New Music Corner: The Lumineers’ “Gloria” is The Group’s Identity Crisis



Chris DiLullo

The Lumineers are true revolutionaries within Americana and folk music. Before “Ho Hey” and their self-titled debut album, the only songs that heavily featured strumming guitars and foot-stomping bass drums were pop-tinged ballads from Taylor Swift or the latest Nashville-produced country artist.

However, The Lumineers stormed the music industry and brought this folk music to the forefront of the public consciousness in 2012, appealing to the masses with rough-edged vocals, heavy percussion and simple, yet effective acoustic guitars.

In 2016, the group followed up its newfound success with Cleopatra, an album cut from the same cloth yet introducing soulful lyrics and overall refinement in craft. An evident evolution from The Lumineers, the Americana group showed true promise and growth.

Now, the Americana band is back for thirds, with its third album set to be released in September. To kick things off, the band has released their first single for the upcoming project with “Gloria,” a familiar-sounding ballad that could only be written by the group. However, “Gloria” is not only a disappointing lead for the approaching album, but also presents a problematic crossroads for the folk group.

The song starts off fine enough, with simple strumming guitars that produce a catchy, quick rhythm. However, when the vocals enter, the song becomes unfortunately simple and bland. The Lumineers have always relied heavily on three core instruments with the piano, the acoustic guitar and the drum set, without much variety, it’s easy for the group to fall into derivativeness as the song’s verses do.

The single does redeem itself with a particularly clever piano pre-chorus, a nice change of pace that introduces a new wrinkle into the work. However, after an affecting, strong chorus, the group falls back to its safety net with a bland post-chorus. The song continues this way throughout its entirety, weaving through highs and lows, moments that demonstrate the group’s progress and others that show fear of progress.

“Gloria” is a song caught in the middle, the product of The Lumineers’ efforts to branch out and make more complex music, despite still being beholden to their old ways. The most apt analogy to this is the song’s abrupt conclusion, ending with, “Gloria, have you had enough?” It’s almost as if the group is asking itself the same question, if they themselves have had enough with the style of music they’re known for.

As the inconsistent, rollercoaster nature of the song suggests, full of innovation and derivativeness, they want to move on, but they’re not quite ready to. At some point, The Lumineers need to have that self-confidence to make that transition, and they’re teetering on the edge. Yet, as “Gloria” demonstrates, they’re lacking the self-confidence to make the bold leap, producing the mixed bag single.

The Lumineers are a great group with a distinct, powerful sound. However, change is positive, engaging, and most of all, necessary. The group recognizes that and wants to make that evolution, but they’re still unable to leave the past behind.

It’s time for the group to embrace progress, to be bold, and to evolve. The seeds are there, but now the group must cultivate them. Otherwise, their third project will turn out exactly as “Gloria” did: full of potential and craving evolution, but, ultimately, too half-hearted to capitalize on the opportunity.