The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.
Late last May, a 14-year-old Twitter user created an account dedicated to getting Weezer, now uniquely divisive in this stage of their career, to cover “Africa,” Toto’s 1982 hit and a resurging meme in the same lineage of Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” and Owl City’s “Fireflies.” Now, eight months later, the cultural tides have shifted. “Africa” has been viciously chewed up and spit out by the merciless internet machine, largely due to the outrageous popularity that accompanied Weezer’s studio cover. The song peaked number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, the band’s first number one hit since 2007’s “Pork and Beans.” The band closed shows with it, made a bizarre, self-referential music video starring Weird Al for it, and even teased the song’s release with a superior cover of another Toto single, “Rosanna.”
In less than a year, “Africa” became the sort of meme your family would recognize or bring up in casual conversation, essentially nullifying the status it once held and finalizing its new residence in the lexicon’s void.
Just as it seemed “Africa” fatigue had run its course, Weezer shocked fans and skeptics alike with the surprise release of Weezer (Teal Album), a short collection of “largely faithful readings of pre-90s songs.” And the album is just that; harmless, serviceable, and at times, a good amount of fun. Touring with The Pixies, the band performed genuinely impressive renditions of The Turtles’ “Happy Together,” a-ha’s “Take On Me,” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” all of which appear here in loving form. As straightforward as these covers are – outside of the occasional power chord or re-imagined solo – the band generally sounds like they came to work and have fun here.
But hell hath no wrath like the internet scorned. As unreasonably hostile as it trained us to be, folks who felt they seemingly couldn’t escape the “Africa” fandom lashed out at the band for cashing in on the single’s success. Thrillist called the album “irritatingly bad,” Pitchfork asked whether the band would “ever stop being disappointing,” and members of this very forum questioned what someone could get out of these covers. But it’s simply not that deep. Considering its streaming numbers and timeline (less than two months before the arrival of The Black Album), The Teal Album is, yes, undoubtedly a calculated move, but also little more than a chance for fans of this strange and unpredictable rock band to hear them take a swing at some beloved favorites.
For better or for worse, this sounds like a Weezer album. We’ve heard the band navigate synths like the ones on Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” before, in the largely underappreciated Make Believe gem, “This is Such a Pity.” Where a “No Scrubs” cover from most other bands might seem dated and ill-advised at best, Weezer comes through with self-aware, TLC-approved rendition. But nothing compares to the band’s rousing take on Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Simultaneously polished and distorted, the cover is such a success, it does begin to make you lament how The Teal Album could’ve sounded under different circumstances.
The point is, Weezer is not immune to criticism – look no further than a truly unfortunately-timed cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” – but for delivering everything it promises, The Teal Album is an absurdly easy target. I don’t know if it was ever really cool to like Weezer, or if it ever will be, but in an age where anonymous hostility has been normalized, on a site where we gather to bond over one of the few things we have to look forward to come release day, it’s never a bad time for a reminder that it’s okay to let ourselves, and others, enjoy the little things.