In May 2022, The Used Frontman Bert McCracken made headlines with a candid public announcement about his mental health. With this revelation, he declared a hiatus from touring to focus on his well-being. Fast forward to May 19th, 2023, and the band has released their latest album, Toxic Positivity. This personal and introspective record emerges as one of The Used’s most vulnerable and honest releases. The album provides listeners with an unfiltered look into the mind of a musician grappling with mental illness.
The industry has been no stranger to the tragic losses of talented artists due to mental health. In recent years, we’ve mourned the passing of Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Avicii, and Keith Flint, among others. Their deaths have highlighted the importance of mental health awareness. This is invaluable in an industry that prioritizes success and fame over well-being.
As more musicians open up, there is an increasing urgency to address these issues.
Bert McCracken of The Used has emerged as a leading figure in this movement. By stepping back from touring to focus on self-care, McCracken demonstrated the importance of putting one’s well-being first, even in the face of professional obligations.
His actions send a clear message to fellow artists and fans alike. It is okay to acknowledge mental health challenges and seek help when needed.
As a result, Toxic Positivity by The Used, is a captivating and emotionally charged album that blends elements from the band’s previous releases with a modernized take on their signature sound. The result is a collection of fresh and familiar tracks, showcasing the band’s growth and evolution while remaining true to their roots.
One of the most striking aspects of Toxic Positivity is its poignant exploration of depression. The lyrics, such as “in my headspace; I’m feeding on the darkness and the bleeding of my heart,” provide a raw and emotional connection to frontman Bert McCracken’s battles. These introspective themes are woven throughout the album, drawing listeners in and creating a powerful sense of empathy and understanding.
Musically, the album is nothing short of stunning. The Used expertly crafts a sonic journey that mirrors the emotional arc of McCracken’s struggles. Beginning at his lowest point, the album dives into the depths of despair and pain with powerful, gut-wrenching tracks that lay bare the reality of mental health struggles. As the album progresses, it captures the gradual process of refocusing one’s thinking, finding strength in vulnerability, and seeking help. And the occasional relapses that one encounter amid said journey.
Throughout Toxic Positivity, The Used’s signature blend of post-hardcore, emo, and punk elements interweaves with modern rock influences. The production quality is top-notch, allowing each instrument and vocal line to shine while maintaining a cohesive and immersive sound.
The final trio of tracks on Toxic Positivity takes listeners on an emotional journey through love, self-awareness, and hope. “Top Of The World” is a heartfelt tribute to a devoted loved one who has steadfastly stood by McCracken’s side during his darkest moments. Despite the many reasons they could have abandoned him, this unwavering support shines through as he likens himself to the “Titanic, sinking fast, but you hold on.”
Bert’s powerful confession of admiration speaks volumes about the impact of unconditional love. He celebrates that this person accepts him for who he is and embraces his flaws with open arms. This beautifully crafted song captures the essence of gratitude and the strength found in the love of someone who never gives up. This song resonated with me as someone who has experienced mental health challenges firsthand. It reminded me of my fiancée’s unwavering support during my most negative times. Despite my mind convincing me that she had every reason to leave, she has always chosen to stay. Thanks to her, I am a better person every day. This proves that sometimes what we need the most is someone who listens.
In “House of Sand,” Bert reflects on the fragile nature of life and the delicate balance that can sometimes exist between happiness and despair. The song’s poignant lyrics emphasize how even the most stable situations can crumble under the weight of unexpected challenges. As Bert sings, “It’s like I live in a house of sand, where nothing ever seems to last, it’s crashing down around me,” he captures the raw emotions that go with these moments of vulnerability.
The song is a striking penultimate contrast to the album’s closing track, “Giving Up.” Contrary to its title, it is not about surrendering to despair. Instead, it concludes the album on an uplifting note as Bert asserts, “I’m done with the misery, and I’m done faking tragedies, ’cause I’m not giving up on me.” The song begins with a candid admission that “yesterday,” he wanted to die. But, by the end, it transitions into a powerful declaration of resilience and defiance against his internal demons.
With fierce determination, Bert emphasizes recognizing that life is worth fighting for. By confronting his demons head-on, he inspires listeners to embrace their battles and never give up on themselves. “Giving Up” leaves the audience hopeful and empowered, making it the perfect finale for this emotionally charged and personal album.
In conclusion, Toxic Positivity is a compelling release. It showcases The Used’s continued growth as artists and serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. As more artists like Bert McCracken come forward with their stories, the music industry is becoming a more supportive space for those grappling with mental illnesses.
This is a must-listen for both longtime fans and newcomers alike. Everyone, at some point, has felt defeated. Yet, Bert reminds us all that it’s okay not to be okay as long as we remember that there is always a light at the end of every tunnel.
And it’s that exact message so many people need to hear. Thank you, Bert, for wearing your heart on your sleeve.