by Julia Vaccarella ’20
Last week the popular American band Fall Out Boy released their seventh studio album, M A N I A. The album, which was expected to debut in mid September, was delayed and pushed back to Jan. 19.
Aligning with the trend set by other music groups, it is safe to say that M A N I A is Fall Out Boy’s least rock production yet, an ironic statement to make, considering that one of their previous albums is entitled Save Rock and Roll.
Panic! At the Disco, Coldplay, and Maroon 5 are among many other bands that have integrated electronic styles into their former rock sound in the past year. Fall Out Boy’s own experimentation with pop dates back to the mainstream success of the song “Centuries,” which was featured on their previous album American Beauty/American Psycho. It is possible that the mainstream success of this single has led Fall Out Boy to explore the pop genre further in their music.
“Young and Menace,” which was released early on as a single, is arguably the most electronic song on the record. The track confused many long-time fans who were hoping for Fall Out Boy to return to their roots. This is also a major reason why the album was delayed in the first place as lead songwriters Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump were not content with the album as it was at the time.
Several of the songs on M A N I A contain multiple pop culture references, such as the allusion to the film Castaway, starring Tom Hanks, with the song “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes).” The album also references Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding and The Addams Family character, Wednesday Addams.
Despite this change, the Fall Out Boy of the early-2000s is not completely absent from M A N I A. Keeping this in mind, it is clear that Fall Out Boy’s shift in sound does not equate a transfer in the band’s messages regarding mental health. In fact, M A N I A explores Pete Wentz’s well-known battle with bipolar disorder.
Stump’s strong vocals still balance well, even in the songs that have also incorporated some elements of pop. “The Last of the Real Ones” highlights Stump’s voice while also significantly limiting the electronic beats present on tracks like “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea.”
Fall Out Boy has received mixed reviews on M A N I A. Those who have been listening to the band since they were just beginning to emerge as a rock group have expressed disinterest and frustration with the album and the group’s decision to tour with both blackbear and Jaden Smith, because both artists produce rap/hip hop. Others, though, have been much less critical and have even chosen to embrace the emphasis on pop and electronic music.
Considering that the band has been around for over 15 years, some variety in sound is justified. Their previous work did attract a much different fanbase, and the group was a brand synonymous with the punk genre.
Regarding the new album, though, band member Wentz has stated in an interview with Rolling Stone, “It feels like every once in a while, you’ve gotta do a hard restart that clears the cache and erases the hard drive…”