Conventional wisdom and one inspired Saturday Night Live sketch hold that there are two kinds of Weezer fans. In one corner, you have the ride-or-diehards who have stuck with the Los Angeles pop-rock titans through thick and thin, keeping the faith no matter how far Rivers Cuomo and his merry posse stray from the sound that made them famous. In the opposite corner, you have the folks who would prefer to pretend that Weezer stopped making music altogether around the turn of the millennium. In other words: Are you a Matt Damon or are you a Leslie Jones? Do you think Van Weezer is actually pretty rocking, or did you sign that petition that made the rounds a few years ago, the kickstarted attempt to get Weezer to break up before another “Beverly Hills” put a final nail in the coffin of its legacy?
As attractive as this binary may be to those who actually do identify as one or the other, the truth is that there’s a lot of grey area between lifelong loyalist and recovering fanatic. This band has been making music for about 30 years now. Over that time, they’ve won and lost plenty of fans, won some back and lost some again. For every listener that jumped ship after Make Believe or Hurley, there’s another who grew up on “Pork And Beans,” then subsequently made their way forward and backwards through the discography. Weezer fans are not a monolith. They’re an ever-changing mass that spans generations and tastes and personal breaking points.
To go about the herculean, foolhardy task of ranking the entire Weezer songbook, it helps to possess a more… measured perspective on the band’s ongoing career. No one wants to read 15,000 words that amount to, “Here are 30 good songs and here are 170 that suck.” For that matter, there wouldn’t be much point in an article that fails to see the rather vast chasm separating the highs of Pinkerton from the lows of Raditude. The ranking beyond this preamble was made by a fan who’s neither fair-weather nor reliably in the tank. It both reflects and breaks from the popular consensus: Yes, you’ll find a lot of the expected favorites in the top 20, but you’ll also find defenses of songs a relapsed, resentful Weezeroid would surely dismiss. (You’ll also find lots of facts and trivia pulled from the fine folks who run the Weezerpedia, a great resource for anyone seeking a deep dive into this band’s history.)
With a project of this scope, some parameters were necessary. Most significantly, we disqualified covers—yes, even late radio hit “Africa,” as well as its fellow Teal Album selections. After all, Weezer tends to go rather dully faithful when tackling another artist’s song; how many different ways could we write, “This sounds like the original, only a little louder”? Also excluded from the master list are all live tracks, remixes, and demos. And a song had to be commercially released to make the cut, which meant we spared ourselves a wade through the vast ocean of music Weezer has only played on stage or released exclusively to fan forums. The toughest omission was the Cuomo solo material from his Alone compilation series—an interesting and invaluable stockpile of almost-Weezer songs that includes a number that actually started as Weezer songs but failed to make it onto an album proper.
That still leaves a whopping 205 tracks, spanning from the band’s earliest days as a scrappy, lo-fi collective of twentysomething Beach Boys fans to its current prolific era of chamber-pop pandemic releases, long-delayed hair-metal costume parties, and Green Day amphitheater tours. Keep reading for our highly (a.k.a. not remotely) scientific rundown of the Weezer canon. Disagree with our rankings? Well, no offense, but burn in hell.
The charitable read on Weezer’s worst song is that it’s meant to be satirical, with Cuomo delivering songwriter Jermaine Dupri’s hedonistic club hop in a depressive monotone in order to undercut the celebratory inanity of his lyrics. Doesn’t matter: Ironic or sincere, parodic or merely self-parodic, “Can’t Stop Partying” pushes Cuomo’s corny flirtation with hip-hop to its nadir—and that’s before Lil Wayne drops in for a half-assed guest verse, spitting the immortal line, “Okay bitch, it’s Weezer and it’s Weezy.” Mortifying.
204. “Beverly Hills,” Make Believe
To this day, Weezer’s highest charting single—which makes sense, as it’s about as close to the lowest common denominator as the band has ever sunk. A lumbering monument to the pursuit of wealth and luxury, “Beverly Hills” matches its vapidity of message with a McMansion’s worth of painful musical ideas: the clumsy half-rapping of the verses, the annoying “gimme, gimme” rejoinder of the chorus, the talkbox solo of the bridge. Even louder than the caveman thud of Pat Wilson’s opening drum salvo was the sound of dyed-in-the-wool diehards stampeding for the exit, finally ready to accept that the glory days of Pinkerton weren’t coming back.
203. “Cold Dark World,” Weezer (The Red Album)
Speaking of Pinkerton, some of the best Weezer songs are a little creepy. Some of the worst, too—like this miscalculation, in which bassist Scott Shriner takes the mic for the first time to role-play as a stalker, hissing come-ons at a stranger over some alt-rock murk. Cuomo cowrote the lyrics, which read like evidence in a motion for a restraining order; hard to say if lines like “But if you need love, then I’ll be here to sex you” would just sound laughable, and not laughable and weirdly threatening, coming out of his mouth instead.
202. “We Are All On Drugs,” Make Believe
Though supposedly about an addiction to sensation, this dire second single from Make Believe (it’s somehow nearly as bad as “Beverly Hills”) comes across like the dweebiest of Reefer Madness anthems, Cuomo belting “Give me some of that stuff!” like a total narc. Again, whether the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek is kind of irrelevant, given the cruddiness of the music—including verses that, to quote the iconically scathing Pitchfork review, “nick the classic melody of the schoolyard ‘Diarrhea’ song.”
201. “Where’s My Sex?,” Hurley
Inspired by his daughter’s malapropism, ageless adolescent Rivers regresses further, with three-and-a-half minutes of tittering grade-school wordplay on the phonetic similarity between sex and sox. A juvenile throwaway, sung in an irritatingly pinched nasal.
200. “Love Is The Answer” (Hindi Version), Raditude
Indian classical singer Amrita Sen and sitar virtuoso Nishat Khan appear on the official “Hindi version” of this cloying ballad, lending it a very different vibe than anything else in the Weezer catalog… without transcending the song’s sticky, syrupy platitudes. It’s honestly a better fit for fellow ’90s sunchasers Sugar Ray, who bought it from Cuomo and stuck it on their own, earlier 2009 album, sans the Bombay flourishes.
199. “Thought I Knew,” Weezer (The Red Album)
Meanwhile, “Thought I Knew” could be a lost (and hopefully never found) B-side from frequent Sugar Ray tourmates Smash Mouth. Even guitarist Brian Bell, who wrote the song and sings lead vocals, didn’t want it included on Weezer’s sixth album. (He lost that fight, but later rerecorded a moodier version for his side project, The Relationship.)
198. “I’m A Robot,” Death To False Metal
Over a bouncy beat and upbeat guitar, Cuomo plays the role of a dead-eyed wage slave, wasting his days in a cubicle and his nights in the gutter. Utterly expendable, even in comparison to the other previously unreleased tracks assembled for the cutting-room-floor compilation Death To False Metal.
197. “The Girl Got Hot,” Raditude
About as Man Show as alt-rock’s veteran betas get, awooga-ing over a former high school classmate who aged like fine wine. The big, dopey whoa-oh-oh-ohs wouldn’t sound out of place—or, okay, entirely undesirable—piping out of the speakers of a ballpark.
196. “Everybody Get Dangerous,” Weezer (The Red Album)
“Dangerous” is pretty much the last word you’d use to describe most Weezer songs. That goes, too, for Cuomo’s attempt to immortalize his salad days of youthful transgression, tomfoolery, and property damage. His parents might cringe at his ancient, mostly tame exploits; everyone else will at the first “booyah!” of the chorus, before reaching for the skip button.
195. “Blue Dream,” Van Weezer
While most of the recent Van Weezer borrows just a general style from the heavy metal of the 1980s, “Blue Dream” goes right ahead and samples the timeless opening to “Crazy Train.” The result is like the wimpiest Ozzy cover imaginable, courting unflattering comparisons by building a forgettable rock song around one of the most memorable riffs of all time.
A bonus track on an album of outtakes is sort of the definition of inessential, and the self-pitying, thankfully short “Outta Here” lives down to such expectations. Like Cuomo, moaning the title over a whiny chorus, you’ll want out of here, too.
193. “I’m Your Daddy,” Raditude
As “Where’s My Sex?” proved, Cuomo has a disconcerting habit of mining his experiences as a father for unrelated and weirdly horny lyrical material. With this peppy folly, he repurposes something comforting he said to his daughter into a pickup line for a woman at the club with “the brains, the body, and the beauty.” However sweet the origins of the song, under no circumstances should Rivers Cuomo ever sing the words “I’m your daddy.”
192. “Pardon Me,” Make Believe
Then again, when it comes to Weezer lyrics, maybe icky is preferable to totally anonymous. Has Rivers ever expressed a broader, less specific sentiment than “I apologize to you, and to anyone else that I hurt too”? Somehow, Make Believe’s polished production only serves to emphasize the emptiness of this blanket plea for forgiveness.
