Weezer fandom is unlike any other. Longtime listeners of the band – even those who haven’t truly loved a new Weezer track since the mid90s – hold their breath every time a new release is announced, only to almost inevitably end up disappointed. The tortured phenomenon even inspired a recent Saturday Night Live skit. Ever since a social media rally for Weezer to cover Toto went from innocuous internet joke to strange reality, the band was sent spiralling, fully leaning into the goofy reputation that decades of cheesy, maligned tracks (“Beverly Hills,” “Pork and Beans,” “Can’t Stop Partying”) have earned them. A meme in album form, the band’s surprise self-titled compilation of pop and R&B covers uses what it believes to be irony as a weapon to poke fun at haters, spiting their longstanding defenders in the process.
Taste is, of course, subjective and it’s difficult to judge the artistic merits of one iteration of a song next to another on any sort of objective metric, but it feels as though almost no effort was put into these covers whatsoever. Theoretically, the only reason to pick up a copy of The Teal Album would be to check out Weezer’s spin on classic hits, but they don’t appear to make any changes to the originals at all, leaving virtually no creative stamp on what is essentially a collection of hurried karaoke versions of beloved songs. Ranging from unnecessary and misguided homage (Toto’s “Africa,” Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” Tears for Fears’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”) to nigh unlistenable (TLC’s “No Scrubs,” Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”), this comes off as the sort of soulless renditions so often commissioned for department store use only.
Pulled directly from a radio station that promises “yesterday’s favorites,” the songs themselves seem to have been chosen for their name recognition alone, rather than the band’s ability to do them justice. While the album was certainly more fun to record than it is to listen to, Weezer’s assortment of covers is scattered across a wide range of stylistic capabilities, finding frontman Rivers Cuomo clawing at the limits of his vocal range and straining to nearly make the high notes on tracks like Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and a-ha’s “Take On Me.” The recording session must have done a number on his voice, leaving the listener with such plastic tunes as a heavily doctored take on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Halfway through the record, guitarist Brian Bell steps up to the mic for a note-for-note rehash of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” which would feel out of place on any Weezer album, but particularly when sequenced directly after a straightforward version of “Happy Together” by The Turtles.
When the album’s seemingly endless 36 minutes and 18 seconds are up, the listener can’t help but feel they’ve been pranked. A glaring embodiment of all the issues audiences have had with the band over the years, specifically in their post-Pinkerton waves of pop exploration, The Teal Album is a cheap gimmick that never rises to anything more than a recording of your average wedding band. Of course, Weezer plays the whole thing tongue in cheek, as if that justifies the lack of imagination that went into it. The joke is that they are drawing attention to the fact that they’re selling out, so presumably, we aren’t allowed to criticize them for it. They think they’ve outsmarted us by beating us to the punchline, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate. We’ve reached the point in Weezer’s career where they’ve fully embraced their role as the parody of the band they once were, and they’ve used it as an excuse to stop trying altogether. But what else should we expect from a band that continuously favors viral culture over songcraft?