Atwood Magazine’s writers discuss the delightful meme-ability of Weezer’s surprise covers record Weezer (Teal Album) as we bless the rains down in Africa.
Featured here are writers Adrian Vargas, Carmen Chan, James Crowley, Christine Costello, Luke Pettican, and Mitch Mosk
What was your initial reaction upon seeing this surprise album?
Adrian: Shock mostly. I was a fan of their cover of “Africa,” and after seeing this album full of covers, it made sense. It’s such a smart album in my opinion. To me, it revitalized a lot of the joy and hype I once had for Weezer, giving me a reason to revisit their past albums and simply enjoy their sound. It’s charming and full of their signature flair while still paying homage to some of music’s greats.
Mitch: Utter delight! Put it this way: If Weezer expressed interest in playing my wedding, but they would only play cover songs (no Weezer originals), I’d lock them down in an instant – with, or without my fianceé’s approval. We’re blessing the rains down in Africa; we’re wanting to rule the world; we’re traveling the world and the seven seas; we’re being gone in a day or two; we’re happy together (you get the gist). I’m so impressed at Weezer’s ability to capture the spirit of these songs and channel them back to us with energy and accuracy. This album is spirited, fun, and honestly pretty damn catchy. Who are all these undiscovered artists? They should all get record deals!
Carmen: I was aware of the whole story behind the “Africa” cover that Weezer dropped last year, and thought the whole thing was really funny. But I wasn’t expecting them to drop an entire album of covers at all! I think it’s a really fun way to tide fans over in the down time between album releases, and might even win them some new fans along the way.
James: Honestly, this dropped on a day where a ton of more anticipated albums, singles, etc. did so I did let this sit on the backburner. I also feel like the whole “Africa” meme was sort of played out. It’s a fine song that received the Smashmouth treatment in the last few months. While I did listen as soon as I could, I was a little indifferent and snobbish when I saw that Weezer put out a new covers album and “Africa” was the opening track.
Luke: I saw Weezer headline Riot Fest in Chicago last summer so I was more than aware of the impact of their “Africa” cover. Although, I still thought it was extremely strange! I convinced myself it was some form of elaborate joke until I actually saw it on Spotify. Honestly I’ve never been a huge Weezer fan but I still dig their style, which basically for me is just quintessentially cheesy american indie-rock
Christine: Absolutely milking their vital hit with the ‘Africa’ cover which was fun and unexpected, this cover album is an embarrassment. Mediocre, rushed and altogether tragic. I’ve seen wedding bands do better covers of these songs. It’s disappointing for me as someone who’s thoroughly enjoyed but their older and newer albums.
What is your favorite song on the record?
Mitch: All of ’em. I refuse to limit myself. They’re having fun, I’m having fun, and that’s all that matters. Maybe “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”; that one really impressed me, for some reason – and it’s a known and accepted fact that Tears for Fears changed the course of music history forever.
Adrian: Their rendition of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” blows my mind every time. Now, I love that song in general, so that might be a reason for it being my favorite on the record. However, the vocals from Rivers Cuomo feel so natural with the melody, making it feel like they made the song their own.
Carmen: I think my favorite song has to be “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” as well. The timbre of Rivers Cuomo’s voice really suits the track, fitting really naturally on top of the synths. I love that they kept the vocal harmonies intact, and left the instrumental largely the same as the original. “Take On Me” and “Happy Together” come in a close second and third though.
James: I really liked “Stand By Me.” Most of the songs are entirely competent covers that don’t really bring anything new to the table. While there’s a time and place for radical changes and for copying the original to a T, I think “Stand By Me” felt like they really just put their own spin on it, where it’s similar enough but also adds new dimensions. I also liked “Paranoid,” but that’s also because we could always use more Sabbath.
Luke: There’s actually a fair few tracks on this album that I like but there’s far less that I feel warrant repeat listening. Although I really like their rendition “Happy Together”, especially the energy they managed to ram into its relatively short run-time. I really wanted to like their Tear For Fears cover but I’m such a big fan of their Songs From The Big Chair album that any other rendition feels somewhat lacking in multiple departments. I feel like one of the reasons I like their cover of “Happy Together” so much is my relative lack of association or connection with the original version.
