If nothing else, I really have to hand it to Weezer for how much they’ve tightened up their timeline when it comes to doing something positive and entertaining and then ultimately shitting all over any goodwill that they had generated. It took a fair number of years of releasing fair-to-terrible albums before they had completely squandered and sullied the legacy of their unimpeachable 1990s releases. More recently, it took them only a year to follow-up 2016’s improbably decent White Album with Pacific Daydream, possibly their worst release to date (the forthcoming and surely abysmal Black Album notwithstanding).
It is a heroic display of cynical artistic bankruptcy, then, that sees the band taking just under nine months to obliterate their most recent (and vaguely inconsequential) foray into actually executing something that might make someone think, “Oh. Haha. Okay. Funny, I guess.”
Weezer scored a surprise hit in 2018 by releasing a track based on a joke-y request from a fan account on Twitter that went viral. Their cover of “Africa” by Toto wound up being their biggest hit in years. Now, let’s not kid ourselves. The fact that this cover happened is what makes this cover good. The cover itself is completely uninspired and unnecessary. It is the fact that a major rock act would take the time to assemble a very earnest recording at the prompting of a pretty ridiculous and hilarious Twitter account is the reason that this got as much attention as it did (for good reason).
What Weezer took from the whole episode, presumably, is that people loved the “Africa” cover because it was awesome and that they could make 9x as much money if they released an entire album of the goddamned things. So here we are. We have The Teal Album to deal with now, for god’s sake. Yikes.
I’m going to rate these songs on a variable scale where their original version is a 10, and the cover version will receive a score within that scale of 10. Because we’ll agree that there’s no chance that any of these could possibly be better than the original, correct?
I suppose that it is appropriate that Teal kicks off with “Africa”, the tune that got us into this whole mess. It’s how you remember it. And by that I mean it’s how you remember it from the 1980s, because Weezer does almost not a goddamned thing different with it. The chorus is slightly more rocked-up than the original, but the difference is slight. This was fine for a giggle when it was released in response to the Twitter account, but as a part of a larger collection it feels immediately grating.
Weird Al is in the video, parodying Rivers Cuomo in a video that appears to be a parody of Weezer’s 1994 video for “Undone: The Sweater Song”. It’s pretty difficult to see Al in this video without thinking about the fact that he’s an artist who puts genuine creativity and artfulness into generating what is essentially novelty content. His presence actually just accentuates the fact that Weezer’s cover of “Africa” is only novel in that it exists. There’s no comment or perspective or wit involved… it just is. I guess.
“Africa” feels super flat, but is still slightly amusing if you remember that it’s basically just a response to a meme. The chorus works reasonably well with Cuomo’s voice. The verses are pretty cringe-y, though. The instrumentation is admirably faithful for the most part, but I’m not sure that we should just be awarding points to people who are basically just tracing things.
Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Again, this cover is ridiculously faithful to the original in terms of its instrumentation. It’s clear that the amount of time spent searching for accurate sounding keyboard patches far outweighed the amount of time anyone spent saying “Do you think this album is actually a good idea?”
This… this is just awful.
I would like to give this a 1/10, but then I would have nowhere further down to go for the next song, which is actually much worse.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
A few things about this:
1) Your friends could do something roughly as good as this by recording themselves into the tape deck on a mid-90s home karaoke machine.
2) This is one of the only times where I’d begrudgingly say that the creative instincts of Marilyn Manson were on point and much better than someone else’s.
3) Wow, is this performance ever embarrassing.
I can’t imagine things getting much worse than this.
Take On Me
If I wanted to listen to a shitty (read: great) version of “Take On Me”, I would just put on Reel Big Fish’s version because at least it is ska and stupid with horns and dumb irreverence. Weezer’s take on this (perfect) song sounds like it was paid for by an ad company to pay lower royalty fees for using the song in a commercial or something. This is so pointless!
You can really catch the pitch correction on this one, if you listen closely. Good stuff.
I love this song, but this cover is the pits. It gets reasonably rocked-up in the chorus and it sounds like they’re finally letting Pat Wilson actually hit his drums a little, but this is still pretty weak sauce. Hearing Rivers sing these verses sounds patently creepy.
This doesn’t rock, but it’s rock-adjacent compared to some of this other shit.
Luckily, we get a break from Rivers singing on this one. He has been replaced on this track by one of the other guys, which is initially a relief until you listen to it for more than a few seconds. Ozzy’s voice isn’t the best, but he deserves better than this. I don’t even actually really even like this song, but this cover still makes me kinda mad.
You would walk out of a dive bar if the band there did a cover that sounded this bad.
Mr. Blue Sky
Apparently this is an ELO song, but I’m not familiar with it. As such, I must recuse myself from grading this song. I think it sounds like shit, but for all I know this cover is way better than the original (not likely). You’re on your own with this one.
Although this traffics in the very tired arena of “White guys cover hip hop/R&B hits”, it finally sounds like these jerks are just goofing off. It doesn’t sound any less icky, but it’s definitely creeping more towards irreverence, which makes it harder to be disgusted and easier to just say “it’s great that I never have to listen to this again in my life”. The guitar tone on the bridge section is actually kind of cool.
It’s pretty dumb that this exists.
We were taught years ago that a bunch of white rocker dudes probably shouldn’t be allowed to cover songs from Michael Jackson’s glory years. It actually still sounds like Weezer is “having fun” with this one, but I think it sounded like Alien Ant Farm were having “more fun” with their cover of “Smooth Criminal”. Also, at least they had the excuse of “we would like to be rich, please”. Weezer is already rich and they have no excuse for this.
Someone should get punched in the mouth for this.
Stand By Me
This is the worst cover on the record and I don’t even want to write about it. It’s just terrible.
This makes everything else seem like a really well-executed great idea.
The Teal Album is an absolute disaster and I cannot believe that this has been released to the public. While covers albums are generally a bad idea, it is rare that a covers album gets released that makes Guns ‘N Roses’ The Spaghetti Incident? look interesting and competent. At least that album totally feels like the coked-out nightmare that I’m sure it was to record.
Actually, competence is perhaps the most infuriating factor here. These covers are competent almost without exception. They’re all so faithfully performed and sonically similar to the original versions that I can’t fathom why anyone would ever choose to listen to this album. Has anyone ever sat around thinking to themselves “Yeah, Annie Lennox is pretty good, but I would love to hear this song sung by Rivers Cuomo?”
If Weezer had brought a little more creativity to the table these recordings might stand up in their own right. As it is, The Teal Album is the definition of inessential and represents a new nadir (yet again) for their career. It’s just awful!