Here’s Why It’s Okay To Think That Fall Out Boy Song Isn’t All That Great

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This James Shotwell-opposing diss track began as a joke and gradually got a little heated. I was heckling him about his swooning over Fall Out Boy’s newly-released “Fourth Of July.” He gave me the title and suggested I write an anti-piece based on things I said. So here I am, probably more scathing and critical (and nonsensical) than I truly intend to be. Regardless, shots fired.

I’m not opposed to change. At all. In fact, I encourage and often embrace it. For the sake of this article, in terms of music, I’ll throw out recent examples like Pianos Become The Teeth, Polyenso (ex-Oceana), and Arms & Sleepers. However, change doesn’t always necessarily equate to improvement or some form of greatness. That statement isn’t news and I’m no professor, but the point I’m trying to get at, in some convoluted way, is that in a world where ‘it’s all been done before’ I can’t help but feel as though a vast majority of people are increasingly mistaking mediocrity for excellence just because true greatness is few and far between.

Fall Out Boy‘s evolution from the refreshing, lyrically acerbic emo darlings of the mid to late 2000s to the current utterly-pop entity boasting arena-ready hooks and high-gloss production is certainly no surprise. The four members of FOB currently range in age from 30 to 35 years old. As long as they want to create and share with the masses they need to stay relevant, right? I’m not saying they sold out — because frankly I don’t even know what the hell that means — but I can’t help but feel as though they’ve abandoned the elements of what originally made them so interesting in favor of what they think currently has the most staying power in a finicky industry. I’d chalk it up to ‘adapt or die’ and I don’t blame them if that’s the case really, but I believe they could have created a more interesting progression from their earlier works if they wanted a change of pace or scenery. From what I can tell, though, American Beauty/American Psycho is Fall Out Boy reinventing the wheel to run themselves over. Obvious joke is obvious, I know.

But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no authority on the reasons why the band has changed significantly in sound. Maybe the FOB some of us used to love ran its course. Maybe turning 35 means shorter song titles and more straightforward lyricism. Maybe it means more samples and less organic instrumentation. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter. Fall Out Boy are one of the biggest bands in the world. They’re still selling records, they’re still topping charts, and they’re still overflowing venues. They may very well lose some old fans, but they’ll undoubtedly pick up a slew of new ones. They’ve done their time. I can’t deny that they deserve some sort of growth in success.

Look, I don’t hate what I’ve heard from American Beauty/American Psycho, but it’s not something I foresee myself returning to by choice. I like pop music, truly, but when it’s creative, and these songs just don’t offer what the hyperbolic reviews would lead me to believe. Gone is a majority of the charm, the wit and the ingenuity that went into the band’s songwriting, ultimately projecting a collective personality fans grew to love. This year we’re graced with 11 tracks from the band that all bleed into one another with similar, bass-infused choruses and far too many borrowed portions of other, previously created works. Fall Out Boy haven’t ‘gone pop’; they’ve always been pop. They just used to handle it with more effort, more innovation and more finesse. To touch on the track James chose to write about specifically – is “Fourth Of July” catchy? Indubitably. Does it make me move? Absolutely.

But so does stepping on a nail or getting stung by bees. Kidding. [Redo: But so does Meghan Trainor or Black Eyed Peas].

Although admittedly backhanded to a degree, one positive thing I can bring myself to say is that Patrick Stump certainly hasn’t lost his vocal chops, even if they do appear to feature a little more help from the production booth these days. Other than that, though, it’s hard for me to swallow the repetitive, over-produced, catchy-hook-dependent track that’s only half theirs. The better half belongs to Son Lux. “Lost It To Trying” is a fantastic song, with originality, and maybe it’s because I prefer that track in its entirety to “Fourth Of July,” but it really just sounds like Fall Out Boy took Ryan Lott’s creation and recorded a safe, radio-sure, Katy Perry-esque song over it. I can’t hear “Fourth Of July” any other way than as two tracks playing simultaneously and sort of working together. “Fourth Of July” doesn’t fall into the category of ‘top five songs Fall Out Boy have ever written.’ This is cheap escapism in the form of mostly uninteresting, reprocessed, run-of-the-mill pop fare.

The fact is, this is my opinion. I could say that Fall Out Boy haven’t in fact released the ‘first great song of 2015.’ I could say that honor belongs to The Districts, or Turnstile, or You Blew It!, or Purity Ring, or the aforementioned Polyenso, or The Master Of Horror, John Carpenter. But, Mr. Shotwell is just as correct as I am on this matter. That’s the great thing about the subjectivity of loving art.

You can enjoy post-2010 FOB all you want — more power to you (sincerely) — but we don’t all have to, because as far as I’m concerned, the only great thing remaining of Fall Out Boy is their name.

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P.S. To the Fall Out Boy that once were and may never be again, thnks fr th mmrs.

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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  • XBlueCollarHardcoreX

    I needed to know someone else out there felt this way. I thought I was alone. I am being sincere. Thanks Mr. Lion.

  • Brian Lion

    I really thought I’d get trashed on this. I was bracing for impact. So far, it’s been okay haha. Thanks for reading and letting me know I’m not alone either.

  • TBarne

    “recorded a safe, radio-sure, Katy Perry-esque song over [Lost it to Trying]”. Couldn’t agree more! This song just makes me want to turn off the noise and listen to the original track by Son Lux. I am wondering how I would feel about this song if I didn’t know the original…

  • Brian Lion

    Yeah, as I mentioned I can’t really hear it any other way. They took way too much advantage of using his work.