Fall Out Boy’s ‘Mania’ proves good things take time
Pete Wentz views “Mania,” the album Fall Out Boy released in January, as an album that is designed to meet the litmus test for the latest shift in the way people consume music.
“We’re at a different place, I think the way people listen to music, there’s no room for like throwaway songs,” the Fall Out Boy bassist-lyricist observed in a recent phone interview. “There’s no room for album tracks that don’t matter to people. It’s either got to be a single that reacts with people or a song that just matters, that just cuts through and matters to people, because why else would people put it on a playlist or listen to it over and over again? I think that, I mean, it’s an interesting time for making music right now.”
Back to the drawing board
“Mania,” an album that was originally going to be released in September to coincide with Fall Out Boy’s fall 2017 arena tour, was pushed back after Wentz and Patrick Stump, his songwriting counterpart and singer-guitarist in the band, realized the album that was nearing completion wouldn’t pass the playlist test with them - or their audience.
“We got to the point where a group of songs ... I’m going to put it out there, they were not bad. They were just kind of like mediocre to me,” Wentz said. “I think we both kind of came to that realization at the same time.”
So Fall Out Boy went back to the drawing board, and in the end, made what is, for the most part, a new version of the “Mania” album.
“We maybe kept the skeleton of a couple of (other) songs, but the only songs we kept were the ones that were out already (as singles). ‘Champion,’ ‘Young and Menace’ we kept,” Wentz revealed. “Then we went in and the next song we recorded was ‘The Last of the Real Ones.’
“We did that with this guy, Illangelo (known for his work with the Weeknd),” Wentz said, noting that the tune grew out of an opening piano line Illangelo had. “He played us this piano part, which was all he really had for this tune, and we were like ‘Oh, there’s something special (here)’ and something we thought we could turn into something. That’s how ‘Last of the Real Ones’ happened, and that kind of like spawned the rest of the songs.”
“The Last of the Real Ones” was the third single to be released from “Mania,” and it reached No. 5 on “Billboard” magazine’s Hot Rock Songs chart. A fourth single, “Hold Me Tight or Don’t,” peaked at No. 7 on that same chart, matching the chart performance of “Young and Menace.” The album itself debuted at No. 1 on “Billboard’s” Top 200 album chart. Asked to describe how “Mania” compares to Fall Out Boy’s previous two albums, “Save Rock and Roll” and “American Beauty/American Psycho,” Wentz said “Mania” represents a new musical phase for Fall Out Boy.
″ ‘Save Rock and Roll’ and ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ were very similar albums. They were similar lyrically perspective wise. They were just so back to back, like their album cycles were almost one album cycle,” Wentz said. “I think that ‘Young and Menace’ (which has a distinct EDM influence with its rhythms and “chipmunk” vocal effects) is a (significant) departure, and ‘Champion’ is not much of a departure at all. ... I think that they’re kind of like bookends.”
“Save Rock and Roll,” “American Beauty/American Psycho” and “Mania” form the start of a second career, in a sense, for the Chicago-based band.
The first part featured a quick rise to the front ranks of modern rock when the group’s 2005 major label debut, “From Under the Cork Tree,” took off behind the hits “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” and “Dance, Dance” and sold 2.5 million copies. The band’s 2007 follow-up, “Infinity on High,” was another hit, but after more adventurous 2008 album, “Folie a Deux,” the group went on an open-ended hiatus.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Wentz reached out to Stump and a full Fall Out Boy reunion took hold. In coming back together, Wentz, Stump and their bandmates, drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman, agreed they wanted to try to maintain their popularity and presence on pop radio.
One challenge faced by the group was that pop music was changing by the time work began on “Save Rock and Roll.” The kind of high-energy guitar-driven pop-rock of songs like “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” and “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” was no longer in vogue on pop radio. Music had gone synthetic, and guitars were virtually absent in hit songs.
So Fall Out Boy remade their sound. On “Save Rock & Roll,” “American Beauty/American Psycho” and now “Mania,” Stump’s hooky vocal melodies and soul-infused singing still carried many of the songs, but a more synthy/electronic sound emerged, with guitars used more as a textural element in the music.
The new instrumental/sonic mix has also affected Fall Out Boy’s live show. But Wentz said replicating the newer songs live hasn’t been that difficult.
“There are just a lot of ways to accomplish what we created in a way that’s authentic to us and feels interesting live,” he said. “So we approach it a little bit differently than we did some of our other (earlier) songs live.”