Let it go. Weezer’s days of recording classic material that ranks anywhere near their self-titled “blue” album or Pinkerton are done; that Weezer sound is dead. Yet, that anticipation from fans everywhere has continued upon the arrival of each new Weezer record. Five albums into their new millennium comeback and well, nothing has changed: Rivers Cuomo and his band of brothers are still recording goofball pop music with joyful rhythms and tepid lyrics… and by now, you’d be ignorant to believe it will change. Raditude is Weezer’s seventh full-length release and their most widely-collaborative effort. After last year’s third self-titled “red” album failed to impress many fans with the band’s experimental side, Weezer changed things up and hired veteran pop producer Butch Walker to helm the boards, as well as co-write a few songs. Jacknife Lee was also brought back, and despite their last effort’s lack of appeal, the band stuck with a few ideas that continue to amplify their teamwork mantra (for example, all members share songwriting duties).
Raditude isn’t full of too many surprises, as everything sounds incredibly tight and well-produced by the always-reliable Walker. The man-child known as Rivers Cuomo is still looking to have fun and be his cheeky little self and if the titles fail to suggest his enthusiasm, what encompasses each one of them certainly will. First single, “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To),” is built for radio and it’s acoustic verses over a lush, melodic hook lifts the expectations — and no other track touches it. Co-written by pop-guru Dr. Luke (Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry), “I’m Your Daddy” is disgustingly juvenile and overbearingly dumb — even for the same band who wrote “Everybody Get Dangerous” (“Get Me Some,” the band’s other collaboration with Dr. Luke, is far better and should have been traded as an album cut rather than a bonus number). Another odd pairing is Cuomo’s two co-writing credits with hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri: “Can’t Stop Partying” features Lil’ Wayne and is likely to be the one cut everyone will talk about … and one that a majority of Weezer fans will skip over entirely; however, “Let It All Hang Out” is vintage Cuomo and a feisty pop-punk number that could have been on Maladroit. “Put Me Back Together” lacks teeth, co-written by All-American Rejects’ members Nick Wheeler and Tyson Ritter, and puts a speed bump in the middle of the record; when Cuomo slides fun, party-driven specialty tracks like “Trippin’ Down the Freeway” into the mix, the album is nothing but a pogo-stick, hula-hoop, swing-set fiesta. The most “serious” numbers just feel completely misplaced and assist the lack of any real momentum Raditude ever attempts to gain in its introductory moments.
That is what Raditude’s main downfall is: flow. Like most Weezer albums, there’s no real sense of continuity and the first four tracks want to light it up & get people out on the floor. “Love is the Answer,” previously featured on Sugar Ray’s Music For Cougars, and “Put Me Back Together” just throw everything off-track and contain no fresh alternatives. “In the Mall,” a track penned by drummer Patrick Wilson, plays like a raucous Special Goodness cut, and partnered with “Let it All Hang Out” gives Raditude enough energy to end on a high note. Perhaps another reason the album feels disconnected is due to all the different collaborators and older songs (at least four tracks – on standard and deluxe editions – are ten years old). Select tracks do work on their own, but with different styles of pop music energy all being shoved into one band, Raditude’s slogan gets lost in a shuffle of pop strategy.
Cuomo is still a lyrically derivative, self-deprecating fool that’s as strange as ever, but he’s having a good time — and it shows in every vocalization and howl of every upbeat note. While “I Don’t Want to Let You Go” is no “Butterfly,” it allows Cuomo to flex his true pop muscle as a man who knows his way around a perfectly good hook. Sometimes you just wish he could settle on determining which ones actually work, because when he succeeds, it is magic (“If You’re Wondering…”). “I’m Your Daddy” and “Put Me Back Together” feel like cheap throwaways that could be included on any generic pop-rock band album (you know Fearless is kicking themselves right now: “Any one of our bands coulda done that!”). Another noticeable change is Patrick Wilson moving to guitar, making room for noted session drummer Josh Freese on the kit. While it’s only for three tracks, it’s enough to allow Cuomo to focus more on songwriting and working with collaborators more than his old-school mentality when he wrote more freely. The guitar parts severely lack that “Weezer sound” that Rivers was always able to work in (see: self-titled #2, the “green” album). It was one significant takeaway that “red” left out, and would have been nicer to see back in full-force given the context of Raditude and it’s “party time, excellent” credo.
Weezer are essentially the Brett Favre’s of mainstream pop-rock: they’ve called it quits time and time again, been hailed by devoted fans… and when they switch it all up, the fans do their best to keep some optimism and remain true, but feel betrayed for how a band who wrote Pinkerton could wind up eventually getting together with Lil’ Wayne. Raditude is more in the direction of Fall Out Boy or All Time Low rather than Jimmy Eat World or Relient K, and the longtime devotees may feel stung with resentment over where the direction has wound up. However, don’t count Weezer out quite yet: their hooks are just as addicting as ever, and Rivers Cuomo is your pusher, baby; the band still provides the fun, empty calories of junk food pop-rock you crave. No one should be expecting anything more than a soundtrack to your weekend, and if Weezer is throwing the party, you might as well throw caution to the wind and do what they do: let it all hang out.