White Pony is the third studio album by American alternative metal band Deftones, released on June 20, 2000. It marked a significant growth in the band's sound, incorporating new wave, dream pop, trip hop, and shoegazing influences with the alternative metal edge the group had become known for and is considered a turning point for the band in terms of experimentation. To this end, it is generally regarded by fans and critics alike as one of their most mature outings and is also their highest-selling album to date. The album was certified platinum by the RIAA on July 17, 2002.
The album features three successful singles as well as the 2001 Grammy Award-winning track for Best Metal Performance, "Elite."
White Pony is also the first album to feature Frank Delgado as a full-time member of the band. Delgado had worked previously with the band as a featured guest on Around the Fur, producing sound effects on some songs.
Background and recording:
After a break from touring, the band spent four months in the studio writing and recording White Pony, the longest amount of time they had dedicated to an album thus far. Moreno explained that the majority of this time was spent trying to write songs, and that the writing of "Change (In the House of Flies)" was the turning point where the band began working as a group.
Despite being pressured to release the album sooner, the band decided to take their time making the album. Cheng explained that "We didn't feel like we had anything to lose, so we made the record we wanted to make." Moreno did not have a common theme in mind lyrically, but made a conscious decision to bring an element of fantasy into his lyrics, explaining that "I basically didn't sing about myself on this record. I made up a lot of story lines and some dialogue, even. I took myself completely out of it and wrote about other things. Once I did that I was able to sing about anything I wanted to, I could be a lot more general. There's a lot of stuff on this record that people are going to question me about, and I can just remove myself from it. It's not me. I'm writing a story here."
Although the band initially wasn't intending to include guest musicians in the record, the album features additional vocals by Maynard James Keenan on "Passenger", and Rodleen Getsic on "Knife Prty".
Album lyrics are included in the CD booklets with explicit language noted with phonetically similar words. For example on "Street Carp" the lyric "Now take it home and fuck with it" is written as "Now take it home and have fun with it".
Album name and cover:
White Pony is street slang for cocaine. However, there are more likely meanings for the album name, including an obvious sexual reference:
"There's a lot of different references for White Pony. One of them is a cocaine reference and there's a lot of stuff... have you ever heard stuff like in dream books that if you dream about a white pony then you're having a sexual dream? There's a lot of stuff that kinda goes around it. And there's an old song (that goes) 'ride the white horse.' That's obviously a drug reference song." Crystal methamphetamine use is commonly referred to as "riding the white pony."
The original gray cover for White Pony is rumored to have been inspired by the album cover for the Hum album, You'd Prefer an Astronaut, of which Chino stated in an interview "...it's where Deftones get a big part of our influence from, tone-wise." and "Deftones were definitely influenced by it." The art mimics the mostly empty one color cover, with Hum's zebra in the lower left corner being replaced by a pony in the lower right of the Deftones album.
Release and variations:
Four different editions of the album exist. On its release date, limited edition numbered copies were released with solid red and black jewel cases. The two differently colored cases also featured different booklet inserts. Both limited edition versions include "The Boy's Republic" but do not include "Back to School (Mini Maggit)."
The edition with a gray cover was released as the initial non-limited version of the album and didn't include "The Boy's Republic". This, along with the red and black versions are the properly sequenced version of the album as the band intended. The gray version has since been superseded by the current white version which adds "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" as the first track. This was only added as a marketing strategy; vocalist and contributing guitarist Chino Moreno has stated that he was not happy about it. The original release was also pressed on clear red vinyl for a promotional run of about 1000 copies.
Musical and lyrical composition:
The original opener for the album, "Feiticeira," lacks conventional song structure and builds over a background of guitars and bass. Chino Moreno about the lyrics to the song: "The name Feiticeira is some Portuguese name that I read in a magazine and just liked. It's based on the scenario of being taken captive. It's completely fictional. I want that people who listen to it feel like they are the ones in the situation. Because of that I sing it in first person. It's up to people to figure out if i'm having fun (with them) or not, even though it sounds a bit eerie". "Digital Bath" features a trip hop drum beat with Moreno's vocals over heavy two-guitar trade-offs and a more atmospheric texture from Delgado. The song tells the story of someone who kills a girl as she bathes by way of electrocution.
"Elite" is more straightforward and heavy and lacks typical Deftones dynamics, containing industrial rock influences. Moreno has said that the song "is laughing at everybody trying to become what they already are. If you want to be one of the elite, you are." "Rx Queen"' contains heavy percussive effects and stuttering bass. Moreno considers it "the most futuristic song in the album". The song tells the story of a man's affection for a girl despite her severe illness (Rx stands for "medical prescription").
