Why Shinedown’s “ATTENTION ATTENTION” Was My Favorite Album of 2018

“You’re not going to be defined by your failures, you’re going to be defined by the fact that you refused to give up.” – Brent Smith

While there was plenty of good music for me to sink my teeth into in 2018, for me personally, one record stands tall above the rest. That record is Shinedown’s “ATTENTION ATTENTION”, a record about overcoming any personal failure in your life, and it’s mostly because of one song. My song of the year. And that song is “GET UP”. But first, a little backstory.

I have posted about this before online, but it bears repeating here. Since the day I stepped foot on the campus of Lebanon Valley College, where I met the rest of my band, I made a very conscientious decision to make a change for the better. Gone was the somewhat awkward kid from high school. The guy who didn’t get invited to the parties. The guy who didn’t get laid. The guy who really couldn’t find himself because he was too worried about fitting in. I killed that dude. I looked myself in the mirror, and said “This is it Jonny. Your chance to start over. No one will know who you are, or who you were.” And I’ll be damned if I didn’t commit and pull it off.

I come from a very, very small town (NO traffic light!). Gordon, PA. My school district now does have a building for Junior High, but at the time, there wasn’t one. Ages 13-18, grades 7-12, were all in one building. You can imagine, that is quite intimidating for any 13 year old. With my obvious love for music, I took to the marching band. Being new to the drum line, I was put on the crash cymbals. I didn’t like it, but I understood. There was a pecking order here, seniority. But there was a bigger problem. The marching band was not cool. At all. And I really, really wanted to be cool.

So I quit, just so I could walk around with other kids at high school football games, eating cheese fries and gossiping about who was dating who. I may have even been REALLY cool by trying my hand at football, but that was ruined for me when I was around 8 or 9. I tried it on a whim with a couple of friends. A couple of us who never thought we’d play. We all signed up. And they made my tall, lanky ass A LINEMAN. Yeah. I wanted to try being a wide receiver, but alas, on the line I was. As you can imagine, I was not very good at it. Any passion I could’ve had for football was officially gone.

Flash forward to senior year, and I didn’t care anymore what anyone thought of me, or what was “cool”. I knew the next chapter of my life was coming up, and it was going to involve music. So I took as many music classes as I could senior year. I got back in the marching band. I took music theory and history. And I can honestly say, If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into LVC’s music program. There is no way my musical audition went well ( I was later told I had potential and drive, now THAT I can believe).

And so, for the first time in a long time, I felt at home at LVC. I was with the music kids. And this marching band was real good. It was fun being on the drumline, and I truly didn’t care if it wasn’t cool (by the way kids, the drumline is f*cking cool, don’t let anyone tell you different!).

I wouldn’t trade the next 4 years of my life for anything. I became a man. I found myself. I became an extrovert. A social butterfly. I was right at home studying the music business. I made great friends. I took that mentality into every avenue of life, including being a member of the Small Town Titans. Steering the ship for a band I was in was a dream come true. Then one day last year, it all came to a grinding halt.

I was drinking coffee, working at home, with a live Aerosmith show on the TV in the background. I was drinking coffee, probably too much, and there’s a good chance I hadn’t eaten yet, a terrible habit I was falling into. And all of the sudden, I felt like I was dying.

I began to pace around my house, running out of breath. Was this a heart attack? It sure felt like it. I tried to breathe. I tried to calm down. But it just wasn’t happening. I was in the middle of a real life nightmare. After 30-45 minutes of this, I called my family. I spoke to them over the phone in about as anxious a tone as you could possibly imagine. I began to feel like I needed to go to the hospital. So they took me. The 20 minute ride felt like a damn eternity. By the time we got there, I was shaking. A nurse injected me with something to calm me down. They did a cat scan on my head. There was nothing wrong.

The doctor asked me if I had been stressed out lately. The answer was pretty much no. I had been having a great day. I now look back and realize I was pushing my body to the limit. My mental stress was fine. But my physical stress, was at an all time high.

Here and there over the next few months, I dealt with the panic attack feeling again. This time I knew what it was, so I could crush it with some will power, but I began to dread it. It could happen at any time, with no triggers. When would it strike again? How do I explain this to friends and family members? It sounds kind of silly. Just man up! Splash yourself with some water. Breathe. Snap out of it. These are things the extrovert from LVC would’ve said to anyone else dealing with this shit. But that’s not how it works.

