Jared Leto explores America’s ‘good, bad and ugly’ on new album

Jared LetoImage copyrightSTEVEN FERDMAN

When is a political album not a political album?

When it’s the new record by actor and singer Jared Leto’s band Thirty Seconds to Mars.

America, the band’s fifth album, came out on 6 April and for all its bombastic stadium rock and pseudo-inspiring call to action, tries to steer clear of any specifics, choosing instead to paint slogans with a rather broader brush.

Walk on Water, the taster track from the record which was released last summer, was accompanied by a video stamped with figures about US migration, prison statistics, footage of North Korean nuclear launches, protests and, of course, the President Donald J Trump.

The targets are wide but it’s not immediately clear what Leto, his brother Shannon and the rest of the band are asking people to protest about.

A thin line, the whole truth/The far right, the left view/Breaking all those promises made/Times are changing


“Walk on Water is a political song about standing up and fighting for what you believe in,” insists Leto, talking to the BBC between dates of the band’s UK tour in March.

“It’s about change and it’s about the possibilities that we have at our fingertips.”

30 Seconds to Mars coversImage copyright TWITTER
Image captionFans can design their own version of the album cover

The album’s promotional campaign allows users to design their own cover, picking five words which best define the United States of America.

It’s a clever spin on traditional album artwork, though just how much the band’s fans who live outside the 50 States will be engaged remains to been seen.

30 Seconds to Mars coversImage copyright TWITTER
Image captionLeto describe the lists as a ‘time capsule’

“The idea around the album campaign, the lists, it’s almost like a time capsule, if you look at the individuals, they describe specific things but as a whole they give a sense of the culture and the times that we’re living in,” explains Leto.

The 46-year-old, who formed his band 20 years ago, first found fame as an actor starring opposite Claire Danes in the short-lived cult TV series My So-Called Life.

His performance as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club in 2013 won him an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for best supporting actor.

He also played Batman’s iconic nemesis The Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad.

Jared Leto and friendsImage copyrightMATTY VOGEL
Image caption“I’d always wanted to write an album about the places I’d been and the people I’d interviewed”

As a musician, Leto has sold 15 million albums worldwide, first touring the United States as a headline act in 2006.

“I’d always wanted to make an album based upon my travels around the country and write an album about the places I’d been and the people I’d interviewed,” he says.

“We made a portrait of a country in what I think is a really important time, a time of great change, of instability and uncertainty, a time where were asking big questions about who are we, what type of country do we want to be and these questions are being asked around the world.”

The album is partly a companion piece to a short film, which Leto directed, called A Day in the Life of America which aimed to capture 24 hours of American life on the Fourth of July.

Both projects, says Leto, attempt to portray the country warts and all.

“We explore the good, the bad and the ugly, I don’t think there’s an American alive that sees perfection or sees things in a idealistic way. I think that we are like every nation, a collection of imperfections but also aspirations to kind of follow or reach a bigger ideal or dream.”

Jared Leto and friendsImage copyright MATTY VOGEL
Image caption The singer is currently hitchhiking across America to plug the album

Leto describes the new album as not just political “it’s social, it’s imaginative, it’s highly personal and revealing” but steers clear of any overt campaigning, perhaps for fear of alienating fans on either side of an increasingly divided country.

In today’sclimate, it feels slightly against the grain with even commercial artists like Eminem nailing their colours to the mast, speaking out against the NRA in a new verse of his track Nowhere Fast and his blistering viral anti-Trump freestyle.

Leto did speak out in support of young Americans who took part in the March For Our Lives, telling the BBC he backed them “1000%”.

But of the album, which includes duets with rapper A$AP Rocky and singer Halsey, he says: “I didn’t want to be overtly political, I was much more interested in being personal and being social and being fun because those are things happening now”.

“It’s not just a time for suffering and disappointment, there’s a lot of excitement and fun and inspiration – for every heartache there’s a story of perseverance that is really powerful.”

Source: Bbc

Editing: Ines Palumbo


Shayne Ward

Not to be confused with Shane Warne.