191. “The Odd Couple,” Death To False Metal
A cutesy valentine to opposites attracting, full of groaners like, “I got a PC, you got a Mac, I’m giving you flack for your AirPort.” No great mystery why this didn’t make the track list for an official record, even one as scattered as The Red Album.
190. “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” Weezer (The Black Album)
Oh, but we can! Points begrudgingly bestowed for trying something different: With its mariachi hook, funk-rock rhythm, and falsetto backing vocals, Weezer’s take on the gig economy (with lines that could easily refer to the grind of the music industry, too) paves eccentric new ground for the band. Which is not to say it’s good: “Hustle” is as obnoxiously insistent as a ringtone, and gets stuck in your head like a jingle playing on repeat in the back of a cab.
189. “Autopilot,” Death To False Metal
There’s no going for the easy joke here, as this dabble in robotic, Auto-Tuned new wave—foreshadowing a fuller flirtation with the genre on the later Black Album—hardly finds Weezer going through the motions. It’s more of a curious misfire, with a verse about studying dog shit under a microscope. No, really.
188. “Losing My Mind,” Death To False Metal
Cuomo is obsessed to a fault with the rules of pop songwriting, which makes “Losing My Mind” an odd outlier, at least lyrically: The song takes an almost stream-of-consciousness approach, as the frontman talks through an aimless night on the town, sometimes not even bothering to find a rhyme or a word that fits the melody. It goes nowhere slowly, but there’s at least some novelty in hearing this slave to structure just spill his thoughts.
187. “Get Me Some,” Raditude B-side
“Right now, everything sucks,” goes the first line. On that, Rivers, we can agree.
186. “My Best Friend,” Make Believe
The Shrek 2 soundtrack passed on this unabashedly earnest love song. Really, it’s hard to think of any movie devoid enough of cynicism to house it; Paddington himself might gag at such gooey declarations of affection. At least it’s short as well as (sickeningly) sweet, riding a sustained smear of Crayola guitar to Cuomo’s cornball effusive chorus.
185. “Blowin’ My Stack,” Death To False Metal
Setting aside a brief, bracing screaming jag before the final run of the chorus, “Blowin’ My Stack” is another unexceptional leftover—and, like “I’m A Robot,” further weird speculation on the wealthy Cuomo’s part about how the other half lives, paycheck to paycheck.
Originally performed by the band (in bug costumes!) on Yo Gabba Gabba!, this 90-second taxonomy of multi-legged companions is very much a song intended entirely for young children. That it’s tolerable enough not to drive parents completely mad on repeat listens is a plus—and also proof that Weezer, with its brightly innocuous sound and aesthetic, could rather easily transition into a career making music for the preschool set.
183. “Represent” (Rocked Out Mix), Hurley B-side
Lifetime soccer fanatic Rivers Cuomo pens a chunky, fist-pumping unofficial theme for the U.S. Men’s team. Might kill in a locker room or stadium. Everywhere else, not so much.
182. “Back To The Shack,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Announces itself as a mea culpa from the very start, with the bluesiness of the opening lick and an explicit apology for daring to fuck with “disco,” chase new listeners, and swap instruments over the previous few albums. But no one would confuse this simplistic, perfunctory lead single for classic Weezer; its references to a lightning strap and dismissal of “stupid singing shows” feel like pandering sops to the fanbase, not a reclamation of O.G. values.
181. “It’s Been So Long,” fan-club single
Kicking off, for some reason, with the gibberish countdown from “Rock Of Ages,” this so-so fan-club single collects old interests like items for a scrapbook, name-checking Donkey Kong and the Smashing Pumpkins, before baiting the similarly nostalgic with a “Let’s do it again!” The song itself is not so likely to inspire any wistfulness.
180. “Troublemaker,” Weezer (The Red Album)
One of a couple tracks added to The Red Album to appease label execs who feared that it didn’t have enough fast, fun potential singles, “Troublemaker” is maddeningly repetitive boilerplate—which is to say, exactly what the suits were looking for. As the record’s opening track, it at least marks a noncommittal return to “personal” songwriting—some Bart Simpsonian reflections on Cuomo’s childhood—after the very impersonal Make Believe.
179. “Screens,” OK Human
Songs bitching about our addiction to gadgets are almost always tedious, and “Screens” is no different, even with the technological anxiety cased in OK Human’s hummable, new-sound chamber pop.
Weezer’s most recent release, briefly considered for Van Weezer but eventually featured instead on the video game Wave Break, is also their latest sneering dismissal of their critics, with Cuomo taking potshots at the “dorks” from Pitchfork and facetiously promising to fulfill detractors’ expectations. The best revenge, of course, would be a better song, though the way that monster riff erupts out of the acoustic intro is pretty cool.
177. “1 More Hit,” Van Weezer
Another dorky drug song, or is Cuomo actually pleading for a “hit” of the Billboard variety? Either way, this isn’t Van Weezer’s strongest flashback to the Headbangers Ball years. Still, hard not to smile at the W (briefly) doing their best imitation of “Heart Songs” favorite Slayer.
176. “Beach Boys,” Pacific Dream
If thrash metal has always seemed like an unlikely inspiration for the Weezer sound, there’s never been any doubt that Cuomo and company take cues from Brian Wilson. Curiously, this literal expression of superfandom is much less resonant than the songs they’ve cut that implicitly convey that influence; pick at random anything from the first few Weezer records and there’s a good chance it will function as a better Beach Boys tribute.
175. “The Spider,” Weezer (The Red Album) B-side
What’s with Cuomo and ballads about arachnids? Like an unofficial sequel to Make Believe’s “Freak Me Out,” this downbeat number uses the plight of a drenched spider as a metaphor for… a doomed relationship? Our own fleeting mortality? Bell’s loud digital bath threatens to drown the acoustic plink and gossamer vocals; it’s pretty but also as drippy as the rain running down a waterspout, washing a certain itsy bitsy crawler out.
The rare Weezer song from the Green era that doesn’t go down as smooth as a wine cooler. Grating verses and a largely unmemorable chorus make this the most understandably omitted of the album’s numerous B-sides.
173. “Living In L.A.,” Weezer (The Black Album)
The cover of The Black Album shows the whole band covered in a satiny slick substance, unrecognizable underneath. It’s the perfect accompanying image to the record’s fourth track, which buries the Weezer sound in a thick coat of charmless silicone pop. To succinctly paraphrase Cuomo’s ignorable words: This song we don’t like.
172. “In The Mall,” Raditude
Sort of the anti-“In The Garage”: Whereas that glorious Blue Album standout found a moving museum of personal fixations in its title space, this Raditude selection celebrates… taking the elevator to the escalator. The redeeming facet is Patrick Wilson’s beefy guitar riff, chugging endlessly under the banal observations; that, at least, sounds like it could have come from the garage instead of the food court near the Macy’s.
171. “I Don’t Want Your Loving,” Death To False Metal
Starts like a Nirvana song but quickly becomes Weezer’s “Fit But You Know It”: a preemptive refusal to take a number and fall into a bombshell’s long line of admirers. In Mike Skinner parlance, it’s a five, maybe a five-and-a-half in four beers time.
Before he replaced bassist Mikey Welsh in Weezer, Scott Shriner played in Vanilla Ice’s touring band during the rapper’s brief nü-metal phase. A little of that gig’s attitude peeks through in the chest-puffing braggadocio of this Red Album also-ran, which finds Shriner returning to vocal duty to lob Cuomo-penned threats at a dance-floor romantic rival. Kind of fun, if you get into the Neanderthal spirit of the song and vibe with its antagonism, which balloons out from some steady strumming and the ominous rumble of Shriner’s bass.
169. “The Underdogs,” Raditude B-side
More surprising than the fact that it took Weezer over a decade to cut a song called “The Underdogs” is that said song, a piano-driven number penned with Kazuhiro Hara, isn’t very rousing. Decent chorus, though.
168. “Everything Happens For A Reason,” OK Human
167. “Here Comes The Rain,” OK Human
Fanfared with 20 seconds of pan flute (the instrumental interlude “Everything Happens For A Reason”), “Here Comes The Rain” is the most blandly chipper of OK Human’s experiments in redefining the Weezer sound. Its sequencing towards the end of the album doesn’t help; by that point, you’re jonesing for some damn guitar again.
166. “Turning Up The Radio,” Death To False Metal
In 2008, Cuomo took to Myspace and YouTube to invite fans to write a song with him. The resulting collaboration sounds like… a mediocre mid-period Weezer song, which is proof either that the frontman’s 17 credited co-writers have internalized his tricks or that he smoothed out their crowdsourced contributions. Regardless, this would be more likable if its love letter to FM didn’t amount to Cuomo just reading off a list of genres.