On May 4th, 2018, Shinedown released “ATTENTION ATTENTION”, on the 7th anniversary of my band. I had an appointment for an MRI that morning. At my worst, my anxiety led to a splitting migraine combined with tingling in my hands. Needless to say I was freaking out, and yet again at the hospital. This time the doctor ordered an MRI just to make sure nothing was truly wrong with my head. I began to listen to the record on my way to the appointment. I thought it was OK. Just OK. I’m being honest. I had heard the first single,”DEVIL”, and loved it. But some of the songs on this album were…different to me. This wasn’t a record with 10 singles. This was an album. A cohesive vision that was meant to be heard from beginning to end. And then, I heard “GET UP”.

I was nearly at the hospital, and that first piano chord came out of the speakers in my car.

I know you’re clinging to the light of day
To tell you everything’s A-okay
And medication don’t do much
Yeah, it just numbs the brain
Guess you might say I’m a little intense
I’m on the bright side of being hellbent
So take it from me, you’re not the only one
Who can’t see straight

If you were ever in doubt
Don’t sell yourself short, you might be bulletproof
Hard to move mountains when you’re paralyzed
But you gotta try
And I’m calling out…

Get up, get up
Get a move on
Get up, get up
What’s taking so long?
Get up, get up
Get a move on
Stop stalling, I’m calling out
Get up, get up
Get a move on
Get up, get up
Ain’t nothing wrong
‘Cause I believe you can be whatever
And I agree you can do much better, trust me

Everybody wants to sing their song
Some Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”
Ain’t nothing normal when it comes to you and me
I’d rather twist myself in knots than watch you give up on your dreams

Yeah, I don’t know why I never talk about it
I guess that’s probably part of the problem
Yeah, sometimes you’re wrong, sometimes you’re right
I’m just gonna keep moving
Yeah, I’m just gonna keep moving
Today, tomorrow and the next

I cracked. I had never felt more like a song was for me in my life. Every word. I listened to it again. I couldn’t believe it. This song was changing my life. Needless to say, my MRI results showed that there was nothing wrong. And this song had become my f*cking anthem. I made it my alarm clock (it’s called “GET UP”, it’s so good for an alarm!). I listened to it whenever I felt overwhelmed about anything. It literally took the place of a pill. I always loved music, but I never knew it could really heal. 

The song has an incredible story as well. It turns out it shaped the album. The demo had been around for a while. Lead singer Brent Smith took the demo home and took quite a bit of time to write some lyrics. In the past according to the band, he usually came up with lyrics pretty quickly. Not this time. He nervously played the song for bass player and soon to be producer of the entire album, Eric Bass. He asked Eric if he knew what the song was about, and Eric said, “It’s about me”. Brent apologized, but Eric said he loved it. After crossing this personal line in their creative process, Shinedown decided to go there. They decided to write the most personal body of work of their career, mostly talking about Eric’s depression, and Brent’s battle with substance abuse.  And they damn sure have.

What a story. I’ve never heard of anything like it. A song one band member wrote for another basically saying “I love you man, and you can beat this”.

Eric suffers with clinical depression. He can’t just “stop being sad” and, “be happy”. It doesn’t work like that. It’s a battle he has fought for years every day of his life. I recently heard in an interview that he has since weened himself off of his medication through the strength of the song, and that, is f*cking amazing.

I want to take a minute to talk about mental health here, and why it NEEDS to be known that these are not dirty words. They also shouldn’t be scary words. Mental health awareness is not just about depression and suicidal thoughts, although that is obviously very serious.  It encompasses more than that. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is part of this. Abnormal amounts of anxiety is part of this.  Worrying about everything is a part of this. Hiding from others how you’re really feeling about ANYTHING is part of this. There is no shame in getting medicated either. And by far, the biggest change that must happen, is to not be afraid to talk about your problems. Many are very afraid they will be judged or viewed differently. I’ll tell you something right now. Anyone who looks down on you for having a problem with your mental health is not your friend. Don’t even worry about what they think.

I’m not talking about simply being stressed out one day. We all deal with that. I’m talking about it effecting you physically. I’m talking about it changing the chemical makeup of your brain. These health problems are as real as any physical issue too, and if you know someone who deals with any of it, the best way to support them is to accept their issues as a serious health condition. Just be there for them.

As I went through my own challenges in 2018, doctors told me I wasn’t alone, and for whatever reason, panic and anxiety attacks were on the rise. I do have some thoughts on this. We are being bombarded with information every day. In 2018, the average amount of time we spent on our phones was over three and a half hours a day, and we are seeing upwards of 5,000 ads A DAY. Yes. I did a double take on that too. 5,000. 5,000 times a day we are told what to wear, what to eat, what to buy, what to believe, what to listen to, what to watch, what to read. Throw on top of this stress from your job. Your relationships. Your family. Is it a wonder why mental health problems are happening?

