Weezer’s latest single ‘Thank God for Girls’ (and indeed its notably messy video) has received its fair share of backlash this week. One such detractor, writing for Salon, described the song as “hilariously bad”, citing its “scripted strangeness” as “the worst kind of weird”, before finally identifying Weezer as the founders of a new musical genre: ‘Troll Rock’. The thrust of the argument, in a view likely shared by many, is that the song has no meaningful content, nothing to offer its listener, and is inaccessible in its strangeness.
Yes, ‘Thank God for Girls’ is an exceptionally weird song. The lyrics include more non-sequiturs than anything I’ve heard recently. Look at this extract from the first verse; it reads like Shia LaBoeuf – Live:
“The girl in the pastry shop with the net in her hair is making a cannoli for you to take on your hiking trip in the woods with your bros that you’ve known since second grade, and you may encounter dragons and ruffians and be called upon to employ your testosterone in a battle for supremacy and access to females glued to the TV, and even if you are victorious, you may receive many cuts, bruises, and scrapes and you will require band-aids and antiseptic ointments and tender love and kisses on your stab wounds.”
It’s not a hit single. It’s not another ‘Buddy Holly’, or even another ‘Pork and Beans’. But there’s more worth in ‘Thank God for Girls’ and its peculiarity, which the aforementioned Salon writer correctly identified as intentional, than in both of those songs combined. Its total lack of meaningful content is what gives it its value. Here’s why.
Since the end of the 1990s, the musical landscape has been on a downward trajectory in terms of lasting value. The poetry, the honest autobiography of popular music has been swapped out for high production and vacuous, mawkish love songs with almost identical lyrical content and sentiment across the board. But these songs and albums are downloaded across the world because either their bland, generic subject matter makes them instantly identifiable to pretty much anyone who’s ever experienced emotion, or because they’re catchy. And they make a lot of money.[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4wjekuKn-4]
When I saw the announcement for ‘Thank God for Girls’ the day before its release, my heart sank a little. I prayed to high heaven that its title was ironic or sarcastic, because I feared Weezer may have had a generic pop/rocker up their sleeves to make a quick buck. As it happens, it wasn’t ironic, nor was it sarcastic. It was a nothing title, for a nothing song. It’s a song that identifies the vacuous nature of the current musical climate, and takes it one step further by saying, “here you go, here’s a song that’s literally about nothing”. Unconscious vacuity in popular music has become so commonplace that to release a song so intentionally devoid of meaning, so unabashedly alienating is an act of great worth.
I’m not arguing that ‘Thank God for Girls’ is a statement; if it were it would defeat the point. Instead, Weezer have spotted a trend (perhaps unconsciously) and have gone gung-ho with it. ‘Thank God for Girls’ is literally worthless, and it doesn’t try to trick us into thinking that it’s anything more. I don’t think anyone would assume we were supposed to take the song seriously, with that middle finger of a video, and its inclusion of the lyric, “God took a rib from Adam, ground it up in a centrifuge machine, mixed it with cardamom and cloves, microwaved it on the popcorn setting, while Adam was like, ‘Woohoo, that really hurt’.” It’s not an act of trolling, but a gift of a song which is not only kind of fun, but also acutely aware of its middling quality, without making any effort to hide it. For that reason, it’s wonderful.
— Spotify (@Spotify) November 3, 2015
In the aforementioned Salon article, Weezer come under fire for losing touch with their confessional, heartfelt produce from the nineties. At the same time, the writer cites ‘Island in the Sun’ as one of their best songs; a song which, in my opinion, is the worst kind of soulless – it’s a catchy hook and not much beyond that. But the thing is, Weezer aren’t going to go back to the self-deprecating band that they were, because they’ve grown up. Rivers Cuomo, now married with children, is actually probably a lot happier than he was back in the nineties, and to expect Weezer’s music to have the same anxiety about it is to ask them to start insincerely writing faux-sentimental songs which would have nowhere near the same impact that Pinkerton did. Shouldn’t we be glad that Cuomo isn’t doing for self-loathing what Adele is doing for self-pity? Instead he’s matured, and moved on.
The Red Album was packed with songs that celebrated a sense of comfort in one’s own skin; something that had been completely absent from the band’s early work. And the truly great thing is that even with this new-found confidence in the content of their music, Cuomo has not at any point attempted a ‘cool rock frontman’ persona. He has never lost touch with what makes Weezer, Weezer: an effortless, eccentric individuality. Look at this performance of ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’ to see what I mean:[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDFjhmPlayg]
‘Thank God for Girls’ is the weirdness of Weezer in its most concentrated form. In a sense it’s the most authentically Weezer song since ‘El Scorcho’.
We know Weezer are aware that they don’t fit in with the trends of popular music, and they told us as such with ‘Pork and Beans’. Now they’re done telling us, and they’re back to showing us. They’re a band whose career has seen a tremendous amount of output, much of it dealing with heavily emotional subject matter, and who now, at last, seem content to mess around and focus on subversion. ‘Thank God for Girls’ is a foray into the meta-modern, and a pretty catchy track to boot. Few will remember it, and that’s why it works.
Are you a fan of Weezer? What do you think of the new track? Let us know in the comments below!