165. “Eulogy For A Rock Band,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Which venerated Weezer forebearer is being eulogized on “Eulogy For A Rock Band”?” While early, live performances of the song purportedly contained lines from Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter (!), Cuomo has insisted that it’s actually about a living legend, leading some to wonder if that could be Brian Wilson. Ultimately, such speculation is more interesting than the song itself, a straightforward rock tune with a sprinkling of misty-eyed hero worship.
164. “The Damage In Your Heart,” Make Believe
Rick Rubin’s crisp production is one of the numerous aspects of Make Believe that fans bemoan, but it actually benefits a few of the songs—including this one, a generic lament for lost love marginally improved by its melancholic sheen. Nice opening riff, too.
163. “Happy Hour,” Pacific Daydream
Rubin isn’t the only big name producer Weezer has enlisted. The band has also worked a few times with Butch Walker, who was surely instrumental in crafting the laidback, shiny sound (e.g. the chipmunk echo) of this Pacific Daydream single. An inoffensive lark that probably plays best on half-volume at a sports bar on Friday afternoons.
162. “Heart Songs,” Weezer (The Red Album)
Post-Pinkerton, Weezer getting “personal” usually just means Cuomo singing about other artists he likes. On “Heart Songs,” he lays out an backstory for the band, disclosing his whole musical education over some delicate acoustic guitar and violin. There’s no doubting his sincerity, but is a sleepy, treacly ballad really the best way to honor name-checked artists as varied in style as Devo, Michael Jackson, and Iron Maiden?
161. “Da Vinci,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
The whistling intro teases a more classically idiosyncratic song than “Da Vinci” ultimately becomes; its offbeat qualities melt into a general blast of undistinguished Weez, making this a back-to-basics exercise rather than an “El Scorcho”-ian return to form.
160. “Smart Girls,” Hurley
Cuomo does “Mambo No. 5” again, trading his little black book of “Tired Of Sex” conquests for a new roll call of intelligent women he covets. Suppose that counts as some form of emotional growth (at least he’s praising their braininess), though if cheery, disposable power pop in lieu of Pinkerton’s discordance is the tradeoff, maybe maturity really is overrated.
159. “California Snow,” Weezer (The Black Album)
As usual, the stabs at rapping are awfully goofy, Cuomo delusionally insisting that his trend-chasing bars constitute “the definition of flow.” But “California Snow,” which Weezer rolled out via a billboard and website promoting the 2018 movie Spell (featuring a voice cameo by the singer), has its maximalist pop charms, including the sparkling flood of keys and synth at the start, and the woozy, turn-up-the-speakers chorus.
158. “I’ve Had It Up To Here,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
This one’s interesting exclusively for its metatexual musings—it’s about as directly as Cuomo has addressed career anxieties, sharing fears about his personality being sanded down for mass appeal, an inability to please demanding listeners, and maybe even his own come-and-go preoccupation with crossover success. Musically, it’s not as knotty, though the song’s cooing-then operatic kiss-off of a breakdown is a fine touch.
157. “Let It All Hang Out,” Raditude
With “Let It All Hang Out,” Weezer clearly set out to make a convertible-top-down anthem for knuckleheads rolling into the weekend. Mission accomplished with proudly stupid gusto and a backup choir of squealing hype girls on the tail end of the chorus.
156. “Grapes Of Wrath,” OK Human
Concerningly close to an advertisement for Audible, and with lyrics that read like they’re transcribed directly from a high school English-lit syllabus. The orchestral pop surrounding the words is lustrous—consider “Grapes Of Wrath” a bad novel beautifully bound.
155. “Prom Night,” Weezer (The White Album) B-side
One of those Weezer songs that just doesn’t quite click, even though there’s nothing objectionable about its components. Maybe it’s the name: Shouldn’t a song called “Prom Night” from this band be a bigger slice of fervently fermented adolescent cheese?
154. “She Needs Me,” Van Weezer
Briefly, excitingly promises a full-blown hair-metal ballad, before disappointingly picking up the tempo. Maybe they’re saving their “Sister Christian” for Van Weezer II.
153. “Freak Me Out,” Make Believe
Though inspired by Cuomo’s alarmed encounter with a spider, the plinking “Freak Me Out” is as soothing as an Ambien—and, in its drowsy way, much more sonically innovative than anything else on the personality-starved Make Believe.
152. “Cleopatra,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
“Freak Me Out” reintroduced harmonica to the band’s toolbox. This jangly EWBAITE track also makes good use of the instrument, helping it push past some of the usual trappings of the band’s tried-and-true approach, even as Cuomo’s denouncement of a controlling beauty from his past keeps it firmly in the Weezer wheelhouse.
151. “Trampoline,” Death To False Metal
In which these unabashed Cobain enthusiasts finally pay direct tribute, sneaking the famous, unmistakable opening chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into the bridge. Thankfully, the whole song is more or less in the Nirvana spirit, too, which helps “Trampoline” avoid sounding like dire scavenging, à la the later “Blue Dream.”
Cuomo reconfigures Billy Joel’s “Leningrad” into a pity party for one. More of a plantitive fragment than a full song, it’s of interest mostly for how it breaks from the Green Album in its minimalism while still reflecting that record’s mechanical songwriting schema, i.e. the way the guitar on the bridge repeats the vocal melody of the verses.
149. “Unspoken,” Hurley
Only deceptively placid. On “Unspoken,” the sunniness of Cuomo’s singing belies the storm brewing in his lyrics, which comes bursting out in the electric fireworks of the finale: an anxious resentment about changing his lifestyle after getting married.
148. “The Prince Who Wanted Everything,” Weezer (The Black Album)
No ambiguity about the subject of this eulogy: The prince of the title is the Prince. It’s a rather innocuous salute to such an adventurous artist (songwriter Brian Bell ended up regretting the glammy pop arrangement), but also plenty easy on the ears.
147. “Haunt You Every Day,” Make Believe
The first song Cuomo ever wrote entirely on piano (supposedly at Rick Rubin’s suggestion), “Haunt You Every Day” ends Make Believe on a note of maudlin melodrama that hits harder on stage than it does on record. One album later, Weezer would refine and maybe perfect this form of album-closing, super-sized sadsackery.
146. “Pork And Beans,” Weezer (The Red Album)
Informed by Geffen reps that their latest record lacked a suitable single, a furious Cuomo swiftly obliged. “Pork And Beans,” with its galumphing bass line and pained yelps, isn’t as dumb as it sounds; its lyrics, about chasing chart-toppers and trying to appeal to the kids, are amusingly petty—especially with the knowledge that Cuomo supposedly quoted some of the complaining execs directly. Not that they had much to complain about afterwards: The song would go on to become one of Weezer’s biggest hits. With apologies to SNL Matt Damon, it is not better than “Buddy Holly.”
145. “It’s Always Summer In Bikini Bottom,” The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
From the giant, grinning Bryan Adams-style riff that kicks the song off, it’s clear that Weezer didn’t need to much alter its sound to become Nickelodeon friendly; it’s a short trek from the island in the sun to SpongeBob’s bright corner of the seafloor.
144. “Run Over By A Truck,” Raditude B-side
At first, the quasi-ragtime piano suggests nothing more than a cheeky novelty song. But “Run Over By A Truck” finds its jaunty sweet spot, especially once the thumping chorus arrives. Could only have improved the album it supplements.
143. “Zombie Bastards,” Weezer (The Black Album)
Are the zombie bastards anyone demanding that Cuomo return to the dark emotional space of his Pinkerton days? That’s one popular reading of a song that mixes autobiographical hints with “blah blah blah” filler. It’s more sonically than lyrically satisfying, owed to its clean guitar tones, sound-effect quirks, and audio clips (including a choice Vincent Price cameo).
142, “Hold Me,” Make Believe
Like most of Make Believe, “Hold Me” is fairly faceless. But it’s also kind of stirring in its polished, big-screen sentimentality—a stadium-scaled power ballad that earns the glowing lighters fans wouldn’t raise for it.
141. “Memories,” Hurley
Turns out fans aren’t the only ones who have pined for the Blue Album days. On Hurley’s blaringly nostalgic lead single, the guys openly yearn for a return to that period in their lives, without indulging anyone’s desire for music that bears any resemblance to what they were making back then. Diehards tend to despise this rapscallion remembrance of “pissing in cups” and fucking with rock journalists, but we’re more mixed: The jet-engine chorus somehow gets less objectionable on repeat spins, and it’s fun to hear the normally buttoned-up Cuomo scream his bloody head off.
140. “Lonely Girl,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
The boys could toss out this sort of energetic ear candy in their sleep, but that doesn’t detract from the tastiness. That “Lonely Girl” is rumored to have been written during the Green cycle makes a lot of sense; it would fit in fine at the bottom of that bag of skittles.