So, after falling in love with “GET UP”. I paid attention (no pun intended) to the rest of the album. And I now treasure it. Let’s start with the album cover.

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Very simple. Eye catching. It’s even a damn emoji. I don’t believe that had any weight with the idea, but it’s a damn emoji nonetheless. And now, a word on punctuation. Yes, let’s talk about f*cking punctuation. Phil, our singer and bass player, can be an excitable dude. It’s nothing out of the ordinary to get a text on the day of rehearsals that may read something like “Guys are we rehearsing today?!!”. That’s a normal level of intensity from him. Sometimes, it carries into our marketing, or a writing style for us online. Do we argue about the next song we should release? Hardly. What the album art or t-shirt design should look like? Nope. Where the f*cking comma goes in the song title? You bet your ass. So, I know stare at this album cover and straight up chuckle at the irony of it for me.

The album begins with “THE ENTRANCE”, as a person slowly walks down a long echoing hallway. He knocks on a door and enters a room with a chair. He sits down, and takes a deep breath.

“DEVIL” begins. A reminder that whatever major obstacle you are faced with is not going away. The lyric that resonated most with me is “You said it yourself that you would never stop, until you felt the needle drop”, the moment where you’ve taken it too far, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Second is “BLACK SOUL”, as this person realizes is it time for a change, no matter what it takes. “You’ve made a mess of your life, and you’ve been burned once or twice, now you play roulette with a water gun. WAKE UP.”

Third is “ATTENTION ATTENTION”. the song where this person is told it is up to them, and them alone, to overcome the obstacle. Next is “KILL YOUR CONSCIENCE”, the guilt trip. Do you move on? Do you move forward? Or do you fall back into the hole? Will you break out of your comfort zone? Next is “PYRO”, when this person questions why they are like this. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? It’s not fair and I just want to scream at everyone….but myself.

Here, the record starts to make a turn. “MONSTERS” is where this person accepts their obstacle as truth. They finally realize what they are dealing with and they must decide what to do about it. Next is ‘DARKSIDE”, when this person realizes they are quite dangerous when they mentally commit to a change and stop feeling sorry for themselves. On “CREATURES” the support system kicks in, as this person finds that they are not the only one fighting for something, and this continues to fuel them to get better. “EVOLVE” is the moment this person has decided, without a single doubt, that they are going to shatter their problem into pieces, and it’s because they, and they alone, have decided to change. This person is moving on to better days. The chorus reads “I had to take leave of my senses, to draw my own conclusion. Had to swing for the fences, to find my own solution”.

And now, we get to “GET UP”. The song that hit me right in the chest. And I’m not alone. Just look at the comments for the music video.  The very same chair that’s in the video for “DEVIL” is used quite symbolically. Did you catch it? The person is finally happy again. They are at peace. They are brand new. Next is “special”, the one song not written in all capital letters on the album, and I’d really love to know the inside story why. This actually, in my opinion, is the most important, and necessary song on the album. The person is told, “not so fast”. Don’t forget all of this. And I hate to break it to you, but you’re not special. The world owes you nothing. Stay humble and hungry, but stay grounded. It’s not all about “you”. “I’ll give you one last chance to own it, ’cause you’re not a God or a poet”.

And now this person is brought back to life on “THE HUMAN RADIO”. They are back in the fight. Following their heart, motivated to take down brick f*ucking walls. The music video is AWESOME (notice that chair again?).

And it all ends with the celebration of life that is “BRILLIANT”. The reflection on the journey.

Let me clear my throat, let me catch my breath
Let my heart bleed out til there’s nothing left
It’s my day to be brilliant
It’s my day to be brilliant

As the world collides and I fight for air
As I crash and burn like I just don’t care
It’s my day to be brilliant
It’s my day to be brilliant

Count it down from 10 to 1
Quicker when your curious
Say it if you’re one of us
The beaten and the furious

Are you mad or insane, mad or insane
Are you mad or insane, you’d better run for your life

It’s my day to be brilliant
It’s my day to be brilliant

And then…the best f*cking part. The person gets out of the chair, opens the door, and leaves the room, only to be told “Until next time”. The very real notion that this is not over. This person will once again have to walk down the hallway and sit in the chair. This is no fairy tale. Becoming a better person is a daily journey. And if you aim to do that every day, you will live a full life to the best of your ability with the short time you have here.

