Friday, July 30, 2010

Up With People

As I look forward to Weezer's performance at the Ohio State Fair on Saturday, I find myself contemplating the nearly pathological ambivalence I've afforded them over the course of their 15 year career. Since their inception I've swung wildly between periods of crazed fan-boy OMG I CANT STOP LISTENING infatuation (Weezer (the blue album), Weezer (the green album), Maladroit) to stretches where I flat-out ignored whatever it was they did (Pinkerton, Weezer (the red album), Make Believe).

It's a band/fan relationship that I'm not really accustomed to, but one I suppose I've learned to accept. I've noticed too (given their role as a fairly straight forward pop-rock combo) that I have an unusual propensity for over-analyzing their work.

"What's the significance of three albums all called Weezer?".

"Why do all the solos on Weezer (the green album) simply mimic the melody line?"

"Does River's really want to live in Beverly Hills?"

and perhaps most importantly,

"How does someone who graduated from Harvard manage to pen lines like "On an island in the sun, we’ll be playing and having fun", with a straight face?"

So, it is in the spirit of over-analyzing Weezer that I now reflect on their video for the single "Pork and Beans". Released in 2008, the video quickly "went viral" by (Surprise!) incorporating a bunch of other YouTube phenoms that had previously gone viral.

Haters were quick to cry "Copycats!", noting that this particular hand had already been played by the Barenaked Ladies in their 2007 video "Sound of Your Voice". Others suggested that Weezer's meta-video was nothing more than a shameless cash-in; a YouTube fueled YouTube video designed to log millions upon millions of YouTube views.

While I can't defend Weezer against accusations of theft (they clearly weren't the first to discover this new world), I will suggest that "Pork and Beans" is less a cheap cash-in and more an uninhibited celebration of us. The song itself presents an anthemic paean to self-acceptance as layer upon layer of guitar buoy Rivers' impassioned stance:

"Imma do the things that i wanna do
I ain't got a thing to prove to you
I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans
Excuse my manners if i make a scene
I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like
I'm fine and dandy with the me inside
one look in the mirror and i'm tickled pink
I don't give a hoot about what you think"

As the song trundles along the video highlights a sampling of YouTube celebrities and characters from days gone by. Like all great art though the characters are meant to be seen not as through a window but as a reflection. They are the mirror that reflects us at a moment in time. They're earnest, impassioned, hopeful, ridiculous, heroic, and humbled. As we watch, we're invited to see a bit of ourselves; our hopes and fears, our triumphs and failures. It's "Up With People" for a (relatively) new millennium and one of the reasons I continue to wander back to the Weezer camp. Perhaps that's naive, but you know what they say about rock, "If it's too naive, you're too old."