Emo Artist Spotlight: Fall Out Boy

by Erin Slack

Welcome to the second week of the Emo Artist Spotlight, where the weeks are based on whenever I decide to write one. Now that we have more free time, hopefully the posts will come sooner. But, who’s to say? (Technically, me) With everything going on in the world, now is a pretty good time for emo music so let’s jump right into it.

Fall Out Boy is another artist who is very near and dear to former emo kids, despite eventually becoming sellouts to the pop genre. Fall Out Boy really said, “Save Rock and Roll,” then put out MANIA. Yikes. However, before the five-year hiatus FOB took, they had a fantastic way of tailoring lyrics to convey emotional messages with feelings and unique comparisons.

Take This to Your Grave

Fall Out Boy debuted in 2003 with Take This to Your Grave, which some say is the most emo album that they put out. However, that does not mean it is an overall good album. Don’t get me wrong, it is a really good start for the band, but I think it sounds like every other garage band from this era. The fast guitars and Patrick Stump’s raw vocals allowed Fall Out Boy to create a platform in the emo music scene and they definitely improved from this point on. “Dead on Arrival” and “Grand Theft Autumn / Where Is Your Boy” are both catchy songs with undertones of confusing emotions in relationships. Of course, Fall Out Boy wouldn’t be an early 2000s emo band without song titles that are long and don’t appear in the lyrics such as, “Sending Postcard from a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)” and “Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over.” On the title song from their 2016 album Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy has a lyric that says, “Until your breathing stops forever,” an ode to this album’s song “Chicago Is So Two Years Ago,” which longtime fans of the band love.

Emo Scale Rating: 7/10

From Under the Cork Tree

The first song on From Under the Cork Tree, “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued,” is about the pitfalls of being in the limelight. Crazy how most bands make songs warning against getting caught up in the fame and then years later do just that. Every big emo band who got their start in the 2000s era has a song that even the most musically arrogant listeners know, and for Fall Out Boy that is “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” A rush of nostalgia occurs when hearing the beginning chords of this beautifully made song. The second big hit from this album is “Dance, Dance” which features a mix of Patrick Stump’s vocals and an upbeat instrumental. “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More ‘Touch Me’” is another personal favorite of mine. The song “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year” alludes to the fact that Fall Out Boy is aware of the stigma that the second album of many bands tends to be their worst and they want to prevent that. I think they did a fantastic job; they didn’t slump and every song on this album just works so well together.

Emo Scale Rating: 9/10

Infinity on High

Fall Out Boy proves yet again that they have earned their place in the emo-rock genre on Infinity on High. The album starts off with Jay-Z dedicating it to his and Fall Out Boy’s haters in “Thriller,” which I think is an interesting combination, but it works. Pete Wentz wrote “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race,” one of my favorite FOB songs, about the frustration towards other emo bands just stockpiling “arms” (lyrics/fans) to get their songs to chart and not making music for the fun of it. The music video for the hit song “Thnks fr th Mmrs” is one of the wildest things I’ve seen, with Pete Wentz throwing a tantrum because a chimpanzee hit on Kim Kardashian. What even was 2009? Also on this album, is the incredibly underrated political song “You’re Crashing, But You’re No Wave,” which calls out the corrupt judicial system. But, it’s still a bop. Even the bonus track “G.I.N.A.S.F.S.” is a really good song about the feelings people go through after a breakup and the temptation to call up your ex. There is a continuing trend in the topics of relationships, fame, and depression which makes this an exceptional emo album.

Emo Scale Rating: 8/10

Folie à Deux

Alright, here it is, Fall Out Boy’s best album, though it is less emo. Folie à Deux means shared psychosis in French and the themes of this album are yet again fame, heartbreak, and problems in the music industry. “I Don’t Care” is a very punk song which borrows the line “I don’t care what you think, as long as it’s about me” from Nirvana’s song “Drain You” and features a criminally short solo by guitarist Joe Trohman. “The (Shipped) Gold Standard” may have given listeners a warning to the hiatus that followed with the line “sometimes I want to quit this all.” Pete Wentz gave the song a double meaning about how having fame also comes with the possibility of being judged if he vocalizes his passions. One of the band’s only ballads comes off of this album as well, with “What a Catch, Donnie,” focussing on self-loathing and suicidal thoughts. “27” is a reference to the 27 Club, artists who died that had a history of partying and drug usage, much like Pete Wentz did at the time he wrote this song. My personal favorite song of this album is “20 Dollar Nosebleed” which is slightly more pop-y than the band’s other songs but features slam poetry at the end. Brendon Urie provides background vocals on this song, along with “What a Catch, Donnie,” which is an iconic collaboration.