Shayne Ward
Ward in Hong Kong, September 2006
Background information
Birth name Shayne Thomas Ward
Born 16 October 1984 (age 33)
TamesideGreater Manchester, England
  • Singer
  • actor
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2005–present
Website shaynewardofficial.com

Shayne Thomas Ward (born 16 October 1984)[1] is an English singer and actor of Irish Traveller Heritage, who rose to fame as the winner of the second series of The X Factor. His debut single, “That’s My Goal“, was released in the United Kingdom on 21 December 2005 and reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and was that year’s Christmas number one.[2] It sold 313,000 copies on its first day of sales, making it the third fastest-selling single of all time in the UK, behind Elton John‘s “Candle in the Wind 1997” and Will Young‘s “Evergreen“, which sold 685,000 and 400,000 copies in their first days of sale respectively.[3]

Ward was the first X Factor winner to release an original song as his winner’s single. His prize, as winner, was a recording contract with Simon Cowell‘s Syco record label, which is co-owned by Sony Music. His eponymous debut album was released in April 2006. It debuted at number one on both the Irish and UK Albums Charts, going 4× Platinum in Ireland and Platinum in the UK. It spawned two hit singles: “No Promises” and “Stand by Me“. The follow-up album, Breathless, featuring the top 10 hits “If That’s OK with You” and “No U Hang Up“, was released in November 2007 and topped the Irish charts, where it went 5× Platinum.

In November 2010, after a three-year hiatus, Ward released his third album, Obsession. In contrast to Shayne Ward and Breathless, it underperformed with first-week sales of under 23,000, and missed the top 10 in both the UK and Ireland. In 2011, Ward was dropped by Syco. In 2015, he released a new album Closer as an independent artist, funded through PledgeMusic.[4]

In 2015, he began appearing as Aidan Connor in TV’s Coronation Street as a regular character. He will leave the show in early 2018.

Early life[edit]

Ward was born in TamesideGreater Manchester, England to Irish Traveller parents who settled in England. in 2002 he reached the final thirty of Popstars: The Rivals.[5] Prior to his participation in The X Factor, Ward was in a band called Destiny with two women named Tracy Murphy and Tracey Lyle, performing at pubs, clubs and weddings.[5]


2005: The X Factor[edit]

In early 2005, Ward auditioned for the second series of The X Factor. He impressed all three judges (Simon CowellSharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh) and passed through to the next round. His category (16- to 24-year olds) was then mentored by Walsh, and Ward was chosen to be among Walsh’s top four contestants and perform on the live shows. Ward quickly became the bookmakers‘ favourite to win the show, and after making it to the grand final, he defeated Simon Cowell’s duo Journey South and Sharon Osbourne’s over-25 singer Andy Abraham and was crowned as the winner of The X Factor 2005.[6] He had not fallen into the bottom two throughout the entire competition, and won by a margin of 1.2% of the vote, out of a reported 10.8 million phone votes cast by viewers. Immediately after the competition, his X Factor mentor Louis Walsh became his manager under a joint venture with Global Publishing and Walsh Global Management.

2006–07: Breakthrough and Shayne Ward[edit]

Immediately after his victory on The X Factor, Ward signed a recording contract with Syco Music and his first single, “That’s My Goal“, was released in the UK on Wednesday, 21 December 2005. After selling 742,000 copies in the first week, including 313,000 on its first day, it became the Christmas number one single of 2005, held the top spot for four weeks and stayed in the top 75 until June 2006, a 21-week run. It became, at that time the fourth fastest-selling UK single of all time, beaten only by Elton John‘s “Candle in the Wind“, Will Young‘s “Anything Is Possible/Evergreen“, and Gareth Gates‘ “Unchained Melody” which sold 685,000, 403,000 and 335,000 copies in their first days of sale respectively.[3] To date, “That’s My Goal” has sold over 1.3 million copies in the UK. Ward also won an Ivor Novello Award for being the Best Selling Single. Ward’s second single, “No Promises“, a cover of a Bryan Rice song was released on 10 April 2006, and peaked at number two (behind “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley) in the UK Singles Chart. Shayne Ward, his self-titled debut album was released on 17 April 2006. It sold 201,266 copies in the first week and entered the albums chart at number one. To date, the album has sold 520,000 copies in the UK and a further 2,000,000 worldwide, reaching number one in eight other countries. The album was certified platinum. Ward’s third single was “Stand by Me“. It was confirmed in Gary Barlow‘s autobiography My Take, that in 2006, fellow Take That member, Jason Orange threatened to quit the band, and Ward was seriously considered as his replacement. Orange, however, later changed his mind and a replacement was not required.[7] In August 2006, it was reported that Ward had developed vocal cord nodules – the same condition that stopped the singing career of Julie Andrews – and was to be flown out to Los Angeles in early September to see a specialist surgeon. His manager, Louis Walsh, released a statement that he was confident Ward would be fine and would be back at work by the end of the month. Ward had successful treatment and was indeed able to return to his singing career. In November 2006, he released his autobiography entitled My Story. He travelled to several places around the UK for book signings, which hundreds of people attended. In early 2007, Ward embarked on a solo tour of UK & Republic of Ireland venues, taking in eighteen concerts in twenty-eight days from late January to mid-February. The tour commenced in Dublin on 21 January and ended in Birmingham on 17 February 2007.

