10 Best Weezer Songs
When Weezer‘s debut album came out in 1994, nobody expected the Los Angeles band to change the way an entire branch of alt-rock sounded. By the end of the decade, a devoted cluster of fans had picked up guitars and started their own bands that adopted Weezer’s fuzzy classic rock-inspired riffs and frontman Rivers Cuomo’s nerdy-but-sincere pop songs about being nerdy and sincere. Their debut album made them MTV stars, their sophomore album bombed and their comeback in 2001 ranks as one of modern music’s most remarkable second lives. And through it all, they’ve been surprisingly consistent, as our list of the 10 Best Weezer Songs proves.
‘Say It Ain’t So’
The third single from Weezer’s self-titled debut album just missed the Top 50, but it’s one of the bands most popular songs. ‘Say It Ain’t So’ builds over four minutes to one of Cuomo’s most celebrated guitar solos, which helped shape an entire genre of alt-rock over the next decade. The song’s slow-churning riff isn’t bad either.
The first single from the band’s fifth album picks an easy target. After all, is there anything more vapid and disposable than celebrity culture? But Cuomo and Weezer deliver it with such enthusiastic glee, you start to think that maybe they’re not poking fun at this lifestyle and maybe, just maybe, they’re secretly yearning for it. But we know better.
‘Pork and Beans’
The first single from the band’s third self-titled LP (better known as ‘The Red Album’) takes a swipe at Weezer’s record company, which asked the group for more hits. Whether or not Cuomo planned it, ‘Pork and Beans’ turned out to be one of Weezer’s biggest songs, a No. 1 modern-rock hit that also made it to No. 64 on the pop chart.
‘Island in the Sun’
After their second album, 1996’s ‘Pinkerton,’ bombed, it looked like Weezer would be going the way of Seven Mary Three. Then, out of nowhere, they returned in 2001 with ‘The Green Album,’ a solid set of songs fueled by a pair of terrific singles, ‘Hash Pipe’ (see No. 5 on our list of the 10 Best Weezer Songs) and this one, a smooth-sailing pop song about taking it easy.
The opening track (and first single) from the band’s most recent album features one of Cuomo’s biggest hooks. It’s also one of Weezer’s most nostalgic cuts, a fond look back at alternative rock’s heyday — “playing Hacky Sack when Audioslave was still Rage,” sings Cuomo — and simpler times. “I want to be there again,” he says, without a trace of irony or sarcasm. They earned this one.
Weezer’s 2001 comeback (see No. 7 on our list of the 10 Best Weezer Songs) was spearheaded by this first single, a riff-driven rocker that became one of the band’s biggest modern-rock hits, even though its lyrics (and title) caused a few problems for more conservative-minded radio stations across the planet.
‘Undone — The Sweater Song’
Weezer’s debut single and breakthrough hit set the template for the next 15-plus years: soft, underplayed verses interrupted by chunky, hook-stuffed choruses. ‘Undone — The Sweater Song’ also signaled Cuomo as one of ’90s alt-rock’s most influential songwriters, a sharp lyricist who could make even the most mundane subjects bustle with new energy.
‘My Name Is Jonas’
Unlike all of the other tracks on our list of the 10 Best Weezer Songs, ‘My Name Is Jonas’ wasn’t released as a single. Still, the opening cut on the band’s first album is one of their best, and best-loved, songs. It’s also one of the very few Weezer numbers credited to other band members. But make no mistake: ‘My Name Is Jonas’ is pure Cuomo.
Following the surprise success of their self-titled debut album in 1994, Weezer returned two years later with ‘Pinkerton,’ a complex, and somewhat perplexing, concept record about rock-star disillusionment as seen from Cuomo’s increasingly fractured mind. The album tanked and was seen as a failure, sending Cuomo out of the music business for five years. ‘Pinkerton’ is now considered Weezer’s masterpiece, and ‘El Scorcho,’ the LP’s lead single, is its loosely played highlight.
The success of Weezer’s big mainstream hit (it climbed to No. 18 on the pop chart, an all-time high, and No. 2 on modern rock) had as much to do with the song’s killer hook as it did with its hilarious, groundbreaking video. Directed by Spike Jonze, the video features the band interacting with vintage clips from the ’70s TV show ‘Happy Days’ as Cuomo sings one of his most endearing cuts, a love song about a pair of harmless nerds. Wonder where he found the inspiration?