Oh boy. We’re already off to a fantastic start here. And I mean that in the most unironic way possible.
Let’s Start a Riot is Blood on the Dance Floor’s debut album, originally released on April 16th, 2008. It is the first, and only album released by the group to feature the original lineup consisting of Jesus David “Dahvie Vanity” Torres on lead vocals, Christopher Mongillo on screaming vocals and guitar and Rebecca Fugate on backing vocals and keyboard. Shortly after the release of this album, Mongillo and Fugate both left the band due to being unable to tour, with rumours also circulating that Fugate died in a car accident shortly afterwards. This turned out to be bullshit, but that’s a whole other story for another time that we’ll maybe talk about one day.
As far as Blood on the Dance Floor releases go, this one is by far the most iconic and well known outside of the bands fanbase. For the longest time, it was the lowest rated album of all time on RateYourMusic, surpassing even the likes of BrokeNCYDE’s I’m Not a Fan But the Kids Like It and Crazy Frog’s Crazy Hits, and to this day it is still widely considered to be one of the worst records ever released.
Yet, I’ve been listening to this shit since it was first released on MySpace in 2008 and I honestly don’t see what the fucking problem is.
Yes, the production isn’t the best and is incredibly cheap sounding for the most part. Yes, Dahvie Vanity is a terrible vocalist and can’t sing or rap to save his life even though he tries his damned hardest. Yes, the vast majority of the songs on this album are about sex, are littered with misogyny and frequently feature colourful lines such as “bitch just shut up and suck”, “I need to feel myself inside you so deep” and “hot sex everlasting, HELLZ YEAH BITCH!”
But you know what? I’m not even sorry for saying this… It’s fucking awesome. It has an incredibly unique outsider charm to it that not a lot of music has, and despite being an Electropop album, there’s honestly nothing else out there that sounds quite like it. Even future releases by the band themselves fail to replicate this albums sound, to the point that it’s ended up being a one of a kind release, and a bit of an outlier even when compared to the rest of the bands material.
I’ve seen many criticise this album over the years for being “samey” throughout, but I honestly don’t see it at all. There’s a ton of variety here. Even if you dislike it, I don’t understand how anyone could ever think this isn’t a varied set of songs. Every song has its own unique flavour and a memorable melody that makes it stand out, something I can’t say is true for some of BOTDF’s later releases (we’ll get to you, Bitchcraft, don’t worry). The opening track, I Can’t Get Enuff for example, is a pretty banging, upbeat, Electropop song, with some dope sounding guitar riffs in the background, giving it a kind of weird, “disco” vibe. Meanwhile, You’re a Dancer, Not a Lover is a full on, fast-paced dance track, with an auto-tuned chorus, that suddenly throws in an epic, shredding guitar solo towards the end. And towards the end of the album, we have one of my personal favourites, Fallen Star, which completely ditches the upbeat Electropop elements entirely in place of some sad pianos and powerful drums to deliver a song that stands out from everything else on the record.
Say what you will about the quality of these songs, but to say that there’s no variety here at all is completely false. There’s plenty of it, and it’s one of the reasons why this is among my favourite Blood on the Dance Floor releases.
On top of that, the music in general just has this underlying “darkness” to it that’s difficult to explain. Perhaps it’s due to the trashy nature of the lyrics, the low quality production, or the fact that Dahvie Vanity himself isn’t the most… Upstanding citizen (to put it lightly), but the whole record just has this really dark aesthetic to it that makes me think of a seedy, gothic dance club. Or something. It’s an image I can’t get out of my head whenever I’m listening to this, and it’s pretty awesome.
The album is far from “mature” and is incredibly juvenile for the most part, full of sexually graphic and braggadocious lyrics that would make anyone cringe, but for me it all just adds to the underlying seediness of the album. This record is trashy, but it also works really damn well as a result of said trashiness.
The song Blood on the Dance Floor is a very good example of this trashiness at it’s best, with some very cheap sounding production that, in spite of its cheapness, is a fucking bop and an auto-tuned segment that is both funny and super catchy. It’s an extremely upbeat, catchy and entertaining song with a memorable beat and it doesn’t fucking stop for a break the entire time.
Sex and Violence is another good example, albeit a much darker one. Arguably made even more fucking unsettling when you take Dahvie Vanity’s character into account. With lyrics like “Fuck me, rape me” and “It’s just the way we fuck, it’s the way we cut” combined with an extremely dark, gothic, synthesised instrumental in the background, it’s a pretty sinister piece of music. Yet, that’s precisely why I love it.
And then we get Money and Hoes, which is one of the albums highlights for me. An over the top, rap song about how Dahvie has “money and hoes in different area codes” over a banging, Synthpop beat with one of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard. Yeah, Dahvie’s rapping isn’t the greatest in the world, but he actually does a some what competent job in this one, and the rhymes are actually pretty sweet. It’s a great, ego-driven, Synthpop rap song, and I fucking love it.
That all being said, there are two very different sides to this record as well. While the vast majority of the album is either upbeat, sex-filled Electropop tunes or songs where Dahvie throws his overblown ego around, the last three tracks show a whole other side that wasn’t present at all in the beginning.
