Neon Trees has been around since the early 2010s, especially after gaining widespread recognition with their hit singles, “Animal,” in 2010 and “Everybody Talks” two years later. Comprised of vocalist Tyler Glenn, drummer Elaine Bradley and guitarists Chris Allen and Branden Campbell, the band has an immense amount of talent within it, a fact that many have seemed to have forgotten as music now enters the early 2020s.
What makes Neon Trees noteworthy is the way they’ve been able to reject many norms of the Mormon faith, as Glenn formerly practiced the religion growing up. In 2014, the lead singer came out as gay to Rolling Stone, his sexual identity being hidden amongst the lyrics of the band’s most popular songs.
From there on, Glenn has become the image of a lead singer who is unafraid to sing about the realities and adventures of queer individuals, evident with Neon Trees’ 2014 album, “Pop Psychology.” In particular, “Sleeping With a Friend” saw a 1980s pop track from the band, making it one of their most significant and vulnerable within their musical catalog.
Besides the themes within their songs, Neon Trees has also been able to play alongside some of the most prominent bands of the 2000s, including The Killers and Imagine Dragons. Interestingly, the band teamed up with Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds to create the LoveLoud Festival after creating a documentary for HBO on their experiences growing up in the Mormon church in Utah, as well as the drastic effects the religion has on the LGBTQ+ community.
Glenn and Reynolds define the festival as, “A concert designed to ignite the relevant and vital conversation of what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept, and support LGBTQ+ youth in our communities,” on its website. Since then, the festival has raised over $1 million for charities including The Trevor Project and Encircle.
Through raising awareness for LGBTQ+ rights, Neon Trees has now directed their focus to support these individuals, as well as continue to create and evolve as a band outside of solely making albums and Top 40 hits.
Now, I argue that Neon Trees is focused on creating music that isn’t aimed at topping the charts, which has proven their range and strategy as a band. After “Pop Psychology,” the band took time off to pursue other talents. Glenn embarked on a solo career, releasing a full-length album called “Excommunication” in 2016, and also made his Broadway debut in “Kinky Boots” in 2018.
In terms of Glenn himself, he is simply an underrated vocalist. If you haven’t listened to “Animal,” the singer can hit high-register notes, as well as sing an array of genres, hence his former Broadway gig and solo endeavors. Glenn and the rest of the band also have an amazing stage presence, and they’ve been able to play at iconic venues such as The Troubadour and The Bowery Ballroom.
After a much needed break from touring and producing, Neon Trees began making their way back into the alternative music scene during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. They released “I Can Feel You Forgetting Me,” which widely went unnoticed by many music critics but was arguably one of the best albums of the year.
Glenn’s vocals were still on point, as well as the band’s spunk and upbeat nature, and their new music sounded just the same as it did 10 years prior. With songs such as “New Best Friend” and “Nights,” Neon Trees made sure that listeners knew they weren’t just a band of the past, and it was a significant project to release after six years.
Obviously, Neon Trees is more than just a band. They are activists outside of creators, people who actively are pushing forward to make a difference in a world still full of prejudice and bias. Also, Glenn is a powerhouse vocalist and the band’s range has spanned from pop to alternative to rock within the last decade since their start.