The All American Rejects have been a pop-punk icon since they refused to cry on the phone way back when lead singer Tyson Ritter was in his teens. Even if angst and sidebangs were never your scene, AAR had you belting out "Dirty Little Secret" and laughing at your ex with "Gives You Hell". And then, like so many pop punk bands, they disappeared. After releasing Kids In The Street, an album that Ritter has described as a record of the band's "growing pains", the members of AAR stepped back from the whirlwind of writing, recording and touring to live normal lives.
For Ritter, a normal life apparently involves delving into an acting career that most recently includes his starring role in AAR's comeback short film, Sweat. Sweat features two songs -- "Sweat" and "Close Your Eyes" -- from the band's upcoming fall album, and it proves that AAR has evolved impressively since their time as the voice of 2k teens with dramatic hair and pierced eyebrows.
Sweat is compelling proof that video can enhance music. The film is impossible to watch only once, both because Tyson Ritter slays as a drag queen during part of it and because you can't quite figure out what he is trying to say with the film as a whole right away. The track "Sweat" stands out for it's swaggering chorus which repeats, "I'm making you sweat". This simple, punchy statement is given even more clout by the first three minutes of the film in which Ritter dons sparkly heels and corseted lingerie to strut a dark street corner as drag queen, Betsey. Cooly confident, Betsey makes everyone sweat, from her partner during an aggressive bathroom make out scene to the cops who end up chasing her down the street while she laughs over her shoulder. The song's last, whispered "Sweat" is made infinitely more defiant when paired with Betsey's grin as she looks over her shoulder while ripping off her blond wig.
The rest of the film is a thought-provoking contradiction to its unapologetically rebellious opening. We see Betsey removing fake eyelashes and scraping off nail glitter to become Robert on the way to a surprise party where everyone looks like they escaped from a photo ad for a Nordstrom's Easter weekend sale. The sad chorus to "Close Your Eyes" is the perfect soundtrack for Robert's isolation in the midst of plastic smiles, cringeworthy dancing, and, eventually, a bloody nose.
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