139. “Sheila Can Do It,” Van Weezer
Reaching even further into the vaults, Cuomo dusts off a tune he wrote during the Pinkerton era and only performed with side project Homie. Nice as it would be to have a new-old Weezer classic, the cheese metal arrangement doesn’t entirely suit its DIY virtues.
138. “Too Many Thoughts In My Head,” Weezer (The Black Album)
Yet another song plucked from Weezer’s past: According to Cuomo, its stellar chorus dates back to the mid-’90s; it’s been reborn on The Black Album as something sleeker and dancier. The bells and whistles distract from Cuomo’s negligible lyrics (here he’s “overwhelmed by Netflix options”), but the draw is that central melody, something old made new.
“Turn Me Round,” on the other hand, merely sounds like a relic of the ’90s—Weezer first introduced it on stage during their wildly prolific early-2000s period, never finding room for it on an album. The song wouldn’t pass muster on Blue or Pinkerton, but its lo-fi, old-school, garage-rock leanings are Manna in the desert of Raditude.
136. “I Love The USA,” Weezer (The White Album) B-side
Trying to parse when Cuomo is kidding or being deadly sincere is a fool’s errand. In this case, who cares? “I Love The USA” is hilarious: a bombastic piano ballad that culminates with the singer declaring, “I love the USA” and then, in the first f-bomb of his recording career, “Fuck yeah, this place is great!” Similarities to the slow, sad version of the Team America: World Police theme are incredible and presumably accidental.
135. “Precious Metal Girl,” Van Weezer
Van Weezer’s last track is an unexpectedly quiet ending to the band’s self-conscious ramble through heavy-metal history, as if Cuomo were ripping off a costume—stripping away all the hairspray and Flying V affectation—to reveal the wallflower underneath. It’s also a romantic rewrite of “Butterfly,” reviving the acoustic prettiness of that old Weezer album closer while replacing its lacerating self-reflection with gooey heart eyes.
134. “La Brea Tar Pits,” OK Human
This year’s other Weezer album works its way to a much less stripped-down finale, with Cuomo exorcising his fears of cultural irrelevance (the tar pit being a rather potent symbol of extinction anxiety) on a stately, Harry Nilsson-indebted song that finds this old dog actually learning some new ticks. A fine punctuation for this record-long reinvention.
133. “I’m Just Being Honest,” Weezer (The Black Album)
A funny warning on the perils of being a straight shooter, whether the subject of your frankness is a significant other’s haircut or another band’s music. If the shimmering guitar is kind of Coldplayish, the bitchiness is vintage Oasis.
132. “Get Right,” Pacific Daydream
If Pacific Daydream, like The White Album before it, was plainly designed to be a summer album, “Get Right” is like that first surprisingly nippy night of the season, the one that portends the onset of autumn. Hardly a fan favorite (it sounds more like Nick Jonas than Weezer—no, seriously), but an interesting change of pace all the same.
131. “Thank God For Girls,” Weezer (The White Album)
Not the frat-boy anthem its title suggests but a playful subversion of gender politics and stereotypes. Cuomo pokes fun at male bonding rituals and flips the script to bow down to a “so big” and “so strong” woman in “sweaty overalls” who—in the song’s most evocative innuendo—stuffs a “big fat cannoli” in his mouth. Weezer has released better lead singles (and much more popular ones, go figure), but none as cheekily eager to breach listeners’ comfort zones.
130. “Feels Like Summer,” Pacific Daydream
One album later, Weezer would score big with a lead single—their biggest hit, in fact, since “Pork And Beans” nearly a decade earlier. Tricked out with lots of electronic dance embellishments, “Feels Like Summer” rides that common pop-music line between aggravating (the bratty “nah nah nahs” on which the song worrisomely commences) and infectious (the massive, delirious chorus). What it proved, in the end, was that the band could synthetically manufacture their good vibrations, without guitar providing the sunshine.
Though the artwork for this single is a spooky, wintery callback to the cover of Pinkerton, the song itself isn’t so fearsome, nor particularly reminiscent of Weezer’s masterpiece. In its confident snappiness, “Fake Smiles And Nervous Laughter” is more in keeping with The White Album, on whose deluxe edition it would eventually be packaged. That it fits in nicely with that collection of mostly excellent songs is endorsement aplenty.
128. “Dead Roses,” OK Human
Over mournful strings, we’re told a florid, atmospheric horror story of dark rooms behind locked doors, winged beasts, and someone beat until they “begged to live.” It’s almost too short, leaving you eager to hear a longer sample of this uncharacteristically gothic Weezer.
127. “Brave New World,” Hurley
No, this isn’t an adaptation of the dystopian sci-fi classic, which Cuomo has surely rocked on his Audible. By his admission, the “brave new world” here is all the available genres his bandmates are frustratingly reluctant to explore—a creative conflict that’s perhaps reflected in the song, harder-driving than the rest of Hurley, until it builds to a hopeful thesis statement: “I don’t know where we’re goin’, but I know that I’ll figure it out.”
126. “The Other Way,” Make Believe
Fans tend to regard “The Other Way” more fondly than the rest of Make Believe, perhaps because of its sobering inspiration: the suicide of singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, and Cuomo’s attempts to comfort Jennifer Chiba, whom he had dated in the ’90s and who was dating Smith at the time of his death. (“I wanted to console her, but I was confused and skeptical about my own motives for wanting to do so, so I wrote that song about that,” he later said.) Genuine soul-searching sticks out alongside soulless dreck like “Beverly Hills,” even if there’s something a little discomfiting about wedding such heavy, intimate subject matter to Cuomo’s typically immaculate way with a melody that burns itself on your brain.
125. “Bird With A Broken Wing,” OK Human
Rivers gets a little carried away with his silly avian metaphor here (what is the cat trying to devour him supposed to represent exactly?), but the music around it is lovely, one of OK Human’s most fruitful deployments of the full orchestra.
124. “Beginning Of The End,” Van Weezer
Junkie for applause that he is, Cuomo supposedly conceived of Van Weezer after he noticed that the crowds at concerts lost their minds when he shredded. Doubling as a Bill & Ted soundtrack cut, “Beginning Of The End” packs several giant fucking guitar solos into its speedy three-plus minutes, keeping the party going while the words describe an impending apocalypse, for the world or just rock ’n’ rock. It plays to the cheapest of seats, and well.
123. “Oh Lisa,” Weezer (The Green Album) B-side
Weezer cut so many songs for (and from) The Green Album that you could build a whole companion album from the ones that didn’t make the final track list. “Oh Lisa,” a fizzy confection about having the hots for, yes, a girl named Lisa, could serve as one of this hypothetical twin record’s singles. It would brighten the airwaves.
122. “King Of The World,” Weezer (The White Album)
If “Thank God For Girls” found Weezer messing with the conventions of a radio single, this fellow White Album release staunchly adheres to it with a buzz of happy guitar and one of the band’s customary swing-for-the-rafters choruses. But it’s not hollow hitmaking: The song is a gift to Cuomo’s wife, trying to assuage her anxieties with a rock-music bear hug.
121. “Playing My Piano,” OK Human
Rock stars: They’re just like us. Skipping showers, dreading Zoom calls, getting absorbed in their interests to kill pandemic hours. Beyond the not-terribly-illuminating peek into Cuomo’s lockdown life, “Playing My Piano” boasts some of his most impressively tender and full-throated singing; it’s easy to picture him hunched over the keys, belting his heart out to no one.
120. “Summer Elaine And Drunk Dori,” Weezer (The White Album)
Cuomo’s favorite on The White Album, but not ours. Nevertheless, it’s an effortless crowdpleaser, blasting through a joyous chorus en route to the departure of its title characters, who make the narrator “believe in God” before vanishing with the first signs of daylight.
119. “Everyone,” Death To False Metal
Even more of a Nirvana riff than the song with a literal Nirvana riff in it. They should rip off the grunge greats more often; piss and vinegar sounds good on them.
118. “Ain’t Got Nobody,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Introduced as the first hit by a fictional band called The Astronauts, the opening track of concept record Everything Will Be Alright In The End is a boisterous shout-along with startling hidden depth. After a couple anthemic minutes, Cuomo cuts through the song’s primitive stomp with some unexpectedly raw closet cleaning: “My daddy loved me, no one could touch me, until he went up and left me lonely.” The rare late Weezer tune that’s fun and disarming.
Though it failed to secure a spot on the album proper, this exuberant excision from the Green sessions did serve as a B-side for that record’s two biggest singles; it’s a testament to its Pixy Stix pleasures that it makes for a fine digestif to either, though it’s probably best remembered by fans for providing the name for a popular Weezer songblog.
How many summer songs can one band write? This is a good one, smashing a bunch of enjoyable parts (like that high shrieking sound in the background of the verses, which relevantly suggests air escaping a balloon) into an ode to the changing seasons.
