Last Thursday, LA-based rock band Weezer surprised the music world with the release of The Teal Album, a collection of 10 covers by the band, who made their name with hits like Undone – The Sweater Song and Say It Ain’t So. It received mixed reviews from a variety of fans. One of my friends, a hardcore Weezer fan, called it “the greatest album ever,” while another, who is a more casual fan, called it “Glee, but worse.”
Many of the songs follow a pattern of opening with a cover close to the source material, then adding more original rock elements around halfway through. I listened to each track multiple times to get a feel for the whole song, and made sure to listen to the originals of each cover I didn’t know beforehand to give a fair opinion.
Africa (originally by TOTO)
There’s nothing much to say here. It’s Africa by TOTO. Covered by Weezer, and released last May. I’ve heard it a hundred times, it gets played several times a day on rock stations across the country. Regardless, it’s still a good cover, highlighting lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s vocal capabilities and challenging the original version.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World (originally by Tears For Fears)
Sticking more to the source than Lorde’s epic 2013 cover, this fits perfectly with Weezer’s style: a strong vocal performance in front of a casual, upbeat tone. Weezer finds the perfect combination of the source material and “their own spin,” marked by another stellar performance from Cuomo.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made From This) (originally by Eurythmics)
Their cover of the famous 80s techno hit actually isn’t that bad. It doesn’t have enough original material to stand out, but it doesn’t insult the original. It’s what you might expect a band to do randomly during a concert.
Take On Me (originally by a-ha)
This is a really bland cover. There’s not much more to say about it. It actually degrades the song by removing some of the more unique elements, and you notice that before the vocals even start. Rather than sounding simplistic, it comes off like it’s being performed by a lackluster high school garage band. Even a good vocal effort from Cuomo can’t save this dismal track.
Happy Together (originally by The Turtles)
If you didn’t think about the Detective Pikachu trailer when you heard the opening bars, I don’t think we can be friends.
After a rocky start with Cuomo’s vocals, the band takes the most creative liberty of the entire album, and it pays off: the hard rock sound is stunningly fresh. The vocals keep the same tone throughout, while the energy of the song moves up and down based on the music.
Paranoid (originally by Black Sabbath)
For once on this album, Cuomo takes a backseat to the rest of the band: guitarist Brian Bell actually sings the lead vocals, while Cuomo and the rest of the band slightly modernize the speed and sound of the music, ultimately dominating the track itself. It breaks up what can be a monotonous album at times, with a more serious rock song that appeals to more hardcore fans.
Mr. Blue Sky (originally by Electric Light Orchestra)
You might not recognize the name, nor the original artist, but if you like memes, I’ll guarantee you’ll recognize this song within 15 seconds. It’s a fantastic cover; Cuomo’s subtle voice and the added guitar brings something new to the table. It’s a great song to wake up to in the morning.
No Scrubs (originally by TLC)
Weezer decided to cover TLC? Say it ain’t so!
Jokes aside, this song is straight up disgraceful. It takes everything that made the original TLC version catchy and good and performs it like the musical equivalent of oatmeal. You should realize there’s something seriously wrong when Cuomo is performing a classic R&B song from an all-black, all-female trio. Four words for Weezer after this song: stay in your lane.
Billie Jean (originally by Michael Jackson)
This song has a similar problem to No Scrubs – Cuomo’s voice is not a fit for this song. It was not written for him. It sounds unnatural. And with a song as iconic as Billie Jean, bands need to bring an entirely new sound (and do it well) in order to make the cover worth listening to. It’s possible; however, Weezer fails to even perform the original well.
Stand By Me (originally by Ben E. King)
This song is a sleeper hit. If you’re listening to the album sequentially, you might have been inclined to switch to a different playlist after the last two songs. Don’t, because you would be missing out on one of the best songs on the record. Weezer’s take on the 1961 R&B hit is smooth as butter, and the delayed introduction of the guitar makes sure it doesn’t overwhelm the track. A strong finish with a twist of creativity.
Final Thoughts and Score
The album isn’t bad. Some tracks are mediocre, and many lack an original take that would make them worth listening to more than once or twice. However: some of the songs are really good. Cuomo is the difference maker; when he shines, so does the song. When he can’t match the original, or was never meant to, the songs feels incomplete, or not original enough to stand out at all.
Weezer succeeds when they are Weezer, and not trying too hard to be something else. The Teal Album appears to be a minimal-effort attempt to generate attention during a quieter month in the music industry for their upcoming record The Black Album. Overall, the album can be a good time, but just isn’t notable. 6/10
Definitely Listen To: Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Happy Together, Mr. Blue Sky, Africa
Worth A Try: Stand By Me, Paranoid, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Skip Every Time: Take On Me, Billie Jean, No Scrubs