Secret Life of Me” looks more at how Awsten Knight lives within his mind, constantly looking for an escape from all the stress of the world, and wanting to just relax and enjoy himself. This song is paired with a very upbeat instrumental with a big pronunciation on drums and a bright and poppy synth track that leaves the listener in a joyful mood thinking of their own getaway. This followed up by “American Graffiti,” which aims to show how Knight perceives other people picking at his brain. The lyrics of this song are full of Knight calling out fans for thinking they know everything about him, and what he thinks compared to the reality of his mind. This is matched up wonderfully with a straight to the course pop-punk sound that hits home for a lot of fans, creating a dichotomy between one of the central themes of Greatest Hit. The song itself about not wanting to keep doing the same music while having an instrumental that is almost comically true to the nature of what Waterparks has done before.
These two tracks of self-reflection are followed by “You’d Be Paranoid Too (If Everyone Was Out to Get You),” and after a string of songs reflecting on Knight’s psyche, we are given a nice break in the form of “Fruit Roll Ups,” track eleven. This warm and rich song featuring soft guitars and a 3⁄4 meter details Knight’s infatuation with a special someone, and how much he has fallen for them. It’s nice and sweet, and gives the listener a mental break before the end of the album comes at them from all sides.
“LIKE IT,” track twelve, comes almost out of nowhere with loud music filled with wild sounds, bashing drums, distorted guitars, and even interview clips to help back up its more spiteful take on Knight’s distaste with how fans have been perceiving his music. “LIKE IT” feels like the culmination of all of his anxieties and annoyances being aired throughout the album, and this is the moment it all bursts out. Even beyond that, the song is fun to listen to when you need to get moving.
Coming from the most audibly abrasive song so far is track thirteen, “Gladiator (Interlude),” which is exactly what it sounds like. The song is simply a conversation had about Gladiators set to a laid back instrumental. This is to give the listener one more little brain break where they can shut themselves off before everything else happens.
Track fourteen, “Magnetic,” is a popular one amongst fans. The song is more electronic than most on the album, but it also blends in a bit of punk and rock to the track, lending it an almost eerie tone that gives the listener chills. The lyricism touching upon Knight’s internal realization about the type of energy and people he attracts. This is assisted by some fun vocal techniques like recording the lyrics backwards and playing them reversed to make the section sound off putting, and the final track is one that really sets the listener on edge.
This brings forth what I consider the false ending of the album, track fifteen, “Crying Over It All.” This track has everything that a good closing track should have: a violin filled and more epic instrumental, lyrics about how the band will be remembered once the glitter and glamor is over, and even an acapella ending to close it off. This song is bittersweet in the best way possible, and it represents the end of the dream that the album has been following the whole time, but it is not the actual end.
Track sixteen, “Ice Bath,” slowly fades in with its synth-y ambience and slow reverb repetition of lyrics from the opening track. Once the drop hits, Knight goes all in on the idea of waking up from the dream he has found himself in, representing the metaphorical awakening to the reality we are living in, accompanied by a more dance music backing to finish out the song.
This brings us to the true closer of the album, “See You In The Future,” which features a complex instrumental full of heavy beats and bashful sounds that gives Knight one last chance to rap away all his frustrations that he touched upon on the album. Once he’s done, we are left with a sprawling outro that ends with a drum track banging away to the very last moment.
Overall, I think that though Greatest Hits isn’t an album that casual or new fans would find very moving (they might even call it weird), it is such an accomplishment when you look at the whole project. When you accept it for what it is and open yourself to its ideas on dreaming and cataloging a night of sleep, it shows its true colors and brilliance in droves. To this day, this album is my favorite Waterparks project due to how much that Awsten Knight was able to accomplish with the writing. With the additional driving guitars provided by Geoff Wigington and rhythmic drumming by Otto Wood, the album is one that has cemented itself in many fan’s hearts as a classic.
Featured image from Jawn Rocha via readdork.com