115. “I Don’t Want To Let You Go,” Raditude
Ignore the early winking reference to dreaming of happy days. “I Don’t Want To Let You Go” forgoes “Buddy Holly” flashback retread in favor of a fresh spin on a Weezer perennial: a parting bid to put lumps in throats, delivered this time over a bed of church organ and a flurry of smitten language. In Cuomo parlance, it’s a heart song, big and full.
114. “Hero,” Van Weezer
Roll your eyes, if you must, through the superhero wordplay of this Van Weezer blockbuster, but all the cape and cowl talk masks a genuinely touching confession of imposter syndrome, with Cuomo disclosing his rock-star insecurities with lines like “If silence is the voice of the new generation, then I could live up to all of your expectations.”
While most of the (numerous) Maladroit outtakes never saw official release, “Living Without You” is the exception, and for good reason: A staple of that era’s live set lists, it’s in and out in under three minutes, running some great snaking guitar to a classic Weezer “oh oh oh” chorus. Rough around the edges, for sure, but that’s part of the appeal.
112. “Mirror Image,” OK Human
Very short but also wonderful—and the moment on OK Human that proves that Weezer doesn’t need electric instrumentation to sound like itself.
111. “High As A Kite,” Weezer (The Black Album)
Cuomo, in full Beach Boys mode, daydreams about escaping the troubles of the world on a song that’s about as relaxing as an afternoon in the park flying kites. That is, until you hear the desperation—a concerning desire to “feel no pain” and “feel no pleasure,” to “disappear”—underlining his fantasy. Don’t float away forever, bud.
Another one-time candidate for The Green Album that would have sounded perfectly at home on the record. Cuomo’s soaring vocals give it an edge over many of the other rejects, though it suffers from the same familiarity of tone and structure that (just slightly) dims their, well, starlight.
109. “La Mancha Screwjob,” Pacific Daydream
Some of the greatest pop songs have a pinch of vague sadness to them. That’s true of this glittering paean to one of Cuomo’s regular collaborators (he doesn’t clarify who), which lives up to the spirit of its working title, “Summer Night;” note the opening chirp of crickets, bleeding into more of the album’s high-pitched soul and increasing the impression that Pacific Daydream is a nocturnal companion piece to the sunnier White Album.
108. “Time Flies,” Hurley
Maybe it’s the deliberately cruddy demo-grade mix, but Cuomo sounds much more relaxed than usual on this Hurley closer, raising the specter of his own impending decrepitude and then kind of shrugging it off with the funny consolation prize that his more nagging melodies will stay in people’s heads even after he’s gone. Admirably casual for a song about getting old.
107. “Endless Bummer,” Weezer (The White Album)
The summeriest of Weezer’s summer records ends, appropriately, with a goodbye to the warmer weeks, and maybe to a fleeting fling never destined to last beyond Labor Day. It’s all serene ruefulness, like something a broken-hearted counselor might play on the last day of camp—that is, until Cuomo explicitly rejects the acoustic Kumbaya, queuing the rest of his band to plug in and stamp out the bonfire. Good riddance, summer.
106. “I Need Some Of That,” Van Weezer
While “Sheila Can Do It” feels like an awkward attempt to Kiss up an old Cuomo tune, the Van Weezer makeover works on “I Need Some Of That,” which translates a song from the singer’s Japanese-language side project, Scott & Rivers, while lending it some aim-for-the-nosebleeds flair (including opening drums lifted from Quiet Riot). The chorus is indelible.
105. “Yellow Camaro,” Death To False Metal B-side
Death To False Metal’s best song isn’t even officially on the compilation—probably because it remained unreleased for so long that Brian Bell went ahead and recorded a new version for his side project, The Space Twins. Nevertheless, the Weezer take is the ideal one, thanks largely to the absolutely killer riffage that drives the song.
104. “Go Away,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
On Weezer’s only real duet, Cuomo trades the fighting words of ex-lovers with a fellow chronicler of dating disaffection: Bethany Cosentino, who cowrote the song and brought along her Best Coast bandmate Bobb Bruno to play guitar. Despite the post-breakup spat the two role play through, this indie-rock relative to The Postal Service’s “Nothing Better” is a good demonstration of how well Rivers can work with others when he wants to.
103. “Love Explosion,” Maladroit
Pat Wilson once allegedly called “Love Explosion” Weezer’s worst song, which is patently absurd: Landing smack dab in the middle of this countdown, it’s only the worst song on Maladroit—and still a fist-pumping good time besides, with some mysteriously dark lyrics (“All the people that crowd around in your house / They’ve been wanting to kill you in your sleep”) that give the track’s hard-rock jubilance an intriguing edge.
102. “The End Of The Game,” Van Weezer
Weezer released the lead single to Van Weezer in September of 2019… a full 20 months before the album ended up finally coming out. Nearly two years later, its mountain of Reagan-era excess—including an estimated 100 separate guitar tracks!—would remain the record’s most committed attempt at the hybrid sound promised by its title. There’s at least one better song on Van Weezer, but none that more convincingly answer the question, “What would Weezer sound like if they formed on the Sunset Strip of 1980?”
101. “QB Blitz,” Pacific Daydream
Though Cuomo has claimed he wrote “QB Blitz” in response to the disappointing sales of The White Album, there’s no getting that from the general malaise of the lyrics; the only thing that stands out much there is the truce he draws between jocks and nerds, sitting a Star Wars reference next to a football metaphor. Maybe the rebuttal is in the music itself, so chill, affable, and singable that it all but dares you not to make it a hit.
100. “Mexican Fender,” Pacific Daydream
Now well into middle-age and marriage, Cuomo continues to write songs about crushing on random women he meets at, say, Santa Monica and 7th Street. “Mexican Fender” is among the most agreeable variations on this dubious theme, an enormous buzzsaw riff and even bigger chorus eclipsing the schoolboy flirting. Surrender to its boardwalk pleasures.
99. “Crab,” Weezer (The Green Album)
Distinguishing one island in the sun from the others that make up Green’s archipelago of songs is mainly a matter of identifying stray details. It’s some quirky wordplay (“Crab at the booty / T’aint gonna do no good”) that gives this particular tropical beverage its note of distinctive flavor.
98. “American Gigolo,” Maladroit
The first track on an album should be an invitation, previewing what awaits. To that end, Maladroit’s opener gets the job righteously done, announcing a metal-leaning style far more thick and crunchy than the squealing, airbrushed kind the band would later mess with on Van Weezer. “Heshers welcome,” the big-ass drums and guitar grunt, though Weezer can’t help but break character with the sonic impression of a goofy smile.
97. “You Won’t Get With Me Tonight,” Pinkerton B-side
The original plan for Weezer’s sophomore album was a full-blown rock opera that would address Cuomo’s mixed feelings about fame in the context of a sci-fi extravaganza. The concept was eventually abandoned, but many of the songs remain, either worked into Pinkerton or released as bonus tracks. The fast-paced, wordy “You Won’t Get With Me Tonight” is among the latter crop, and though its back-and-forth exchanges are a little confusing out of context—Cuomo voices multiple characters throughout—it’s captivating enough to make one mourn Songs From The Black Hole, even if the album we got instead is more or less unbeatable. (Side note: “Blast Off!” might crack the top 20 below if Weezer ever gave it the full band treatment and an official release.)
Gets better and better as it goes, sturdy verses and a robust chorus giving way to a chills-inducing bridge of ecstatic guitar interplay and a spiraling solo (which recalls a Machine Head song, of all things) as heavy-metal as anything on Van Weezer. Why on earth did the boys just give this one away as a fan-club single?
Weezer should have, ahem, picked “Sugar Booger.” It’s much too kickass to languish in semi-obscurity as a U.K. B-side, and would have played quite well next to the brawny, radio-conquering absurdity of “Hash Pipe.”
94. “Space Rock,” Maladroit
As in, cyberspace: Though you’d be hard-pressed to glean it from the liner notes, this Maladroit deep cut is allegedly about Cuomo’s contentious relationship with the message-board fan community. Not that you need to know that to air-guitar along with it.
93. “Perfect Situation,” Make Believe
The bouncy piano verses. The trademark “whoa oh” refrain. That extended introductory jam that’s like a red carpet rolling out to bursting flashbulbs. “Perfect Situation” gives the derided, sales-thirsty Weezer of Make Believe a good name. It also solidifies Cuomo’s command of the studio; however much this eternal shy guy curses his own confidence in the lyrics, the airtight craftsmanship on display around him begs to differ.
92. “Piece Of Cake,” Weezer (The Black Album)
TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek manned the boards of Weezer’s most recent self-titled effort, and his textured, enveloping production is arguably the album’s true star. Just listen to “Piece Of Cake,” in which every jangle and hand clap and “doo doo” totally pops… to the point where it’s hard to notice, let alone care, that the song isn’t about much of anything.
