“Weezer” (The Teal Album), the band’s fifth self-titled LP, began as a joke — a response to fan’s request that the band cover Toto’s 1982 smash hit “Africa.” The song’s resurgence has translated into countless internet memes, with teenagers paying homage to the music of their parents’ generation, setting “Africa” apart from today’s other Top 40 hits.
Weezer’s lightheartedness and playful attitude toward making music is precious — after all, rock ‘n’ roll is about having fun — but Weezer’s uninspired rearrangement gives us absolutely no reason for us to cast Toto’s original version aside.
Given that the first half of the album are chart-toppers from the New Wave era, the Californian band pretty much stayed in its comfort zone. But has the band managed to convince me that “Take On Me” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” are authentic Weezer songs featuring extra-galvanized synth riffs, or has it lost its unique edge and been totally reduced to a second-rate cover band? More of the latter.
The only interesting track on the album seems to be “No Scrubs,” which fans deemed to be a weird choice. But in fact, male rock stars have a long history of covering female rhythm and blues groups. The Beach Boys and The Beatles tried swapping pronouns in “Then I Kissed Her,” originally The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me,” and “Please Mr. Postman,” originally by the Marvelettes, but only ended up delivering uncanny parodies. Surprisingly, Weezer’s interpretation of “No Scrubs” is immune to gender misplacement, thanks to TLC which developed an artistic character more independent from men than that of the Marvelettes.
If the other tracks are fairly tolerable or even slightly enjoyable, Weezer’s synthesizing transformation of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is an utter failure, and listeners should beg forgiveness from the King of Pop. The very essence of Jackson’s textbook pop formula — the killer drum phase, the million-dollar bassline and the dramatic vocal performance — are renounced and replaced by a replica that is so cheap that it makes the song’s narrative line sound like hopeless paranoia.
The album ends with the endlessly covered soul standard “Stand By Me,” on which Weezer at least secures a balance point between Ben E. King’s soulful romance and the passionate affection of John Lennon’s 1974 version. Despite its final song, the Weezer cover album is a whopping disappointment that merely imitates previous hits without adding anything new or building on the innovation of the originals.
“Weezer” (The Teal Album) was released as a prelude to the band’s 13th studio album “Weezer” (The Black Album) which is due on March 1.
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