What Weezer Tells Us About Our Internet Culture

I’m a long-time Weezer fan. Of course, like any fan with working ears, I know that Pinkerton and The Blue Album, in that order, are their best, and they clearly went through a resurgence with Everything Will Be Alright in the End and The White Album, their best work in almost two decades. I forgive the ho-hum, sometimes good but occasionally embarrassing albums in the middle because they are bookended by such greatness.

Last year, Weezer had its biggest hit in nine years, a cover of Toto’s “Africa”. It was well-done and enjoyable as covers go, a faithful recreation of the original save for the middle solo, which, oddly, didn’t capture the sound of the original even though it is certainly possible to recreate any sound exactly with today’s synthesizer technology. As a fan, I was a bit disheartened that it took doing a cover to get one of my favorite bands back on mainstream radio. Then again, it’s hard for any band with guitars to get on the radio these days, so I mostly viewed it as an unexpected chance to hear something I liked on the radio again.

Fast-forward to last week, when Weezer went full-on cover band with the surprise release of The Teal Album. It features ten covers of extremely popular songs from the the past four decades. Most of them sound exactly like the original but with a different singer. The album is daring in the sense that the band actually had the chutzpah to cover songs as famous as “Billie Jean”, “Stand By Me”, and “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This”. Those are the kinds of musical choices that usually attract the derision of critics who wonder how pretentious could someone be to cover such well-known staples unashamedly. But, as usual, Weezer adds just the right amount of irony to make you believe they are acting out some kind of parody, even if they might not be, or even if they might be giving off that vibe to make you excuse them for making a blatant cash-grab that might otherwise be regarded as simple musical heresy.

While I enjoy the their true-to-the-original renditions, what bothers me about The Teal Album is that they had to release something like this to get people talking about them again. Weezer plans to release an album of original material in a couple of months (the long-rumored The Black Album). To get people to care enough to notice, they covered ten songs that didn’t need to be covered by them or by anyone. We’ve heard all of these songs literally thousands of times before. So why did they do it?

Simply, The Teal Album is a hit. I haven’t heard this much about Weezer since 1994. They managed to get noticed again. And, unlike Greta Van Fleet, they didn’t have to wear dreamcatchers from their ears and cover songs Led Zeppelin would have written if Led Zeppelin were Greta Van Fleet to do it.

It’s a victory for them, I suppose. But it just seems so Facebooky.

Our penchant for scrolling seems to have leaked into other aspects of our lives. We give our index fingers a workout every time we check our social media platforms. We scroll through dozens, maybe even hundreds of posts in a flash. We slow down occasionally because something temporarily captures our attention. It might be a familiar meme with some clever and timely caption printed on it, a picture a friend posted of herself as a baby, a news article from a journal promoting some political view that resonates with us. It might be as simple as a post about the mundanity of life, but because it’s printed in bold font over a colorful background, we stop for a split second, and then keep scrolling. Interspersed with these more organic posts are ads that are pitched to us based on our online browsing and shopping habits, commercial messages tailored to reel us in by calculating what appeals to us and eschewing cues that might turn us away.

There isn’t much to see on our social media walls. If there were, we wouldn’t be scrolling through it, an act meant to dismiss as quickly as it invites. But it passes the time well enough, mindless and unchallenging in its celebration of the familiar. Our social media pages are like listening to a cover band: we’ve seen / heard it all before, but we look / listen anyway.

Weezer released an album of tastefully faithful facsimiles of all-time classics on the Internet for the Internet. It’s very scrollable.

About Ray Klump

Associate Dean, College of Aviation, Science, and Technology at Lewis University Director, Master of Science in Information Security Lewis University http://online.lewisu.edu/ms-information-security.asp, http://online.lewisu.edu/resource/engineering-technology/articles.asp, http://cs.lewisu.edu. You can find him on Google+.

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