91. “All The Good Ones,” Van Weezer
“Beverly Hills” but make it not suck ass.
90. “Automatic,” Weezer (The Red Album)
Weezer never really sounds like Weezer with someone other than Cuomo on vocals. That’s not a bad thing on “Automatic,” written and sung by drummer Patrick Wilson. Unlike Shriner and Bell’s unfortunate Red Album turns at the mic, this deeply ’90s rock tune—a wholesome Lollapaloozian love song from Pat to his family—is strong enough to make you ponder the band that could be if everyone more permanently traded roles.
89. “Dope Nose,” Maladroit
The lyrics are pure nonsense (and contain a casually uttered slur besides), but this lead single from Maladroit is still dope for the ears—a speedball of speedy guitar and gleefully shouted non sequiturs.
88. “Tripping Down The Freeway,” Raditude
If any one pattern has emerged over the course of this countdown, it’s that Rivers Cuomo can write the ever loving hell out of a chorus, to the point where even his most abominable missteps tend to take up indefinite residence in your noggin. “Tripping Down The Freeway” is an all-timer in this department: However far back eyeballs roll during the singer’s bad-boyfriend routine on the verses, all is forgiven at the 35-second mark, when he pulls out the musical equivalent of a confetti cannon.
87. “The Prettiest Girl In The Whole Wide World,” Raditude B-side
The very first song Cuomo wrote after Pinkerton was a deliberate 180, eschewing the chaotic compositions and pained neurosis of that then-tepidly-received album in favor of something simple and direct and affectionate. And damn if it isn’t a fine palate cleanser, a love song that’s swoon-worthy in its swooning—though by the time the band put it to record, any traces of the jaggedness it was designed to smooth over were long gone from the Weezer game plan.
86. “Christmas Celebration,” The Christmas CD
Christmas 2000 came early for the Grinches and Scrooges of the world, at least the ones who could get their hands on a new holiday-themed EP from the missing-in-action rock band Weezer. Yet for as well as “Christmas Celebration” serves as a rejoinder to yuletide cheer—condemning egg nog, shopping sprees, and a certain bearded fellow “so obese that he can’t get out the door”—it’s really a gift to loyal fans, who hadn’t heard any new music from their favorite geeks in nearly five years.
85. “Death And Destruction,” Maladroit
Originally an instrumental, “Death And Destruction” feels just short of complete, like a little side order of bummed-out noodling between fuller songs. Still, there’s perhaps a reason it remains one of Maladroit’s most-performed tracks: That mumbling melancholia sticks with you, and there are much worse things than leaving a listener wanting more.
84. “Put Me Back Together” (Serban Ghenea Mix), Raditude
Cuomo wrote “Put Me Back Together” with two members of The All-American Rejects, and result is… more or less an All-American Rejects song. But it’s a really good one, building to some big, diary-entry catharsis every bit as keyed to heightened teenage emotion as “Swing Swing” or any number of Weezer songs that influenced “Swing Swing.” When Cuomo cries “Here, it’s clear, that I’m not getting better,” you can almost hear a backup choir of fellow sensitive souls belting along in their bedrooms.
83. “Hang On,” Hurley
To write Weezer off after the turn of the millennium is to deprive oneself lots of really inspired pop music—including this parade of positivity, which prominently centered strings in the mix a full decade before OK Human. Do yourself a favor and avoid the single version; it loses all the great mandolin parts played by Michael Cera. (Yes, that Michael Cera.)
82. “Possibilities,” Maladroit
Weezer has toured with plenty of pop-punk bands (they’re traveling the country with two right now), but they’ve stopped short of drifting into that specific musical lane themselves. “Possibilities” is probably the closest they’ve come, and it would have sounded great booming across a parking lot during the Warped Tour—or, you know, on any stage. (It’s said to be the oldest Weezer album track the band has never performed live.)
81. “Aloo Gobi,” OK Human
While quarantine concerns show up all over OK Human, the album’s second track is the one that coheres into a kind of manifesto of pent-up impatience, no matter if your local theater isn’t the Aero and your comfort food of choice isn’t aloo gobi. The symphonic pop arrangement is basically flawless, making the song as catchy as it is relatable.
80. “The British Are Coming,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Rivers cosplays as Paul Revere in a quirky, tuneful, Revolutionary War-themed number that counts among Weezer’s best attempts to stretch the definition of Weezer.
79. “Dreamin’,” Weezer (The Red Album)
Here’s an even better one. What begins like a standard-issue rocker eventually slows down and disappears into a Technicolor reverie, Cuomo drifting off to where the Bambi forest opens into a Beach Boys field of sunflowers. Then he snaps back to reality, shouting “I don’t wanna get with your program” in his best Billie Joe Armstrong. It’s exciting to hear him escape that program, if only for a couple weightless minutes on cloud nine.
78. “Sweet Mary,” Pacific Daydream
Whether the woman of the title is really the Virgin Mary, as Cuomo has implied, “Sweet Mary” definitely finds this lovesick fool in a particularly devotional mood; he’s rarely sounded as soulful as he does here. “My heart is stolen” someone croons in the background. We know the feeling.
77. “Peace,” Make Believe
Like “Perfect Situation,” this other diamond in the Make Believe rough gets around Cuomo’s latter-day failings as a lyricist by mostly eliding lyrics: The chorus, a string of emphatic whoas, foregrounds his expert ear for melody to blissfully wordless effect. You can chant along without shame!
76. “Any Friend Of Diane’s,” Pacific Daydream
Though the title is a reference to Cheers, the Diane here is a composite of all the women that helped or encouraged Cuomo on the road to fame. He thanks them the only way he knows how: with immaculate harmonies. The patchwork gratitude is surprisingly affecting; the details may be vague and glancing, but you can hear the significance in how Cuomo sings them.
75. “Numbers,” OK Human
The men of Weezer are major Radiohead heads. If the title OK Human and a faithful “Paranoid Android” cover aren’t evidence enough, just listen to “Numbers”: This lush jeremiad against numerically measuring a life—through, say, record sales or social-media likes or complete rankings of your work—goes full Thom Yorke. A transporting homage.
74. “Fall Together,” Maladroit
These guys could make a stoner metal album if they put their minds to it, though it’d probably set a record for the genre’s shortest songs.
73. “The Christmas Song,” The Christmas CD
The other track on Weezer’s Christmas EP is gloriously pensive enough to have appeared on Pinkerton—and a welcome addition to the canon of songs about how hopelessly lonely the holiday season can be.
Longtime vegetarian Rivers Cuomo adopts an ambiguous perspective somewhere between human and porcine on this strangely moving detour to the farm, which productively breaks from Weezer protocol on the musical side of things, too, eschewing a verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of a slow build to a majestic, gorgeous pop crescendo. No wonder it’s a major fan favorite of the band’s post-millennial period.
71. “Foolish Father,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
It’s tempting to read between the lines of the fraught familial situation Cuomo lays out here. Is he pleading with his own daughter to forgive him? Do the lyrics reflect his complicated relationship with his foolish father, who he reports he “made up with it” earlier on the same album? You don’t need answers to get pulled into the therapeutic drama of “Foolish Father,” nor to submit to the reassurances of the song’s sing-along climax, the kind of spirit-boosting encouragement we could all use right now.
70. “Don’t Let Go,” Weezer (The Green Album)
Meet the new Weezer, not the same as the old Weezer. That much was clear within seconds of “Don’t Let Go,” the opening track of The Green Album, which ended the band’s five-year hiatus with a wave of finely burnished summer-vacation rock. For a certain dismayed portion of the fanbase, this was the beginning of the end. Everyone else turned up the volume, glad to have something pleasant to blast on the deck from Memorial to Labor.
69. “Do You Wanna Get High?,” Weezer (The White Album)
Intoxicants show up a few times in the Weezer songbook: a cold one in the icebox, some hash in a pipe, some dope for the nose. “Do You Wanna Get High?” actually sounds like it’s trying to replicate the feeling of a trip; things start steady (“We can listen to Bacharach / And stop at any point,” insists Cuomo’s flame) before both the lyrics and the distortion surrounding them imply a collapse into paranoid codependency. Hard to believe this is the same band that made “We Are All On Drugs.”
68. “Run Away,” Hurley
Anyone who’s ever stared at the stars and thought about their place in the universe should be able to get on the wavelength of “Run Away,” in which Cuomo looks to the Milky Way, delivering uncommonly poetic turns of phrase with uncommon passion. Sadly searching in a way Weezer rarely is, and good enough to make you want to forget that Ryan Adams co-wrote it.
67. “Byzantine,” Weezer (The Black Album)
One might assume that a Weezer song co-written by Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace would land on the punkier side of things. Instead, she and Cuomo cooked up a delightful traipse through bossa nova lounge pop. Dave Sitek’s production is a treat here, too, but it’s Grace’s smart, evocative lyrics that make “Byzantine” so special; good luck finding a more charmingly unconventional relationship saga in the rest of this band’s output.
