At some point, you're probably going to have to give 30 Seconds to Mars some respect. Do it begrudgingly, backhandedly, howeverly — just do it. Because they've earned it.
And yes, I realize this is coming from the same guy who described their This Is War album as "a gigantic silver weather balloon ... massive and shiny, but also cold and empty," but what can I say? I've changed my mind. Mostly because, for nearly two years now, I've witnessed them will themselves back from the brink, and, in the process, transform what many had considered little more than a vanity project into a genuine rock-and-roll phenomenon, one that runs on little more than pure commitment and saves souls each and every time it takes the stage. 30 Seconds to Mars may never be the coolest band in the world, but they're certainly the most dedicated.
In April 2009, I got a glimpse of that dedication firsthand when I went to Jared Leto's home studio to watch them work on War, despite the fact they were still embroiled in a lawsuit that meant the album may never see the light of day. That didn't bother Leto, who told me without hesitation that fans would be able to hear the album "even if I have to go door-to-door selling it."
At the time, I probably laughed (to myself, of course), but Leto's commitment to finishing the album was legit. He redesigned his studio to Flood's exact specifications, and even added a refrigerator-sized synthesizer the producer had played on Depeche Mode's Violator album. He brought in Tibetan monks, flew to Kanye West's studio in Hawaii and held fan-only "recording experiments." And he did all this on his own dime, despite knowing how ridiculous it seemed to the outside world, because he wanted to.
It probably should've occurred to me that most bands don't operate in this fashion, but it didn't. It was only as the months rolled on, when 30 Seconds to Mars opened up communal spaces on Melrose Avenue, stared down bomb threats and continued their tradition of making thoroughly epic music videos that I started to come around. It wasn't until November, when Leto gave me an impromptu screening of his ambitious "Hurricane" film — the same one that had been delayed for months while he and a team of editors attempted to rein it in while in the midst of a world tour — that it all clicked: This is a band unlike any other, a perpetual motion machine powered by the unrelenting willpower of its three members and a team of associates, a traveling community that never stops moving, either because it can't or, more probably, because it won't.
Of course, that begs the question: How can 30 Seconds to Mars possibly keep this up? On Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on MTV.com, we'll get an answer when the band stops by the MTV Newsroom for a "State of the Union" live stream, an hour-long chat in which they'll answer questions from fans and discuss the past, present and future of the band. You should tune in, even if you're still withholding judgment on 30STM themselves — mostly because it'll give you a glimpse into what makes them tick: their dedication ... to their fans, to the spirit of rock and roll, to doing things the way bands are supposed to do them.
Simply put, they work harder and longer than you could possibly imagine, for the purest reason possible: Because they owe it to their fans to do so. Every band loves its fanbase, for sure, but none go to the lengths and excesses 30 Seconds to Mars do to prove that point. And if that's not worth your respect, it's certainly worth noting.