A large part of Weezer‘s appeal through the ‘90s and into the aughts was Rivers Cuomo‘s refusal to, well, grow up. His angst-ridden ballads of love lost – and love unrequited (like Pink Triangle) – spoke to a generation of teens who recognized themselves in him (or wanted to, anyway). Yet, despite that familiar-sounding profile, the level of quality Rivers achieved with his music set him apart from most whiners of his generation.
This can be attributed, at least in part, to an approach to music which was fundamentally different than that of other “Emo” songwriters, some of whom were characterized by, it must be admitted, an inordinate amount of self-indulgence and self-pity, and a concurrent neglect of musical tradition. After all, if your experience is so unique, so important, and so true, what need do you have for those who came before you?
Rivers never bought into that attitude. A serious student of rock, he took it upon himself to create “The Encyclopedia of Pop,” a careful study of the structures and styles of pop and rock songs he wished to emulate. And he has always credited his diverse influences – among them Kiss, Nirvana, Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys), the Pixies, Green Day, and Sonic Youth – for their indispensable contributions to his style.
It’s a mistake, then, to see him the way some like to – as talented and authentic, but immature and unreflective. Quite the opposite is true – every song Rivers has written demonstrates advanced ability as a craftsman, keen awareness of his own strengths as a musician, a sense of how to develop and control image and style, and a sophisticated understanding of his audience and their desires.
But underneath all this intentionality has always been a real, genuine expressiveness which comes through as a sense that Rivers is sharing something intimate and true with his audience. Some have observed a kind of “desperation” in his voice, the kind that can’t be faked and which reflects what would seem to be his need to express himself through his music. After all, we’re not talking about some kind of slacker who stumbled into music for lack of a better occupation. Rivers is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard – he became a musician because it was the only thing he could imagine himself doing, not because it was the only thing he was any good at.
All of which compounds the sense of frustration felt by some of his fans at what they perceive to be a lack of emotional content in his recent work. Take Weezer’s all-time biggest hit song, Beverly Hills, for example. It’s not just that it’s much less interesting than almost everything else they’ve ever done melodically. The refrain goes, “Beverly Hills, that’s where I want to be,” for god’s sake. I hope Rivers is satisfied – the song about how badly he craves celebrity did more than any other song to make him a celebrity. It’s no wonder this rubs his “real” fans the wrong way – if that’s not selling out, I don’t know what is.
So on behalf of millions of fans, Rivers Cuomo, I implore you to take your own advice:
It’s time I got back to The Good Life
It’s time I got back
It’s time I got back
And I don’t even know how I got off the track
I wanna go back, yeah!!