by Ari Roth
2776 is a hilarious, parodic romp of a sci-fi concept album that skewers and celebrates all aspects of America, as a future alien invader threatens to destroy the world. Divided by sides into “Past & Present” and “Future,” the album ropes in a blindingly talented cast of comics and musicians, including Will Forte, Neko Case, Yo La Tengo, Ashanti, Patton Oswalt, Aimee Mann, Andrew W.K., KD Lang, Mayim Bialik and many, many more, for a hilarious and cutting ode to the dystopic and the sublime in our country.
On the way, the album tackles such topics as the Civil War, biker gangs, gentrification, and a dark future where napping and rock ’n’ roll are illegal, all with a hysterical and biting wit. I won’t give away any spoilers, but the climatic finale is not to be missed. To top it all off, 2776 is a benefit album, and all of its proceeds will go to OneKid OneWorld, a wonderful nonprofit that seeks to advance educational programs in El Salvador and Kenya, providing support, supplies, funds and more to communities in need.
I spoke to Joel Levinson, co-mastermind of the project (along with his brother, Stephen, and Rob Kutner of The Daily Show and CONAN), and a comedy writer who has created several animated short films, including the God & Co. series and Wylde Life. He describes the concept for the album as emerging from an attempt to “find a way to tell jokes about robots, aliens, zombies, George Washington and time travel, so we brainstormed till we landed on this concept which let us cram it all in.”
And cram it in they did, with all of these themes and many more tumbling out over twenty eight songs that rampage through the absurdities of life in America, past, present and future. It must have been a massive undertaking to create, and I was surprised to hear that, even with so many brilliant musicians and songwriters onboard, the trio were responsible for the majority of both the music and the lyrics. They developed the ideas and lyrics through a feverish whirlwind of energetic collaboration over “phone calls, emails, and Google Chats,” and Levinson himself handled “about 90% of the music.”
Another initial impulse behind the project was Stephen Levinson being “a life-long fan of Aimee Mann,” and wanting to have her be involved in a new project after a previously planned collaboration didn’t work out. From this desire came “the idea for a break-up song from the point of view of a cold virus after it’s been cured, hence “I’m Cured”, a standout track on 2776, featuring Mann. Aside from “I’m Cured”, Joel Levinson picked “Journey to Anywhen” as his personal favorite song, citing “the combination of Reggie Watts, Right Said Fred and a rapping Mayim Bialik, all the awesome work Dan Haug AKA Ruckus Roboticus did producing that beat, its ridiculousness just makes me so happy.”
Finally, we shouldn’t forget that 2776 also benefits a worthy humanitarian cause. Levinson said that given the album’s theme, “we knew that telling a story of how Earth is going to go down the hilarious, apocalyptic drain over the next 1000 years meant we needed to find a way to give something back to the children we’re leaving this mess for.”
Eventually they decided on OneKid OneWorld, in part for the great work that it does, especially given that “nearly 90% of it’s funds go to the incredible projects it’s working on (a really astounding number in the non-profit world).” It was also an attractive prospect given that its founder is ex-American Dad producer Josh Bycel, a pedigree that reassured the album’s creators that “they wouldn’t turn their backs on us when we included curse words and poop jokes in the album that was benefitting them.”
Appropriately enough, 2776 will come out on Independence Day, this Friday, July 4th. To pre-order and make your purchase, click here for iTunes, here for Amazon, and here to buy the CD. For more information, check out the album’s official website here. Don’t miss out on this unique, unbelievably funny album, and support a great cause!