This record was a life changer. An honest, brutal look at what it’s like to fail nearly anything, and to no longer be afraid of the consequences. Whether it be addiction, depression, anxiety, losing weight, breaking any terrible habbit, etc, you can get better.

This record means more to me every day. An album that dropped on the 7th anniversary of my band with an exclamation point on the cover. An album with a message that will resonate with me until I’m gone from here.

All of this happened to me pre “Grinch”. Then my band had the viral video of the year, according to f*cking Paul Heyman (the wrestling nerd in me had a moment when THAT happened). Now, as “DEVIL” goes, it’s about to get heavy. It’s about to be on. And I’m ready.

Wanna hear “ATTENTION ATTENTION” in full?  Here’s the whole thing on YouTube. And, here’s the band breaking down the meaning behind every song. I live for sh*t like this.

What was your favorite album of 2018 and why? Until next time. Hit life hard.

P.S.

I got the record on vinyl for Christmas and I wasn’t expecting it. Needless to say I was happy. Here’s a picture of the sleeve inside. Pretty epic huh?

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10 thoughts on “Why Shinedown’s “ATTENTION ATTENTION” Was My Favorite Album of 2018

  1. You hit every aspect in that wording I read. I was very intrigued. I too get panic attack anxiety attacks just like you, I was in a grocery store 1 time and had 1 they called an ambulance thinking I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t even talk to let them know I wasn’t I just walked outside.

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  2. Wow this has me just awe struck. I have been diagnosed with a few disorders and chronic depression is one of them. I have connected to several songs of theirs and this is one of them. This album was one of my favorites from 2018. So nice that others can see that music truly can help heal the mind, I’ve tried educating people on this and so many are so obtuse to this fact. Thank you for posting this it means a lot.

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  3. Congratulations for being brave enough to talk about mental health and depression. Too many people are too fucking embarrassed to admit that they are human and that they feel REAL human emotions, and feel them deeply. Its an important thing to keep talking about.

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  4. That was an awesome read. I also love AA, it has saved me from suicidal attempt in Aug. 2018, the day I heard “Get Up” on my cars radio as I held a knife to my wrist and the blood began to run down my arm. Brent’s lyrics and vocals stopped me in my tracks, as I was screaming at the top of my lungs, I was mad at me and my weakness. Brent brought me back to reality. That moment is gone. I still have a small scar from the knife which will always remind me of my lowest point in my life. I owe a huge Thank you to Shinedown and the SD Nation for the love and support everyone has given me. Someday I will be able to be face to face with Brent, Eric, Zach and Barry and tell them my story and how they saved me multiple times since 2001, my story starts in Knoxville and this Feb 23, in Knoxville it will come full circle and will end in Knoxville and the new me will leave there that weekend stronger than when I arrive. No I won’t be seeing them (I wish I could) but being there in the crowd will be enough for now, until next time.

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  5. Great story !! These are the types of stories that need to have the light on them. Thanks for sharing. And Shinedown is freaking awesome. Seen them 3 times, most recently in Sept. with Godsmack. Great show. Keep rockin on 🤘

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  6. Wow! What can I say………but thanks! Attention! Was beautiful! I luv that in the video for ‘Human Radio’, she had to get naked in the chair to find her way out. I’ve got chronic PTSD. You have to get nakedly honest with yourself to find a healthy path. You have to accept that you will always have nightmares in your head in order to find the tools to minimize their impact in your life. I am daily grateful that I don’t need medication, because most people like me do. I am blessed. Music is a big part of staying healthy. When it arrives, this album will be among my favorites and my neighbors will get to listen to good music whether they like it or not…….AGAIN! (chuckle, chuckle….)

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  7. This is an important post for anyone who’s been struggling with mental health, anxiety, or just feeling they have no worth. Everyone has worth. Everyone has a gift. Everyone has a talent. Everyone is loved, even if they don’t realize it or even have trouble accepting it. Everyone makes someone’s day better, every day.
    When I was a kid, my Nana told me, when I asked for some (trivial) thing that ‘everybody else ha[d]’, “You aren’t everybody else, you’re you. Now go out there and be you and never mind what everyone else does”. It took me a while to appreciate that most excellent advice but I did in the end. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days that aren’t so great, but I deal. 🙂
    Keep writing, Jonny. You’re a good person. You’ve also been learning to heal yourself, and you’ve become a healer too.

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