Weezer’s “Teal Album:” A Fun Romp through Blasts from the Past
By: Giovanni Arias
Weezer’s “Teal Album” had a surprise release on Jan. 23, and the tracklist is just as surprising as its drop. The album serves as a compilation of some of the world’s most famous hits, featuring covers of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The album as an idea seems to have been born from lead singer and guitarist Rivers Cuomo’s decision to expand on their cover of Toto’s “Africa,” which was released in 2018. This concept isn’t bad by any means, and the band does a masterful job in recreating each song, but some of the songs seem far from what would be considered their style since some of the vocals being covered are seemingly out of Rivers’ range.
At its best, the album offers killer guitar solos and riffs that fans of the band have come to know over the years. This is showcased on songs like “Paranoid,” originally by Black Sabbath. The song features almost perfect renditions of riffs from the original, with Weezer’s own added flair making the song sound as good as ever. In songs such as this one, similar to their normal style, it’s Rivers’ voice that brings the band’s personality to the song. Songs like this also present the best Weezer has to offer in terms of their instrumental ability. The guitars sound as perfect as Black Sabbath’s, and meld as well as they ever have with the hectic drums that pump adrenaline through the listener’s veins. On the other hand, there’s the song “Africa,” which starts the album off. This is the last song someone would expect a 90’s alt-rock band to cover, but surprisingly Weezer’s cover of the song strikes the same emotional and auditory notes as Toto’s original rendition. The song is barely distinguishable from the original until the vocals come in. Weezer sticks to this formula for the other tracks on the record as well. Even then, the songs sound as true as possible to the original artist’s rendition. Clearly, there is a great amount of care that went into making the songs enjoyable despite them being covers. This being said, there are a few selections within the compilation that do show some of the band’s weaknesses.
The issue begins with songs like “Billie Jean.” Other songs may sound just as odd for Weezer to cover as the King of Pop’s hit song, but this one presents certain issues with Rivers Cuomo’s vocal performance. While Rivers’ voice has evolved since the band’s 1994 debut, it just doesn’t seem like it’s enough to match some of the higher falsetto notes that Michael Jackson hits in the original. It’s these segments of the album that may lead listeners to abandon it in favor of the original songs, and it exemplifies the issues with being accurate in covering songs. There is always the choice between making the songs sound completely different to match the cover artist’s style, or making the songs sound so much like the original that they become inferior. In this case, Weezer tries to find a happy median between both extremes.
While each song does have a slight quirk added to it to make it adhere to the album’s overall sound, there isn’t much that makes them different from the original songs. Other than the vocals, where there are obvious differences, the album features guitar versions of some of the synth beats, leaving the changes at a minimum. This leads to issues when imitating some of the vocals of the artists they cover. Song selections like “Billie Jean” highlight these flaws instead of changing the song to suit their strengths. While it might not bother fans who love the band, it might keep newcomers from diving into the rest of their discography.
What makes up for this is mostly the sense of humor that is injected into the album, starting with the album art, which follows the same pattern as some of the band’s biggest records. This record sports a teal background with the band members clad in stereotypical 80’s attire. The color mirrors the band’s first album, known for its simplistic blue background and four nerdy bandmates standing in the middle. The similarities between the album covers introduce a humor to the album by giving it a self-aware image. It lets listeners know that the band is having as much fun with the album as fans listening. The art makes it so that everyone is in on the joke of having a grungy band cover these poppy hits. The humor even bleeds into the track list, which includes TLC’s “No Scrubs,” probably the furthest thing from the band’s repertoire. While the humor doesn’t erase the previously stated flaws of the album, it does serve to expound upon the theme of simply having fun with playing/listening to music. This makes the album seem like a love letter to longtime fans, letting them know that the band is listening and willing to laugh at themselves.
Overall the album is a fantastic set of covers that owns its wackiness in every way. Each song was given the care it deserves despite being covers, and Weezer even manages to add their own flair here and there. There do seem to be a few kinks with some of the songs, but the album ends with a great rendition of “Stand by Me,” which almost serves as the band thanking the fans for sticking with them through thick and thin. This kind of address to the fans wouldn’t even be out of the ordinary, since Rivers has been known to inject messages to the fans in songs such as “Back to the Shack,” which included direct apologies for veering away from what the band does best. Now, all there is left to do is play the album on repeat and wait for Weezer’s “The Black Album,” set to release later this year on March 1.