Established in 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck and the first white settlers arrived on South African soil, Cape Town has since become a bustling, cosmopolitan capital city. One of the most multicultural cities in the world, Cape Town is home to over 3.5 million people and was named World Design Capital for 2014. This 948 square mile city straddles the southernmost tip of Africa, with the stormy Atlantic on one coast and the warm Indian Ocean lapping at the other. The most iconic feature of the city skyline is Table Mountain, often obscured by orographic clouds, which give the impression of a tablecloth being laid over the plateau. With its expanse of soft, white beaches, penguin-littered coastlines, waters teeming with dolphins, whales, and sharks, the perfect climate for wind-surfing and kite-surfing, wine tasting just inland from the coast and a city sporting a multitude of trendy clubs, shops and restaurants with a laidback atmosphere, it's no wonder Cape Town is the number one tourist spot in Africa.
That such an idyllic spot should be the inspiration behind American alternative rock band 30 Seconds to Mars' hit single “A Beautiful Lie” comes as no surprise. Hollywood actor and front man, Jared Leto, wrote “A Beautiful Lie” while in Cape Town in 2004. It was here that the band changed the name of their second studio album from A Battle of One to A Beautiful Lie. Leto confirms that he wrote the song about Anna Sofia Contreras, a girl who broke his heart, but the song is so much more than just another melancholy break-up ballad. “On the first record I created a world, then hid behind it," Leto said. "With A Beautiful Lie, it's about brutal honesty, growth, change.”
The title track and second on the album, “A Beautiful Lie” is more reminiscent of ‘80s rock than of the emo label so liberally applied to modern rock bands donning eye-liner and skinny jeans. Despite the make-up and fashion, Leto and his band deliver a dramatic rock album with A Beautiful Lie. “[It's] a story of life, love, death, pain, joy, and passion. Of what it is to be human,” says Leto. The titular song opens with eerie synths, which are soon replaced by a driving guitar rhythm, only to be instantly subdued by Leto's voice in the verse, leading into a chorus that smacks of U2. The quiet bridge of “A Beautiful Lie” lends this song a more intimate feel, with Leto's vocals taking prominence before leading back into the anthemic chorus. The whole album is an odd marriage between The Cure, U2, and Incubus, with a dollop of heavy metal to elevate this album out of the pubescent-emo quagmire and into hard rock.
Although originally written about heartbreak, about hiding the lies people live behind an aesthetically pleasing veneer of denial, the music video takes the meaning of this song to a whole new level. Shot in the vast, snowy wasteland of Greenland on the precipice of a glacier, “A Beautiful Lie” became a global anthem about the political denial of climate change. As Leto says, “Almost everyone has heard of global warming by now, but for the people of Greenland, it is a real and tangible problem of today, not an issue of tomorrow. This journey changed our lives.” Examining the lyrics of “A Beautiful Lie” through this different lens, the meaning becomes clear in lines like 'Oh the end of the world' screamed before the bridge.
That the magnificence and natural splendour of Cape Town could inspire a track that recognises how quickly the beauty of the world could diminish should the phenomenon of climate change continue to go ignored is rather poignant, but not surprising. "It was magic. Close to heaven," said Leto after having hiked up Tale Mountain. But then the panoramic vistas from the top of Table Mountain, spanning two oceans and gazing towards Antarctica, couldn't be anything less than awe-inspiring. ~ Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and The Other Me. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and eats far too much peanut-butter.
30 Seconds To Mars were formed by Hollywood actor Jared Leto (guitars and vocals) and his brother Shannon Leto (drums). They recruited Matt Wachter (bass and keyboards) and later on Tomo Milicevic (guitar). Wachter explained on Virgin Records website that the band's name "actually comes from a thesis that we found online it was written by a former Harvard professor. And one of the subsections of the thesis was titled 'thirty seconds to mars' and he goes on to talk about the expediential growth of technology that relates to humans and saying that we are quite literally thirty seconds to mars. What it means to us is, we thought it best described our music, in short."