Blood, Sweat, and Three Years: An Album Review

Blood, Sweat, and Three Years, the debut album from EDM band Cash Cash, is both a collection of singles from the last three years of the band’s existence, as well as an introductory album to some of the best songs in the band’s history.

This may be the best album from an EDM band I’ve ever heard, but at the same time, I haven’t listened to as many as I would like, and The Chainsmokers are being stubborn and not releasing an album. This is not to mitigate Cash Cash’s accomplishment: this is a terrific album. But it is to show you the scope of my opinion.

BSTY, as it will now be referred to as, works, not as a flowing album encompassing the same theme, although there is a very common theme in each song – that is, the evolution of love, the various ways it breaks, and the feelings that it brings.

Let’s break it down.

1. How to Love ft. Sofia Reyes

How to Love is a song about the first good relationship you enter, that first one where you feel loved, taken care of, and supported. The relationship you go through where you actually, well, learn how to love. The feelings of struggling against all the good, because you haven’t yet learned how to take it all in.

The song is also about love accepting you before you’ve accepted you, somebody realizing who you are and loving you for it when you need it most, when you’re having issues with yourself, and need the support most.

Reyes kills it in the vocals, and the lyrics support those vocals. The beat is catchy, and manages to avoid the pitfall of repetition. The drop, 2/3 of the way through the song, brings a new layer to the backbeat and brings it to prominence when the song has ably delivered its message.

This is a very Cash Cash song, and is a great way of opening up an album entirely about love.

Best Lyric: “you say “I could fix the broken in your heart”/”you’re worth saving darling”/but I don’t know why you’re shooting in the dark/I got faith in nothing”

2. Broken Drum ft. Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums

This song, the second of the album, is my favorite to be the most underrated song of the album. It’s about the remaining feelings after you’ve broken up with an ex, and how that love isn’t something that fades away entirely.

Featuring Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums, the song is even more upbeat than How to Love, and changes pace halfway through, working its way back up the build. It’s build is slow, rhythmic, but progressive. When the layers cut out and it’s just Fitz and the drum, it works perfectly. This section also leaves you wanting more.

The instrumental section also works really well, because its focus shifts to the groove. The last tag ending with everything back together, cooperating in harmony, is the best way to end the song.

Best Lyric: “my heart still beats like a broken drum/to the rhythm of a played out love song/your voice still haunts like a melody/even out of key you were still a song to me”

3. Millionaire ft. Nelly

Nelly crushes it, and is the biggest name on this album. The song isn’t half bad, but the first two are better.

The song encapsulates the feelings of seeing your lover, of hearing your song, you feel invincible, on top of the world, like a millionaire. Even broke, having someone special in your life makes you feel better.

Best Lyric: “she smell like money when she walk by/all heat no smoke but she on fire”

4. Hero ft. Christina Perry

This is the most powerful of the songs on the album, and it drives home its message with each emotional lyric, with every beat and rhythm.

The song is about an abusive relationship, and capturing the power within yourself to move on from it, to save yourself from a bad situation. It particularly hits hard for me, and I will be getting a tattoo of some of the lyrics.

It’s about regaining your self confidence, of becoming the person you want to be, and about no longer needing heroes because you’ve become your own.

After the first emotional gut punch, Cash Cash is smart enough to capitalize upon it by going to instrumental. When Perry is singing, the band stays quiet, adding simply a piano melody, and then building it up when Perry and the message/lyrics get stronger, and develop that confidence.

Best Lyric: I found the love inside of me/now I don’t need a hero to survive/cause I already saved my life

5. Devil ft. Busta Rhymes, B.o.B., Neon Hitch

A single last October, Devil is less emotional as it is a pure dance tune, that is, a song that’s meant to be danced to, and not leave a lingering emotion like other songs on the album.

With that said, it’s not bad for that genre of song. The meaning is purely shallow – you’re dancing with the bad boy. The beat works with the rappers, making sure that they go their own tempo, and it promotes their work above that of CC’s own, and for that reason the song showcases what Cash Cash is willing to do.

Best lyric: I guess I’ll play the bad guy/I swear I told you last time/you knew I wasn’t good for you/but you swore you hit the jackpot

6. Aftershock ft. Jacquie Lee

I won’t lie to you, this represents perhaps the least good – but not all together bad – song on this album, and it comes in the middle of the six best and most memorable.

What’s wrong about this song is simple – it’s not the lyrics, or the vocals, or any one single layer, it’s just not a memorable song, and it breaks up a rhythm of six amazing songs, and this is a trench in the middle of a mountain range.

The song is about a breakup, and even this is unmemorable, because its not as emotion packed as “Hero”, it isn’t as heady as “Broken Drum”, the song, just… exists. It’s there, but it’s steady music. It passes by like background noise.

Best Lyric: this time there’s a warning sign/brace hard for a heavy fall

See? Even the best lyric is kind of just… eh

7. The Gun ft. Trinidad James, Dev, and Cherish

And we return to the six best songs of the album with a rap/electronic sort of collaboration, and one that works really well. This is the kind of song that if more like it existed in the world, I would personally be very okay with that.

The song has a notable groove to it, and everything over it works with it, makes the song a true dance song, but one that isn’t a club banger, but rather a slower EDM song.

Trinidad and Dev are the true stand outs vocally, but Cherish does some heavy lifting. The lyrics are concise and memorable, and the song gets us back into the heat of the album.

Lyrically, the song is about trust in the wrong person, and letting your guard down around someone you absolutely shouldn’t have done that with.

Best Lyric: oh, I never should have dropped the gun down baby/oh, I never should have trusted you, I’m crazy/have I been attacked, took two shots to my heart/I never should have dropped the gun

8. Turn ft. Little Daylight

Much like “The Gun”, the song has a distinct groove to it, but this time the groove is set by the vocals of Little Daylight, who, aided by Cash Cash’s lyrics, makes this song infinitely better – from a very stuck in the genre song to a vocal performance.