66. “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing,” Weezer (The White Album)
This White Album gem supposedly began as a much bleaker portrait of a toxic partnership, and there’s maybe the tiniest glimmer of that scrapped lyrical direction still detectable in its swinging, toe-tapping optimism. Even before the bridge raises concerns about Stockholm syndrome, it’s not so difficult to hear some foreshadowing subtext in Cuomo’s revealingly insistent “I don’t see this ending.” Famous last words, bathed in deceptive sunshine.
65. “Knockdown Dragout,” Weezer (The Green Album)
The Green Album is such a shining sunbeam of a record that it’s easy to forgive the fact that the tracks
64. “Smile,” Weezer (The Green Album)
kind of run together, blurring into one long stream of homogeneously unblemished, happy-go-lucky guitar rock that starts to
63. “Glorious Day,” Weezer (The Green Album)
sound especially interchangeable in the second half, though there are elements that might
62. “Simple Pages,” Weezer (The Green Album)
help a fan distinguish one dollop of honeydew from the next. (This writer, for example, really likes that part at the end of “Simple Pages” when Cuomo stretches out the word “love” over and over again.)
How superb of an earworm is “Friend Of A Friend”? You want to keep listening even after Cuomo tells the subject of his affection that “I’m not just after sex / I want to bask in the delight that is your womanhood.” A spoonful of almost Beatlesque sugar keeps the vomit down.
60. “Trainwrecks,” Hurley
Commencing with a ghostly flush of instrumentation that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Arcade Fire album, this Hurley highlight (cowritten by Desmond Child) is like nothing Weezer had done before, and is all the better for it. It’s also genuinely funny, as Cuomo spins the yarn of two fuck-up lovers pissing off their friends and enabling each other’s worst habits. Underrated by fans and the band alike; have they ever even played it live?
Hidden and unlisted at the end of the vinyl edition of Van Weezer is an amazing relic: an unreleased 1993 song that couldn’t be much less in the spirit of the album it’s secretly punctuating. The sulking “I’ve Thrown It All Away” isn’t a whole lot more than its central riff. But what a riff—a bolt of electric regret, speaking louder than any words.
As near as Weezer has come to the delicacy of James Taylor or John Denver. More such gentle serenading would be welcome.
57. “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn),” Weezer (The Red Album)
Then again, it’s plenty entertaining to hear the band throw all restraint and subtly to the wind, too. Getting in touch with his inner theater kid, Cuomo tells the origin story of Weezer with a miniature rock opera, a 12-part song suite that changes directions on a dime, and finds his cohorts emulating Slipknot one minute and Bach the next. The whole thing’s kind of awesomely awful—a flaming pile up of great hooks, rock-star bragging, spoken-word interlude, delusions of grandeur, and hard-worn actual grandeur. Every band should take a swing this big, and risk ridicule for Queen-style glory.
56. “This Is Such A Pity,” Make Believe
At least some of the lighting bottled on The Blue Album can be attributed to the guidance of producer Ric Ocasek, revered for his days in The Cars. On “This Is Such A Pity,” Weezer busts out a Casio and some squeaky clean guitar to return the favor and pay respects to the ’70s and ’80s rock star who helped shape its million-dollar sound. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s the one song on Make Believe that feels built to last, cheese-dick solo and all.
55. “Ruling Me,” Hurley
The Jorge Garcia cover art and pre-release chatter about a return to the Blue Album sound did no favors for Hurley, a record better than its reputation suggests. Consider its best song, a totally irresistible blast of power pop that would likely be much better regarded if it wasn’t being compared to a handful of tunes from a previous century that it gallingly fails to more closely resemble. Story of Weezer’s career.
54. “Weekend Woman,” Pacific Daydream
The recent Teal Album, with its collection of boringly faithful covers, pushes Weezer precariously close to wedding band territory. But they sound fit for a reception in a much less pejorative sense on this absolutely gorgeous Pacific Daydream concoction, whose guitars ring like church bells.
Written in 1993, the wobbling, yearning “I Swear It’s True” was in consideration for Weezer’s first and second album; that it made neither says more about what did than the song’s own merits. It thumps around like a dejected kaiju, dinosaurian in its hankering for the one that got away.
52. “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” Raditude
For once, it’s not off-putting to hear grown-ass-man Rivers Cuomo refuse to act his age. On Raditude’s misleadingly excellent lead single, he fictionalizes the hesitant courtship of his wife into a wholesome puppy-love romance, gushing about watching Titanic with a girl in a Slayer t-shirt. A spritely charmer that in no way prepared listeners for Raditude’s general mall-skater lousiness.
51. “Jacked Up,” Weezer (The White Album)
The ingeniously arranged White Album saves its downbeat numbers for the home stretch, the better to suggest the sloping arc of a relationship destined to fall apart. Its penultimate track is a superlative breakup song: a bad-funk waltz that finds Cuomo spilling his feelings over a row of ivory and in an arresting falsetto. Best heard through headphones and heartbreak.
50. “Wind In Our Sail,” Weezer (The White Album)
The yin to that sad-bastard yang is “Wind In Our Sail,” sequenced the same track distance from the start as “Jacked Up” is to the end. It, too, is piano driven, mirroring its polar opposite with the conversely sanguine tale of a love story on the rise. Icing on the cake is Cuomo’s playfully erudite vocabulary, the way the Harvard alum peppers the meet-cute he describes with $5 science lingo and cameos by Darwin and Mendel.
The only Weezer song with a woman on lead vocals, “I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams” finds That Dog bassist Rachel Haden voicing one of the characters in Cuomo’s aborted Songs From The Black Hole project. Apropos its sci-fi framework, the tune truly sounds like a transmission from an alternate reality where that rock opera saw the light of day—and maybe another one where Weezer became an ass-kicking riot grrrl act.
48. “Waiting On You,” Pinkerton B-side
Cuomo also intended to secure a female vocalist for “Waiting On You,” another refugee from the Black Hole and an additional point on the love triangle it would have drawn. He ended up singing the lyrics himself, necessitating a few tweaks. (It’s now you’re, not I’m, “19 days late.”) What remains plays like a missing link between the album we got and the one we didn’t—a page ripped from a lost story that would still fit snugly next to “The Good Life” or “Falling For You,” thanks to its drunk-dial energy.
47. “Photograph,” Weezer (The Green Album)
The Green Album’s third single couldn’t hope to match the round-the-clock air play of its predecessors, “Hash Pipe” and “Island In The Sun.” That could be because it ends as quickly as it begins, sprinting at full elated speed through handclaps and “oh baby” cheerleading en route to a literal, well-earned round of applause. It’s as delicious, and as impossible to savor, as a popsicle on a sweltering July afternoon.
“What if Weezer was hardcore?” sounds like something you’d find on a semi-popular YouTube cover-song channel. But Cuomo actually toyed with that possibility in the band’s nascent years on “Paperface,” a snarling punk-rock song inspired by a rumor about an old classmate and by regular replays of dorm-room idols Pixies and Nirvana. No Brian Wilson worship here. Just a youthful, ragged intensity you can’t help but wish the band would have tapped into again at some point.
45. “Take Control,” Maladroit
More elegies for dead relationships should be as scorching as this Maladroit banger, which abides by the principle that the best way to purge the breakup blues is to plug into an amp and slash them away.
44. “California Kids,” Weezer (The White Album)
There’s something undeniably calculated about The White Album and its attempts to finally reward longtime fans’ loyalty with the throwback sound they’ve been begging for since the ’90s. But damn if Weezer doesn’t ballpark that classic Weezer magic here and there—starting with “California Kids,” which kicks off the record with some Pinkertonian glockenspiel and a crunch-release-crunch chorus that’s very “Say It Ain’t So.” Maybe the whole thing’s just Pavlovian association, but when the treat is this authentically tasty, should we be ashamed for salivating on command?
“I really, really want to go back,” Cuomo sings. “Back to where I came from.” Has the guy always longed to return to some idealized past? Was he nostalgic even way back in 1993, before he entered the limelight? Once a highly sought holy grail in Weezer fan circles, “Getting Up And Leaving” finally got a proper release in 2010. It was worth the wait—for the way it anticipates the anxieties that would bubble to the surface on Pinkerton, and for its exhilarating momentum, how it keeps lurching forward like a race car making tight turns and laying on the gas every minute or so.
42. “O Girlfriend,” Weezer (The Green Album)
After a half-hour of identically structured bubblegum beach rock, Cuomo at last lets a little emotion creep into the spreadsheet blueprint of The Green Album. Propelled by his ache for an actual girlfriend (the inspiration for the later “Do You Wanna Get High?”), this closing track sends cracks of distress running down the record’s buffed, all-is-well veneer. That’s the key to the song’s sneaky resonance: The smile begins to resemble a wince.