2007–08: Breathless[edit]

After the completion of his successful debut tour, Ward’s fourth single and first from his second album, “If That’s OK with You” was given a release date of 20 August 2007, but was then delayed and became a double A-side single with “No U Hang Up“. It was finally released on 24 September 2007, and charted at number two in the UK being held off by the Sugababes with “About You Now“. “No U Hang Up” and “If That’s OK with You” charted separately in Ireland, the former reaching number eleven and the latter entering at number one. Ward’s second album, Breathless, was released on 26 November 2007, and after selling over 95,000 copies in its first week, debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart, held off the top spot by his X Factor successor, Leona Lewis’s, multi-platinum selling debut, Spirit. In Ireland, the album debuted at number one, removing Lewis’s album from the top spot, a position it held for three weeks, and was later certified five times platinum. The second single from Ward’s album was announced as “Breathless“, and was released on 19 November 2007. It peaked at number six in the UK and number two in Ireland. On 10 November, Ward performed “Breathless” on the live results show of the fourth series of The X Factor, although the single was not available for download until 18 November, followed by a performance on The Paul O’Grady Show on 19 November. In the UK the album has been certified platinum with sales of over 450,000. In May 2008 Ward embarked on his month-long UK tour named The Breathless Tour 2008. He made his stage debut at London’s O2Arena and visited his home town Manchester at the MEN Arena. He also performed his complete show as a support act for Westlife‘s 2008 tour in front of a crowd of over 80,000 at Ireland’s Croke Park. Ward also played on the opening night at The O2, Dublin, at the Cheerios Childline concert on 16 December 2008.

2008–11: Obsession[edit]

Ward began working on his third album in 2009 with producers RedOne and Taio Cruz.[8] The album, titled Obsession, was released on 15 November 2010.[9] The singer worked with songwriters such as Savan KotechaQuiz & Larossi and Lucas Secon, while the songs produced by RedOne and Taio Cruz will not be included.[10] The first single from the album is a cover version of Nickelback‘s 2008 single, “Gotta Be Somebody“.[11] Ward’s version was released on 7 November 2010 and reached number 12 in the UK and number 10 in Ireland.[9] The video for the song premiered on 29 October 2010 and he performed the song on The X Factor on 7 November. Ward also performed at the Miss World Pageant, which was held in Sanya, China. He did his first television appearance in over two years, on Live from Studio Five the day after his X Factor appearance, where he also performed his single. The album reached number 11 in Ireland on 19 November and peaked at number 15 in the UK on 21 November. On 8 March 2011, Ward performed the title track from the album Obsession on The Alan Titchmarsh Show. In an interview with Digital Spy Ward stated that he hoped he could release a second single from the album.

2011–14: Rock of Ages and Dancing on Ice[edit]

On 9 June 2011, it was announced that Ward would star as Stacee Jaxx in 1980s-themed musical Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London.[12] For this role, Ward received a nomination for The DEWYNTERS London Newcomer of the Year award from the 2012 What’s on Stage Awards.[13] He has since announced that he will be returning to the studio in September 2012, after his contract with Rock of Ages ends.[citation needed] In February 2014, Ward released a version of “Falling Slowly” with Louise Dearman. In 2014, Ward joined the cast of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds for the final arena tour of that production, as the Artilleryman.[14]

2015: Closer and Coronation Street[edit]

On 19 September 2014, Ward announced that he has been working on a new album with Mike Stock, with a then-projected release of February 2015 through PledgeMusic.[15] Ward later postponed the release to April, with the video for the first single “My Heart Would Take You Back”, due to be filmed on 25 February 2015 in London.[16] On 12 May 2015, ITVannounced they had signed Ward to a one-year contract deal to appear on Coronation Street as Aidan Connor, a “distant cousin of Michelle who grew up on the same estate as her and knicker boss Carla Connor“. He made his on-screen debut in August 2015.[citation needed] For his performance, he received 2016 National Television Award[17] and 2016 Inside Soap Award, both for the Best Newcomer.

Personal life[edit]

Ward was in a relationship with Faye McKeever until 2014.[18]

On 2 August 2016, Ward announced that he and girlfriend Sophie Austin would become parents for the first time.[19] On 3 December 2016, the pair welcomed their first child, a daughter.[20] In December 2017, Ward announced his engagement to Austin.[21]

In September 2017, Ward spoke out about his noticeable weight gain since becoming a father and through TV’s Loose Women appeared in a photo shoot, promoting body confidence for men, along with several other celebrities.[22]