Christine: If I had to choose, it would probably be ‘Stand By Me’ for the sole fact that it strays somewhat from the style of the original track making it unique, as opposed to the rest of the album which feels like discount versions of the most iconic songs in history (Tears for Fears deserved better).
Who did it better? Which, if any, song eclipses the original?
Adrian: It’s hard to answer that in my opinion. I’ll use “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” as my example, but when I’m listening to the “Teal Album,” specifically that track, I’m looking to listen to Weezer. If I wanted to get into the 80’s synth-pop vibes, I’d go listen to the Eurythmics” original. Their covers and renditions didn’t spark those feelings as the original songs, but I’m glad it didn’t. What the “Teal Album” provides for me is more signature Weezer soundscapes over legendary beats and melodies, making it still wholly Weezer and seperate.
Carmen: Overall, I don’t think any of the songs on the album eclipse the originals, since they skew pretty close to the original tracks. Everything from the instrumentals to the vocal delivery and enunciations remain pretty faithful to the originals. I think that was an interesting choice on the band’s part, and in a sense they might be acknowledging that the original versions of these songs are classics, and didn’t need much fussing with or updating. Either way, listening to The Teal Album made for a fun time revisiting some of my favorite songs from the 80s and 90s.
James: None. With the exception of “Stand By Me,” I feel there’s not much change between these and the originals. While it’s impressive how accurate they are and Rivers Cuomo’s voice is actually very good on every song, they don’t reinvent the wheel.
Mitch: I feel like Jimmy’s right, but at the same time, that’s kind of the point with these covers in particular, isn’t it? Some covers are meant to sound exactly like the original, and others are meant to stand out through innovative transformation. Weezer clearly set out to do the former: They’ve remade these veritable classics to sound as close as possible to the original recordings, and damn if they didn’t do a great job! While none of the songs are “better” than the originals in my opinion, credit has to be given where credit is due – Weezer’s “Africa” cover has 26 MILLION streams, and it 100% brought an already-amazing and beloved song (a few years ago we used to sing it at work, just fun) back into the forefront of the public’s eyes and ears where it very much so belongs. My hope, corny as this will inevitably sound, is that through recordings like these, the next generation of fans discover Toto and Tears for Fears, the Electric Light Orchestra and so on.
Luke: I mean the main reason that these covers are on this album is that the originals are so brilliantly iconic so any suggestion that Weezer could eclipse any of the tracks on this album is laughable. ALTHOUGH, their “Africa” cover is pretty darn good……
Christine: Sadly, none. If you are interested in some genuinely good covers that trump the original, I will direct you towards No Doubt’s cover of It’s My Life and Muse’s ‘Feeling Good’. However, if I had to choose, I will admit that there can never be enough covers of Toto’s ‘Africa’ in this world.
Nobody hates Weezer as much as Weezer fans, as one recent SNL sketch pointed out. With that being said, did you find this album to be a waste of time – as some critics are implying?
Mitch: Dear Weezer fans: Chill the f#%@ out. You don’t like your band releasing cover songs? Go listen to “Buddy Holly” on cassette and sit on your stoop crying, things aren’t like how the way they used to be! See how far that’ll get you. Let Weezer do what Weezer wants to do; after 25 years of making music, they’ve earned the right to do their own thing. The fact that Weezer can capture the essence of these timeless classics is a testament to their continued talent; Rivers Cuomo’s voice has never sounded stronger! Get off your high horse, let the band be, and stop trying to make your problems our problems. Weezer make for a damn good cover band, and we would all be lucky to have them play at our wedding!
Adrian: Absolutely not. They receive a lot of unjustified grief, but then again many artists and bands do as well. I saw this as giving the fans what they want. The response from their “Africa” cover was rejuvenating I’d imagine. The positivity and admiration were at times palpable, so why not make an album of covers? Did anyone ask for it? No, but why should that stop them from doing and working on a project they enjoy?
