Last week Weezer released The Teal Album, their twelfth studio album, which included 10 cover songs. Reception of the album was tepid, at best, with many people questioning why. As in, why couldn’t they stop after poorly covering Toto’s “Africa”? Why did they think there was a market for this? And why do all the songs sound pretty much like the originals, except not as good?
Cover songs are supposed to fun, interesting, tributes to original songs. If a band or artist doesn’t put some kind of spin on the song, they might as well just karaoke it with their friends. If I want to hear something that sounds a lot like “Billie Jean” you can be sure as hell I am going to turn on Michael Jackson. If you have the audacity to cover “Billie Jean” you better give it something new. That’s why things like The Dan Band, Postmodern Jukebox, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and the Westworld soundtrack are so fun.
(A quick sidebar shout out to some of my favorite covers that get less shine than they deserve: “Pursuit of Happiness” by Lissie, “In Bloom” by Sturgill Simpson, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by Branches, “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse, and “Style” by Ryan Adams.)
Weezer failed on almost every level of cover-dom. Instead of spending any more time listening to The sTeal Album (how do I do it?), I decided to come up with a new concept for Weezer: a 10-song cover album of The Blue Album, Weezer’s first, and best work.
(A quicker sidebar to say there is an album called A Tribute to Weezer that uses Weezer-like bands to cover Weezer greatest hits. Also, I know that Toto covered “Hash Pipe.” Snooze.)
Here are the rules for Weezer Re-Cover-y. All of the songs from The Blue Album, sung by bands that are not Weezer. Each song has to have a different artist or band. The songs don’t have to improve on Weezer’s originals, but they must have fun tinkering with the original. To ensure the songs are not cheap facsimiles, I am not allowing any bands that could be confused for Weezer, or anything close to Weezer to be included. Therefore no Rentals, no Red Hot Chili Peppers, no Arcade Fire, no Fountains of Wayne. And—as a general decree—never any Smash Mouth. Finally, the artists have to be alive.
The first track on the album comes in quick, taking a surprisingly quick turn after a few seconds. Maggie Rogers’ songs often do the same, and she would give “Jonas” an electronic backing instead of the hard drums and guitars.
I go to Lake Street Dive for my songs about relationships that don’t quite work. Lead singer Rachel Price’s voice can offer “No One Else” a new flavor. Consider Lake Street Dive’s cover album “Fun Machine” their overly qualified resume.
Leon Bridges would slow this song down, add some soul and blues, and we would never know that this was ever a Weezer song.
Anderson .Paak gets one of the most fun and THE single most famous track from The Blue Album. The upbeat rhythm and drum-heavy song is a good fit for .Paak, who can hopefully un- or de-bubblegumify it. And if you aren’t sold yet, check out .Paak’s 2013 release, Cover Art where he takes on other rock classics.
The changes in tempo and transitions from conversation to chorus make Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats the right artist for Undone. Plus, Rateliff is equipped to handle Undone’s silly opening skit and late guitar solo.
Surf Wax America is the highest energy track on the album so why not infuse it with Bruno Mars, a big band of horns, and some surf-rock dance moves? There is no way this song wouldn’t be a banger with Bruno Mars and his crew taking it for a spin.
Possibly the crown jewel of The Blue Album is ideal for the sisters of HAIM. The drums, guitar, and bass all fit the strengths of Alana, Este, and Danielle, who wail on their albums but absolutely destroy live. Take a listen to “Right Now” and “Something to Tell You” to get a sense of what they can do with “Say It Ain’t So.”
We have to leave some rock in the album so we are turning to Greta van Fleet’s witchy vocals for “In the Garage.” They can keep the angsty hard rocking soul of the song while also letting us hear that dude sing the lyric “I’ve got a dungeonmaster’s guide / I’ve got a 12-sided die,” which makes this imaginary whole project worth it.
Childish Gambino has reinvented himself a few times in his young career, but for Holiday, I am thinking Awaken, My Love! Gambino. The funkiness of “Redbone” and tropical beat of “California” would give this forgettable track a little more edge.
My favorite song on the album is a no0brainer for me. Francis and the Lights haunting use of prismizer (similar to autotune) can keep the song’s nightmarish message and the band could do justice to the song’s late creshendowing instrumental section.
What does it say about The Teal Album, that without even recording a single note of a single song, I’ve already put together a stronger album, front-to-back? Because while covers are a fun way to re-run and revisit something nostalgic, don’t we need the artists to bring a little novelty to the music?