"Street Carp" comes later with a brief guitar intro before the band crashes in with full force."It's a classic Deftones song, with a rolling riff and some really interesting chords in the chorus. the vocals are kinda crazy - I'm singing out loud over the top of the music, like (The Smiths front man) Morrissey or something, a cool contrast" - Chino. Although the song was not released as a single, a promo video was made for it.,
"Teenager" consists of an acoustic riff and a scratching line with a trip-hop beat and glitch influences. The song deals with a youthful romance coming to an end. Moreno has stated that he wrote the lyrics when he was 15 after a first date and that it was originally a Team Sleep song.,
The opening chords for "Knife Prty" lead into a distorted introduction with a moving bass line and a vocal bridge sung by Rodleen Getsic in Spanish-Arabic style. Chino said, "It's a seductive song with a lot of violent imagery. People don't tend to like sex mixed with violence. The mid section has amazing vocals from a girl called Rodleen who worked next door to our studio." An atmospheric song with a bleak guitar line and a bridge featuring a "scratch" solo by Delgado, "Korea" is considered one of the album's highlights. Chino said of the song, "This was the first song we wrote for the record. It's a little heavy. It talks about the white pony, strippers, and drugs." "Passenger" features a guitar intro, vocal interplay between Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle) and Moreno alongside piano and keyboard lines that leads to heavy guitar that introduces the choruses. Moreno said of Keenan's collaboration:
We didn't plan on having any guest on the record. Honestly, when he first started working with us, he wasn't supposed to sing with us. He was just working on the arrangements, riff structures, time signatures, and things like that. It was good to have someone else who has different ways of writing songs, 'cause everyone has a different way of doing it. He came in and we started working on this one song in particular, and he just grabbed the microphone and started singing along to it. All of a sudden our band sounded like Tool; it was just crazy. Then, probably two months later, we went in to record the album, and I just kept hearing this re-occurring melody with his voice coming over it. So I called him and asked him if he wanted to come down and sing on the record, and he had no problem with it. Once he came in, I gave him sort of what I wanted the song to be about, and he wrote a couple of ideas down, and the next day he came in with all the lyrics written all out with blank spaces where my lyrics were supposed to be. He's very professional like that. He wants everything set perfectly, which is the complete opposite to the way that I write. And then I went in and did my vocals over it, and it just seemed that our voices blended together pretty good. Yeah, it came out pretty good, so we decided to put it on the record.
"Change (In the House of Flies)" was the lead single of the album, and would become a radio hit. Moreno compares it with Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) and considers it "a beautiful metamorphis" The closer, "Pink Maggit" is a bleak and moody song with a whispered melody from Moreno before the band finishes the album with a final explosion. Chino described the song: "The title comes from a Kool Keith song. We just thought it was some funny stuff. The song is meant to be triumphant. I'm trying to spread a little confidence. Lots of artists try to make songs for the kids who are tormented in school, telling them it's okay to be tormented. But it's not okay. Don't be ridiculed. Become the leader of your surroundings. Confidence is one of the most important things in life. If you are confident, you can do whatever you want."
"Back to School (Mini Maggit)" is the intro for the re-issued version of the album, an offset interpretation of the album's closer with rap influences. Chino Moreno has declared regretting the creation and release of the song on the album. "The Boy's Republic" is a song exclusive to the limited edition releases of the album, with lyrics about someone desperately seeking redemption, and comes after "Pink Maggit," making it the final track on the limited edition.
White Pony was well received by critics, garnering an aggregate rating of 72 on Metacritic. Several reviewers praised Moreno's increasing lyrical sophistication and the group's sonic experimentation. With Spin stating: "Far and away Deftones' most daring and impassioned work to date".
Tony Van Groningen from Stylus Magazine praised the band for definitely departing from its nu metal stylistic roots saying: "They'd finally done it; here was an album that was undeniably innovative, frequently amazing, and indisputably unlike nu-metal."Billboard gave it four out of five stars, but stated that the band's continuous inclination toward a bludgeoning experimental sonic attack and Moreno's violent, impressionistic lyrics makes the album a tough pill to swallow for most listeners. Publications such as Rolling Stone and Q were less enthusiastic, with the last wondering if White Pony is "Their most adventurous and assured album to date?". A rather unfavourable review came from Select, saying that "Maybe when they abandon their arrested development and stop convincing themselves the world is aligned specifically for their personal displeasure, they'll arrive with something listenable."
Awards and accolades:
Alternative Press ranked White Pony as the second best album of the year in 2000 and, subsequently, in their September 2010 issue placed it in their list of the "Top 10 Most Influential Albums of 2000." UK rock magazine Kerrang! named White Pony their third best album of the year behind Queens of the Stone Age's Rated R and At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command. In 2011, Complex Media Network's music website, Consequence of Sound, honored White Pony on a List 'Em Carefully installment dedicated to writer David Buchanan's top thirteen metal records released between 2000 and 2010, citing how Deftones was one of several acts who "helped usher the popularity of complex structure meets MTV audience".
The track "Elite" won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2001. About the awards' night, Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham comments: "All the people were on the ground, on the floor, and we were up sort of in the balcony, we were like, 'We're not gonna win. Look where we're sitting.' Everybody else who was winning, they'd get up there quick and get back. So we were just watching it and the whole thing was rad, just seeing the (stuff) go down. And all of a sudden they called our name. We just jumped over this balcony down onto the floor and ran up there. It was pretty cool, man."
All songs by Deftones, except "Passenger" by Deftones and Maynard James Keenan.
Original Edition (grey cover)
"Change (In the House of Flies)"
Limited Edition bonus track (red and black covers)
"The Boy's Republic"
Reissue Edition (white cover)
"Back to School (Mini Maggit)"
"Change (In the House of Flies)"
Chino Moreno - vocals, guitar,
Stephen Carpenter - guitars,
Chi Cheng - bass guitar,
Abe Cunningham - drums,
Frank Delgado - sampling, electronics,
Kim Biggs - creative director,
Robert Daniels - assistant engineer,
Terry Date - production, mixing,
DJ Crook - programming,
Michelle Forbes - assistant engineer,
Scott Weiland - additional vocals (on "Rx Queen"),
Rodleen Getsic - additional vocals (on "Knife Prty"),
Maynard James Keenan - additional vocals (on "Passenger"),
Frank Maddocks - art direction, album design,
James Minchin III - photography,
Scott Olson - Pro Tools engineer, additional engineering,
Ted Regier - assistant engineer,
Jason Schweitzer - assistant engineer,
Howie Weinberg - mastering,
Ulrich Wild - additional engineering,
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UK Albums Chart
"Change (In the House of Flies)"
"Back to School (Mini Maggit)"