If you knew something terrible and infectious, would you share it? Would you feel compelled to inflict it on the rest of the world? Would this bring you some relief? Would you tell your, uh, second-cousin-in-law-to-be (?) about the thing with the cruise ships? Would you keep whatever it was to yourself until you just up and blurted it out at a funeral?
This is all a long way of saying that Weezer just dropped the first single from their upcoming album, The Black Album, and it is about being an Uber/Lyft/generic ride-hailing driver, and it stars Pete Wentz—a.k.a. Rivers Wentz (come on)—and we must do something to stop whatever it is that Weezer is doing before it’s too late.
Sample lyric: “Leave a five star review and I’ll leave you one too.” Additional sample lyric: “Higher education is the key to escape.” Third sample lyric: “Hasta luego, hasta luego, hasta luego, adios.”
That last one is the line most likely to get stuck in your head, where it might drive you to a point of exasperation/confusion/anger/self-doubt until you begin to fray, or try to find something else to hum instead, or give up and just sing it out loud. It is catchy, because Weezer is nothing if not eminently capable of detonating an earworm bomb whenever they so choose. Fourth sample lyric: “I’m an ugly motherfucker but I work hella harder / and you can write a blog about it.” We are all flies in Weezer’s web.
You can never tell exactly when Rivers Cuomo is joking. Weezer mythology holds that after the band’s sophomore album, 1996’s Pinkerton, failed to take off, Rivers re-enrolled at Harvard (true), where he studied music (true) and unlocked the deepest, darkest secrets of how to make pop music (unverified but generally supported by the facts). From this Harvard era arose a cluster of early 2000s records that were such a radical departure from the dark weirdness/weird darkness of the ’90s albums that they included the pseudo-anthemic “We Are All on Drugs” (“And you show up late for school / ’cause you think you’re really cool / when you’re on drugs”) and “Island in the Sun,” a song so infectiously, maliciously perky that it was used in a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie. Cuomo famously maintains his own Encyclopedia of Pop, in which he attempts to isolate strands of pop DNA with goals no less extravagant, really, than John Hammond’s. “He figured if he could home in on Kurt [Cobain]’s formula, he’d figure out his own formula,” Todd Sullivan, the A&R rep who first signed the band to a label, once told Rolling Stone. “That way, he would be a never-ending supply of songs.” “Rivers definitely calculates all the ‘fractals and factors in the formula,’” Weezer guitarist Brian Bell has said, before comparing his pop-devising skills to that of a Jedi.
Case in point: Weezer’s cover of Toto’s “Africa.” The cover had long been the stuff of legend, to the point that it was basically an in-joke among Weezer fans, with a (maybe?) tongue-in-cheek campaign for its release quarterbacked by a literal 14-year-old. Then, in May, the band actually did it, releasing a totally straight and basically fine cover into the world. Rivers and the gang performed it on Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was fan service. It was funny.
But now Weezer’s “Africa” is a bona fide hit: In August, it hit no. 1 on the rock airplay chart. The song is the band’s biggest hit in a decade; you are exceedingly likely, as a matter of fact, to hear it playing while bumping along in the backseat of an Uber. You’re welcome to object to this for a multitude of reasons: that the song sounds so similar to Toto’s original as to make a mockery of covers as an institution, that its popularity all but guarantees that some portion of our nation’s impressionable youths are first learning of this song in Weezer form, that it is this edition and not Toto’s they will play at their frat parties while you are being spoon-fed Jell-O on your deathbed, that the cover’s very existence—with distribution of its vinyl format channeled exclusively through Urban Outfitters and a music video starring no less than Weird Al Yankovic—is seemingly at least partly a joke.
Was Weezer the first band to attain Extremely Online status? I don’t know. Maybe. Cuomo has long approached pop music, after all, with the sentimentality of an Arby’s social media manager. The Black Album seems like it will have plenty to work with: “Can’t Knock the Hustle” even includes its own meme fodder at the end.
Weezer must be stopped.