Carmen: I think the album is just some harmless fun, obviously more of a gift to their fans than any grand artistic statement. I’m a big fan of artists covering songs in general, because I think that a good cover makes you reevaluate the original versions, especially when an artist puts their own spin on a song. However, although it was fun seeing Weezer take on these iconic tracks, I don’t think I’ll be revisiting this album again since I prefer the original versions of these songs more.
James: Yeah, I agree with the critics. I know that means that I hate fun, but also nothing here really blows the skeptics out of the water. To some extent, it sounds fun, but the cynical side of me also senses a cash grab. I’d had enough of “Africa,” and I want the meme to die. It’s going to be ten years before I can listen to that song again. I just got over “Never Gonna Give You Up.” I still can’t listen to “All Star.” Why did Weezer need to fan the flame? It’s fine, and it’s fun, but I’m probably not going to listen to this again.
Luke: I mean I feel like any music that brings some form of joy or comfort could never be considered a waste so I say let Weezer do whatever they want. In fact, there should be some form of Go Fund Me page to pay Weezer to cover whatever song is topping the billboard charts that week. I, for one, think their rendition of Thank U, Next would be absolutely sensational
Christine: Definitely not! If anything, I admire them for their ‘Do it cause we can’ attitude and I think more bands should release fun projects like this. At the end of the day Music is all about having fun and more often than not musicians find themselves losing sight of this when there’s pressure to write and tour, they begin to resent their once beloved hobby because they see it as work. It’s nice to hear that, after all these years, Weezer are still approaching music with the same passion and enthusiasm as they had when they were just a few friends covering these classics in someone’s basement.
How does this album make you feel about their upcoming “Black Album”?
Adrian: I had completely forgotten about that album’s release until the “Teal Album’ came out. Not that I didn’t care, it just escaped my mind. Despite that, I’m now ecstatic about it. It’s been a while since I said “I can’t wait for that new Weezer album,” but I honestly feel joy when thinking about the “Black Album,” and I am truly looking forward to their original tracks.
Carmen: I’m a casual Weezer fan, and I’ve only ever listened to their singles. That being said, I’ll probably check out their new album when it drops.
James: I probably would’ve waited for The Black Album to drop before listening. This forced me to go and listen to the singles that have been released already, and I’m excited to check it out.
Luke: Until I sat down to write this I didn’t even know Weezer released an album in 2017 so it’s probably pretty unlikely I’ll check out the Black Album. Maybe there was a 1% chance I would have before they released Teal but now I reckon it’s closer to like 3% so, you know, good job Weezer.
Christine: I don’t think I’m ready to return to a reality where Weezer albums are completely void of 80’s pop classics.
Mitch: I think they exist in two separate universes, in my mind. It’s solid advertising, but I’m going to approach a covers album differently than I’m going to approach a brand new record of Weezer originals. I guess I’ll have to listen though… maybe it’s a surprise, and it’ll be a bunch of Jay-Z covers! Or Metallica covers? Hmm…
What song did they miss, that they should cover on their follow-up “Cerulean Album?”
Adrian: Since they’ve covered those signature 80’s synths, I think it would be appropriate to dive more into those sounds, specifically within the discography of New Order. I can already imagine a great rendition of “Age of Consent” coming from the band, and I would love to see that happen.
Carmen: It would be great to hear them take on more classic 80s tracks, but attempt slower, more sentimental tracks, like “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, or even “True” by Spandau Ballet.
James: I think the next album should just feature them covering one artist. A Weezer album of Kiss covers? I’m down. Weezer doing post-90’s Ozzy Osbourne covers? Game on. A Weezer remake of The Eminem Show? Do it.
Luke: I would actually love to hear a cover of Macy Gray’s “I Try” by them! Maybe a cover of “Never Gonna Give Up Up” too!
Christine: Is there anything to be said for a full-length Weezer Christmas album- Wait, never mind, they already did that. In that case, I’m requesting a strictly power ballads album (REO Speedwagon, Bonnie Tyler, Bon Jovi).
Mitch: YES Bon Jovi all the way!
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