Emo Scale Rating: 7/10

Save Rock and Roll

Usually, when bands go on hiatus, they come back… different (see: Blink-182, The Police, The Strokes, Weezer). The comeback is not necessarily bad, but their sound usually changes a lot. Fall Out Boy did something interesting with their comeback; they figured out a way to appeal to their emo fans along with pop and rock listeners with Save Rock and Roll. “The Phoenix” and “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” both pack a heavy punch of rock and catchy lyrics. “Alone Together” and “Where Did The Party Go” are very poppy, with the latter being a jammy dance song that was the first the band wrote when they got back together. Very experimental, “Just One Yesterday” features the eerie vocals of Foxes and is different, yet still appealing for Fall Out Boy’s fans. My all-time favorite Fall Out Boy song is “The Mighty Fall” featuring Big Sean. This song is about how falling in love will ultimately destroy us all. However, my least favorite Fall Out Boy song is also on this album, “Rat A Tat” featuring Courtney Love; I don’t like her, and I think her voice is choppy. Also notable is the title song from this album featuring the legend Elton John. The comeback album for Fall Out Boy definitely broadened their fan base and they have proven time and time again that they deserve their spot in the emo artist hall of fame.

Emo Scale Rating: 7/10

American Beauty/American Psycho

Here we start to see Fall Out Boy change a significant amount. In 2015, they put out American Beauty/American Psycho and it was, to me at least, a disappointment. The songs take on a more pop-rock (emphasis on pop) noise than the previous emo-rock albums. Save Rock and Roll definitely incorporates a lot of pop too but doesn’t come anywhere close to American Beauty/American Psycho. Compared to their other albums, this is definitely more mainstream yet still holds onto the carefree pop-rock noise fans love. The title track for this album seems to be unnecessarily intense, but I respect what FOB is trying to do to balance the album out. “Centuries” and “Immortals” are undeniably hits that are rooted in rock but appeal to pop fans. “Novocaine” is the most underrated song on the album and most similar to Fall Out Boy’s previous albums. My main quarrel with this album is that the witty and clever lyrics and word choices that previous albums utilized are not present. It’s a fantastic album, but the listener can tell that Fall Out Boy has polished their sound and have tailored it to a wider range of listeners. This album serves as a transition from the emo-rock based style into pop.

Emo Scale Rating: 4/10

MANIA

I’ll be honest, when MANIA first came out, I listened to it once, found two songs I liked, then never listened to it again. I’m listening to it now and it physically pains me to compare it to their other albums. It’s very experimental, influenced by pop and electronic. Pete Wentz did an interview with Rolling Stone where he described this album as a “pallet cleanse,” and it definitely was. It seems like most listeners agree that this album was just too much of a change, resulting in no hits being produced from it. “The Last Of The Real Ones” is more rock than most of the album, but it’s just not that good of a song and it feels like they’re trying too hard. “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T,” is incredibly poppy but it’s one of the few songs I like – I think it’s well made. “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” has a really odd progression and it almost seems like Patrick Stump’s vocal progression just doesn’t fit with the music. “Church” is very produced, but it brings back some of the clever word usage and comparisons from earlier albums. “Sunshine Riptide” is definitely the bad type of experimentation, since it doesn’t sound good. Fans had such a bad response after the release of “Young And Menace,” with its annoying vocal chopping and electronic aspects, that Fall Out Boy trashed most of the original songs and pushed the release date back. I just wish they had decided to not release at all. They aren’t really singing about anything if you listen to the lyrics, which leads me to believe they just cranked out an album for sales.

Emo Scale Rating: 0/10

It seems to be a trend that most emo bands from the 2000s era become sellouts eventually. Fall Out Boy has a lot of albums and I am really happy that only their last two have been disappointing. They held onto their roots longer than a lot of bands do, but it seems like that made them plummet quicker once they let go. Fall Out Boy is an extremely talented band that has matured since their first album and I think it will be interesting to see what their next project sounds like.

The next artist I will be focusing on is a surprise but look forward to it coming soon!