The love song, about support and trust in your partner, comes directly after a song about the opposite, and yet Cash Cash makes it work within the album, showcasing two extremely different relationships, as in “Millionaire” vs. “Hero” before it.

It is a slower song like “The Gun” but you would be more likely to hear it in a club than its predecessor, because of the drops and because of the instrumental sections of the song.

Best Lyric: you know I’m on your side/gonna hold you up when the waves collide

9. Escarole

Representing the first truly instrumental song of the album, the song displays Cash Cash’s technical precision and ability to move a club even without their usual strong vocalist, something which many EDM bands lack.

A very clap heavy song, the groove is up tempo, and each build works, and every drop brings something different, but the best by far comes about half way through, when a sort of Vuvuzela horn effect is added on the drop, and then the song progresses into only the clap-based rhythm used within the song.

Only Lyric: if you don’t got money don’t fuck with us

10. Lightning feat. John Rzeznik

An early career hit for Cash Cash, Lightning’s lyrics, vocals, and instrumental sections each work, bringing you into the second half of the album.

A throwback to an earlier era of EDM, the song catches you with its lyrics, and gets you moving with its instrumental section, which starts with the first drop, but continues underneath the lyrics, and the groove is undeniable.

Rzeznik reminds you of what Cash Cash can do with a gifted vocalist after a song with one lyric.

The song, about meeting someone special and becoming reawakened, captures what Cash Cash has done throughout their career, and this, “Take Me Home” and “Surrender” (both coming later) represent the prime career arch of the band.

Best Lyric: I was stumbling right on the edge/you pulled me back, for one last dance/yeah, I was lost on the darkest road/I need your light to lead me home

11. Arrows in the Dark feat. Anjulie

Everything about the song, when it first opens, reminds you of “The Gun”, and the instrumental/synth level underneath the vocals will continue to do so (periodically), but when Anjulie enters with her seductive sound, including some lyrics in French, it catches you off guard.

The beat does eventually transition into a more electronic feel, a more European electronic feel, and it fits with the foreign sound of the French lyrics. It transitions again into a Caribbean club sound at the end of the song.

I would be remiss if I did not address the French lyrics for those who do not speak the language. The singular repeated lyric, which adds another level to the lyrics, is “je ne t’aime pas” or “I don’t love you”, the theme of the song, that even through attraction, it takes more to love.

Best lyric: I like the way you talk to me, I like the way you smile/I like the way you open doors and go the extra mile/I love the way you kiss me, I love the way you rage/I love the way you let loose like a tiger in a cage

12. We Will Live feat. Night Terrors of 1927

The song, the second about self love after “Hero”, relies more upon instrumentals than any other song with a vocalist before it. The song, despite pretty solid lyrics, is another showcase for the underlying levels put forward by Cash Cash.

It’s a song entirely about self acceptance, and it continues the expressions of love contained within the album. This, along with the beat/rhythm/everything good about the electronic-based instrumental, makes the song strong.

Best Lyric: you can’t control what I think/what I mean, the chemicals inside of me/and if in God, you believe/let us live, let us live as we were made to be

13. Bada Boom

The second instrumental song of the album, it features more vocals, except, like “Escarole”, this is one lyric: (Bada Bing) Bada Boom, we can shake up the room. But don’t get it wrong, this is strictly a Cash Cash song.

The horn effect throughout the song is what is particularly powerful about the piece, and the distortion effects used to affect that horn works well within the song as well.

14. Take Me Home ft. Bebe Rexha

The song, about the end of a relationship and the reluctance to move on, displays Bebe Rexha, used here (and released about two years ago) before she became a popular EDM singer, and to great extent, is a showcase of the singer, a resume song to land with other great EDM artists like Martin Garrix and the Chainsmokers.

The piece comes off as light and poppy, perhaps contributing to it being Cash Cash’s greatest financial success, and while not as technically awing as other songs on the album, does contribute to the sound Cash Cash has created for themselves.

This song is as close to “Aftershock” as the album gets in the second half, but Cash Cash chooses the right place for the song in this situation and it makes sense why it’s included on the album.

Best Lyric: With the highest highs/and the lowest lows/but no one shakes me like you do/my best mistake was you

15. Sweat ft. Jenna Andrews

The song hits like an Ariana Grande song – in that it has the feel of a really good pop song with a layer of smooth, feminine vocals over it, but it also has the rhythm of a dance song Grande would produce.

The song is also the last club banger on the album, and it truly is a dance song, with the wood block sounds and the lyrics reminiscent of a dark, smoky underground dance club. The keyboard sounds adds a laser show imagery, and for a while the song seems like it comes out of the late 80s before returning to its 2010s style steamy dance pop.

The song, about physical love, proudly displays this fact within the lyrics.

This is the deep album gem on Blood Sweat and Three Years.

Best Lyric: yeah, I’m caught up in confusion, you’re too blurry to see/cause this manic situation’s getting harder to read

16. Surrender ft. Julia Michaels

Apart from perhaps “Overtime”, Surrender is my favorite Cash Cash song, and it shows itself well on the album, as the last song.

It provides a high note to end upon for the album, and Michaels vocals go places that Cash Cash needs it to, and it really does allow for a bright ending to the album.

The song, about surrendering to love, and giving yourself completely to it, ends with a last note from Michaels, who has given herself over to the music.

It just works as an album, it stays true to its theme, and it showcases the ability of not only the various vocalists but of the range and capabilities of Cash Cash themselves. Were  I to rank the (top 3) songs on the album, for myself, it would be: Hero, How to Love, and Sweat.

Now, if only Chainsmokers would release their album.

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