I Hope You Choke, while being one of the weaker songs on the album, is a very slow-paced, guitar driven song, full of anger and hatred. There’s almost no pop elements present here at all, and it’s a lot more serious than anything that came previously.
And the final track, Libertine is similarly serious, with lyrics focusing on “being free” over yet another more rock oriented instrumental.
But the track I really want to talk about of these three, is Fallen Star, which I mentioned earlier. If Money and Hoes is the perfect representation of Let’s Start a Riot’s over the top, silly side, then Fallen Star is the embodiment of the albums more serious, and emotional side, however limited it may be.
It’s a very surprising, emotional turn for the album that kind of comes out of fucking nowhere. Not even the slightest hint of the over-inflated ego from the rest of the album is present, the sexually graphic lyrics are completely absent and the upbeat, poppy instrumentals and goofy rapping are replaced by a beautiful melody and sad sounding vocals that, while absolutely fucking dreadful, feel like they came from the heart. Vanity may be a fucking terrible singer, but there’s a genuine emotion in his voice here that I just can’t bring myself to hate. He sounds like he’s on the verge of tears the entire time, which may have something to do with the fact that this song was allegedly written in response to the death of someone close to him. With lyrics like “Wherever you are, you’re still in my heart” and “We cuddled in the park, you shine like Noah’s Ark”, Fallen Star stands out as a track that feels genuine, especially when compared to all of the silly, ego-driven nonsense that came before it. And in a release like this, that means a hell of a lot to me. It’s a song I can really relate to, for various personal reasons, and it has a charm to it that’s difficult to explain. It’s oddly beautiful, and it’s a fantastic outlier in an otherwise daft, upbeat album about fucking and going to the dance club.
If you go into Let’s Start a Riot attempting to appreciate it for what it is: dumb, funny, goofy party music with a unique twist, and the occasional moment of emotion, I think there’s a good chance you’ll find something to love here. Perhaps I’ll look back on this in a few years time and wonder what the fuck I was thinking, but right now I have absolutely no shame in calling this one of my favourite albums of all time.
I don’t believe in objective criticism, nor do I believe that standards are universal, and this album is a prime example of everything I look for in weird, outsider music. It’s fun, it’s energetic, it’s unique and it’s awesome, in probably the lamest way possible. I have no shame in giving Let’s Start a Riot a 10/10, and I hope this post has at least given an insight into why I love it so much and why it works for me.
And now, here’s some track ratings for you all:
- Let’s Start a Riot – 8/10
- I Can’t Get Enuff – 10/10
- Bitches Get Stitches – 9/10
- Blood on the Dance Floor – 10/10
- Sex and Violence – 10/10
- I ❤ Hello Kitty – 9/10
- You’re a Dance, Not a Lover – 10/10
- Modern World Christ – 8/10
- Money and Hoes – 10/10
- Till Death Do We Party – 8/10
- I Hope You Choke – 7/10
- Fallen Star – 10/10
- Libertine – 8/10
Fallen Star, Money and Hoes
I Hope You Choke (but it’s still fucking great)
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely. Given that this is the bands first release, if you’re looking to “get into” Blood on the Dance Floor (particularly their early work), I’d strongly suggest starting here. It’s a pretty accessible album, and it’s also one of their more unique releases, as well as arguably their strongest. If you can see past the juvenile lyrics and the trashy production, I genuinely feel that there’s a lot to love here.
The worst album ever? Please. I’ll take this shit over fucking Radiohead any day. And I ain’t ashamed to admit that.
What about Let’s Start a Riot: Party Edition?
Oh yeah. The band also re-released this album as Let’s Start a Riot: Party Edition in 2017, which is a remastered edition of the album that comes with two bonus tracks. While the remastered production does sound significantly better, I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of it, as I feel it takes away from the albums overall charm and aesthetic. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been listening to this shit on repeat for over a decade though.
The bonus tracks are nice, but nothing I’d go out of my way to actively listen to. They’re just “remakes” of Fallen Star and Modern World Christ respectively, with brand new vocals, some changed lyrics and now including female vocalist Fallon Vendetta who joined the band in 2017. They aren’t bad remakes, but Fallen Star’s new version in particular just… Isn’t anything close to the original, swapping the depressing, emotional original for a happy, love-filled version of the song instead. Nah.
Party Edition is still worth checking out if you’re a fan of the original release, and the two bonus tracks are fun enough, but if you’re jumping in for the first time, I’d recommend the original 2008 release first. It’s unmatched in its outsider charm and seedy aesthetic.
So what’s next for the Retrospective? Well, next time we’ll be tackling the bands second studio album, It’s Hard to Be a Diamond in a Rhinestone World, which is the first album to feature Garrett “Ecstasy” McLaughlin on screaming vocals as well as the first to feature Rusty “Lixx” Wilmot as producer (who’s production work is actually, really fucking good).
Was it a worthy follow-up to this album? We’ll have to wait and see.
Until next time!