Hear me out! It doesn’t have to be Weezer. If you’d prefer, you can swap in AJR, or Imagine Dragons or — if you’re old enough to remember — Nickelback.
Weezer (and, by extension, their fans) are the butt of at least 40% of the music jokes you hear online. Why? Weezer lovers don’t love everything about Weezer; Weezer haters don’t hate everything about Weezer. Both groups tend to have pretty similar opinions on Weezer:
- The band peaked with the Blue Album and Pinkerton.
- Matt Sharp’s departure was their shark jump.
- Subsequent albums have been spotty, but better than you’d expect.
So what gives? Why play collective pretend? Whether it’s the proto-incelism of Pinkerton or the gimmicky commercialism of the Teal Album, there’s a lot to disagree with in Weezer’s discography. Even the “good albums” were polarizing upon their release; from there, the bad ones are absolute stinkers. Today, frontman Rivers Cuomo makes his name as a calculating sellout; if you think his recent lyrics sound like they’re plucked from an Excel spreadsheet and decided by committee, it’s because sometimes they are. It’s been a long fall.
This wound cuts especially deep for music writers. When Pitchfork writer Jill Mapes asked, “Will Weezer Ever Stop Being Disappointing?,” a part of her still identified with the band enough to feel disappointment, like the band was her high-school sweetheart who let themself go. As Kelefa Sanneh writes in his book “Major Labels,” music magazines are known for their rockist streak: They valorize the artist who makes “albums, not singles; portrays (themself) as a rebellious individualist, not an industry pro; (and) give(s) listeners the uncomfortable truth, instead of pandering to their tastes.” They accept only 100% pure, uncut rock; no Swedish songwriters here. To the devout rockist, Weezer — perhaps the “last true rock band” that’s been pandering to meme culture since “Pork and Beans” — represents an uncanny parody of music critic catnip. It’s all profoundly unsexy.
Even so, Weezer’s early work is known for its catchy, self-effacing ’90s alt-rockiness, stuff that’s destined to be in a coming-of-age film’s soundtrack (and was … many times). Weezer plays like they’re downtrodden and unlucky in love, but they’re clearly having fun — as the band’s Spotify bio says, “Just keeping it weezy.” Without their reputation, you’d mention them in the same breath as Pavement or Nada Surf. But now, your brain probably goes to Swans or Neutral Milk Hotel or any other band associated with lonely music nerds.
Taste is an extension of self; by expressing it, you leave something of yourself vulnerable. Now, everyone’s got a Letterboxd, a Rate Your Music, maybe a Substack if they’re so inclined — taste is woven into our public personas. And yet, to borrow from Natalie Wynn’s video “Cringe,” the Internet hasn’t “reached self-consciousness about the fact that the fear of public humiliation rules us like it’s the 17th century.” By adopting the taste of the tastemakers, you make yourself legitimate.
For everybody who grew up downtrodden and unlucky in love, who once had the balls to openly relate to “Pink Triangle,” unironically loving Weezer becomes a mark of shame, and much of the hatedom carries the unmistakable stench of collective self-loathing. Weezer, then, is one in a long line of cringe culture’s victims: Opinions of them are formed not out of real criticism, but out of fear of regressing into the inconceivable teenage dork who once loved them.
It’s easy to get lost in the fog of public discourse: What’s hot, what’s mid, what’s a light six. But taste is not what you consume; it’s how you feel — not the dish, but the experience of flavor. Commodifying taste — trading it in Topsters — quantifies those big, slippery feelings onto a grid, into a number out of 10. This is a natural consequence of platforms that answer only to streams and stars and metadata. By enforcing a deontology of taste (“Kendrick good; Nickelback bad”), something of yourself is lost. It does not have to be this way.
I’m guilty of performative Weezer-hating, too; I still groan sympathetically at the mention of bands like Weezer, regardless of what I think. That disdain, that incorrigible social ritual, still controls me like an animal reflex. Imagine my surprise when someone asks, naïvely, “Why?”
So, in the name of confessionals: My high school playlist was full of The Smashing Pumpkins, Neutral Milk Hotel and (eek!) Weezer. There is a recording of me out there singing “Hash Pipe.” I still don’t think “Beverly Hills” is that bad! Live your truth. Everything will be alright in the end.
Daily Arts Writer Amina Cattaui can be reached at email@example.com.