Thursday, April 15th, 2021

All Time Low – Once In A Lifetime

The logical next step in name-dropping: a single called “Jon Bellion“…


Katie Gill: A Fueled by Ramen song in the year of our Lord 2021 that sounds pretty damn close to a Fueled by Ramen song from the year of our Lord 2011. So basically, same as it ever was.

Tim de Reuse: The verses are cut as short as they’ll go, the mix compressed is to drum-and-bass levels, and the tempo is fast so you spend as little time as possible in the boring parts. This song is unabashedly a flimsy wrapper around one of the most immaculate pop-punk choruses in recent memory. The half-rhymes, in particular, ride a fine line between graceful and groan-worthy, especially considering how they’re used to emphasize syncopated half-beats, like the singer’s particularly proud of them: “Life time” / “Right time,” “Forget you” / “Pretend to”, “We had” / “This bad?,” and grab “Loneliness” / “Another mess” from the second verse, while you’re at it. These are deliciously inelegant couplets to base an entire song off of. If it weren’t for the tune’s barrelling momentum denying you a moment to think about how hackneyed it all is (notice how the title drop at the end of the chorus rides on a single note, denying the end of the chorus any proper resolution as if eager to get to the beginning of the next one) it’d probably start to stew in its own downer narrative. Instead, it wrings good energy out of self-pity — and isn’t that the miracle of all great emo-adjacent pop punk?

Thomas Inskeep: If the whole of “Once in a Lifetime” sounded like its chorus, this would be about a [7], because there, All Time Low successfully plumb the early ’00s emo/Warped Tour sound of their genesis. But the verses rock about as hard as Twenty One Pilots, and ain’t nobody got time for that. 

Jackie Powell: After the triumph that was “Monsters,” a single that found a way to integrate Alex Gaskarth’s soaring vocal alongside blackbear without transforming it into a hip-hop edgelord crossover, “Once in a Lifetime” is All Time Low coming back down to earth. The lackadaisical intro, where Gaskarth belts the song title twice while backing vocals are overdubbed underneath it, is just unnecessary. If the single began with the opening couplet of “I wanna drink, wanna think, write a song about it/I wanna smoke, make a joke, try to hide the damage” it would have been a thousand times more compelling. The 10-second lede throws away my concentration and foreshadows the hook, which is a forced burst of emotion inconsistent with the delivery of the verses. I can’t help but cringe at the name-drop in each chorus. What’s most frustrating is how All Time Low is swimming in emotions on this track. Are they going for nostalgia, pandemic angst or straight-up sauce?

Juana Giaimo: “Once In a Lifetime” sounds familiar but also fresh, showing that pop-punk doesn’t need to be attached to trap to be alive today. I like how the opening backing vocals also appear in the chorus, and how the verses start kind of spoken before the melody changes and becomes gentler with “I wanna drive this car over the edge.” I don’t know what the effect is that they added in the pre-chorus, but it makes the song faint slightly enough only for the chorus to have a bigger impact. Also, extra point for casually name-dropping their own name.

Ian Mathers: Just out of curiosity, do they put the band’s name in all their lyrics? Give ’em another point if they do.

Alfred Soto: The craft is obvious: verse-middle eight-chorus move more confidently than the lyrics’ rote paternalism. Dashboard Confessional didn’t write tunes this hummable. Who gets to hear “Once in a Lifetime” — whom did All Time Low record this for? — is another question.

Will Adams: Whenever I encounter this type of pop-punk radio candy, I feel like I’m always apologizing for it. I wonder if I’m only endeared to it via nostalgia — in this case, the chug of “Ocean Avenue” — or if I feel ashamed about connecting with a genre that unabashedly wears its heart on its sleeve. For now, I’ll continue to give in: “Once In a Lifetime” has razor-sharp hooks, and its charmingly dated features — the woah-oh backing vocals and brief, cheesy synth runs — only sweeten the deal.

Nortey Dowuona: I like the guitar plucking and indie wailing from the lead singer, and the soft The Social Experiment metal drums and the American Authors guitar shredding bridge, but I don’t know why the hell a bunch of young white kids in the comment section of Billboard Breakdown want this to be the entirety of popular music in the 2020’s. Can’t it just be Kurtains?

John S. Quinn-Puerta: I tried to forget you too, All Time Low. Your muddy, over-compressed guitars already made that easy. There’s no definition to anything but the vocals, which are substandard pop-punk fare, lacking the power that’s fueled the genre’s recent revival and reimagining. And yet I feel like the rest of the band is a football field away (though in the final chorus they just make it to the 50-yard line), while Gaskarth is weakly screaming in my face. There’s no attempt at riff-making, nothing to give any semblance of catchiness, just seemingly meaningless word-vomit. I feel justified in not having thought about this band for ten years, and look forward to ten more.

Jeffrey Brister: I just like rock songs with hummable melodies and choruses that soar and glow. It’s no “That’s What You Get,” but really, what is?

Taylor Alatorre: All Time Low came on the scene at just the wrong time for me. By 2008 my adolescent music snob tendencies were in full bloom, and I saw them as part of a cohort of bands — Mayday Parade, the Maine, We the Kings — which existed solely to cash in on the emo-pop trend and lacked any connection to the genre’s hardcore roots. Why listen to a band named after a New Found Glory lyric when I could listen to New Found Glory? Then came the Defend Pop Punk hoodies, and the Pitchfork emo reviews, and “American Apparel underwear,” and “all my friends are dead.” Through it all, the boys from Baltimore somehow managed to stick around, like pop punk cockroaches, culminating last year in their first genuine radio hit. “Once in a Lifetime” feels like both a response to that belated success and an reflection on the band’s entire career, with its moderate tempo and soaring harmonies encouraging the listener to take them seriously as an unlikely veteran act. In the verses, Alex Gaskarth’s breathy, percussive vocals bring to mind Don Henley in “The Boys of Summer,” a proto-emo song if there ever was one, while the fanservice chorus pays the favor back to “Head on Collision” after 19 years. Though these efforts at conveying grandness sometimes overshoot and result in a muddied production, they still succeed in bestowing an air of genuine maturity on the band, without sacrificing their core identity or audience in the process.

Reader average: [3] (1 vote)

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2 Responses to “All Time Low – Once In A Lifetime”

  1. I love that pop-punk always brings controversy to the Jukebox (except Martha’s “Ice Cream and Sunscreen” because it’s the best song of the decade)

  2. I feel like a hater but I genuinely couldn’t stand this song y’all!!! Also, thank you, Katie, for making the joke I was too cowardly to make.