41. “December,” Maladroit
An even better (though ostensibly less personal) closing track than “O Girlfriend,” this winsome lover-boy ballad proves that Weezer can do winter songs, too: “December” has a twinkly, almost Christmastime splendor that befits its title. Even better than the Maladroit version is the unadorned demo from the fan-famous Washington, D.C. recording session. Listening to that slower, prettier arrangement, you can almost picture Cuomo softly singing the song through a frosted window, illuminated by red and green lights, a snowy landscape sprawling out before him.
One of Weezer’s earliest tracks, featuring all of the original members and recorded live to tape by a sound engineering student, showcases a band coming into its own almost immediately, the talent evident even in this rough form. “Jamie” may also be the nicest song ever written about a lawyer. Cuomo dedicated it to the group’s first attorney, Jamie Young, hysterically mixing love-ballad clichés with lines about paperwork and car phones.
39. “All My Favorite Songs,” OK Human
“This sounds like a big universal song,” Cuomo claims to have thought when he began working on what would become the opening track to OK Human. He was right: “All My Favorite Songs” is Weezer’s best single in years, not just for the outstanding ’60s swell of its baroque pop (far and away the sharpest use of the 38-piece orchestra the record boasts) but also for the conviction in which the singer delivers his huge chorus. It doesn’t get much more universal (or human) than wondering what the hell’s wrong with you.
Relegated to the deluxe edition margins of The Red Album, where its over-enunciated craving couldn’t freak out any casual “Pork And Beans” listeners, this off-kilter rom-com casts Cuomo as a besotted office manager unable to resist voicing his desire for a coworker. Fueling the song’s comedic engine is the way he keeps dramatically blurting out his feelings, before reverting to strictly professional chatter about contractors and expense reports. Not since “Pink Triangle,” perhaps, has Weezer so successfully toed the line between funny and harassment-lawsuit creepy.
37. “I. The Waste Land,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
36. “II. Anonymous,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
35. “III. Return To Ithaka,” Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Sadly, we’ll probably never get an official, complete version of Songs From The Black Hole. But the ambitious, ’70s-concept-album spirit of that endeavor lives on through the so-called Futurescape Trilogy, a three-part suite of mostly instrumental songs that closes EWBAITE with a bang. The indecipherable prog framework (if this thing has anything like an actual story, search us for what it’s about) brings out Weezer’s dormant penchant for just rocking the fuck out, but without smothering Cuomo’s pop acumen, evident on the humming that kicks off the middle chapter. Sequel when?
The reissue of Pinkerton contained something even more intriguing than the fabled “Getting Up And Leaving”: a Weezer song from those halcyon days that fans had never heard of—largely because the band itself had no memory of it! Cuomo, in an uncharacteristic display of absentmindedness, neglected to add “Tragic Girl” to his otherwise comprehensive master list; maybe it was less a brain fart than an intentional oversight, as the song turned out to be rawly, unflatteringly honest even by Pinkerton standards, tunneling ever deeper still into his romantic dysfunction. When Cuomo pleads “I don’t want my mom to know that I’ve been a dirty boy,” it’s almost too private a thought, as though we’re eavesdropping on his therapy session.
33. “Falling For You,” Pinkerton
It’s not just the revealing nature of Pinkerton that folks miss. Cuomo has also largely abandoned its technical complexity, sacrificing it on the altar of his obsession with radio-conquering palatability. “Falling For You” is the most obvious example of what he would avoid on the records to come—a song with so many chord and key changes that Weezer itself has struggled to pull it off live. But this isn’t dizzying compositional intricacy for its own sake: The twists and turns of the music mirror Cuomo’s emotional confusion as he second guesses a new relationship, wondering if he’s maybe too besotted.
32. “Slave,” Maladroit
When fans don’t hyperbolically cite a new Weezer record as the “best since Pinkerton,” they more conservatively call it the “best since Maladroit.” Steroidal marvels like “Slave,” which pump up Cuomo’s romanticism to stadium proportions, are the reason why. Though it’s the this-one-goes-to-11 vigor that grabs you, the MVP is actually the melodic foundation; removing the blazing rocket-ship guitar, as the band has for a couple acoustic renditions, does no damage to this terrific song.
31. “No One Else,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
Part of the lore of Pinkerton is the way it peeled back the commercial cuddliness of The Blue Album to reveal the messier, less adorkable pathology underneath, like the bugs squirming below manicured suburbia in a different Blue-hued classic. But it’s not like there were no telltale signs of that impending lyrical direction on Weezer’s first album. Take “No One Else,” whose alluring zippiness coats a bitter pill: the revelation that Cuomo’s control-freak tendencies extend far beyond the recording booth. It might be the catchiest song ever written about a jealous, possessive boyfriend—and early proof that Weezer were pros at stuffing unattractive personal traits in an attractive musical package.
30. “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
In a way, the next track on The Blue Album anticipated Pinkerton, too: Nestled among songs about sweaters, surf boards, and 12-sided dice is this broadcast from splitsville, with Cuomo issuing pained pleas to a wallet photo of his ex, making sweet love to her memory. The frontman has implied that it’s a sequel to “No One Else,” delivering some single-again comeuppance upon his controlling alter ego, though that song was written much later than this one. Nonetheless, “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here” certainly carries on the strategy of its immediate predecessor, caramelizing darker themes in an appetizing pop-rock molasses. The electric twang at the start may be the most inviting introduction to any Weezer song, period.
Written on his mother’s piano, and built on a phrase from an Incredible String Band song his parents used to sing to him as a lullaby, this deeply poignant ballad voices Cuomo’s growing urge to “pack it all up” and move back to New England in search of a simpler life. Briefly in contention to serve as the closing track of Pinkerton—and before that, Songs From The Black Hole—the song would have worked beautifully as the emotional culmination of Weezer’s second album, no matter what form it took. Today, it sounds beamed in from a timeline where Weezer never emerged from the hibernation it went into in the late ’90s—one where Rivers Cuomo permanently retreated from the decentering, discombobulating pressures of fame.
28. “The Angel And The One,” Weezer (The Red Album)
After years of being cited as a major influence on a whole generation of emo bands, Weezer finally took its own go at the genre, and handily proved it could rule that roost, too, if it wanted to go full-time lovelorn. “The Angel And The One” is a brooding epic that just gets bigger and bigger, reaching higher and higher as it scales church spires, Cuomo stretching his cords in pursuit of a nearly religious male-weepie transcendence. Unbelievably, the band has only played it live once; envy the concertgoers afforded the rare opportunity to reach a higher plane with him.
On nearly the opposite end of the stylistic and pacing spectrum from “The Angel And The One” is this essential B-side, originally (and relevantly) released on the soundtrack to the teen-misfit comedy Angus. Clocking in under two minutes, “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly” is one of Weezer’s shortest songs—and one of its most satisfying, a rip-roaring, warp-speed race through the fundamentals of the band’s kicky sound. Turns out brevity isn’t just the soul of wit. Sometimes, it’s the soul of Weezer, too.
26. “Hash Pipe,” Weezer (The Green Album)
When Weezer first broke half a decade of radio silence with the first single from The Green Album, plenty of fans couldn’t help but feel confused, if not betrayed. Who was this bodysnatched version of the band they loved and lost, warbling arbitrary and vaguely drug-related lyrics in an affected falsetto and over a big, plodding chugga-chugga riff? Yet “Hash Pipe,” which Cuomo wrote on a cocktail of tequila and Ritalin (and offered to Ozzy Osbourne—proof of its essential moshability), has aged well, even after years of heavy FM rotation. With distance, the song’s fun lies in its Revenge Of The Nerds swagger—the way these eternal geeks finally tap into the deafening dumb fun of their cock-rock heroes. Plus, who can really resist that dum dum dum dum driving the song?
Ever the relentless tinkerer, Cuomo used the single release of this Maladroit track as excuse to radically overhaul its arrangement. His perfectionism paid off: Replacing the rolling drums of Pat Wilson’s intro with some isolated strumming, giving the guitars some extra oomph, and shuffling the call-and-response climax, the radio edit of “Keep Fishin’” is more than an improvement—it transforms a merely solid Weezer song into a great one, amplifying all its most beguiling qualities. For the full endorphin rush, watch the music video, which pairs the band with the Muppets—truly, a match made in colorful, geek-alluring heaven.
24. “No Other One,” Pinkerton
Launching out of a squawk of distortion and with a yelp of wild abandon, “No Other One” lands in that purgatorial Pinkerton middle space between effervescence and restlessness: It’s a conflicted and even backhanded love song (“My girl’s a liar / But I’ll stand beside her”) that staggers around in a tipsy daze, like a hot mess futilely looking for answers to his girl problems at the bottom of a bottle. Only Cuomo, perhaps, could sound more trapped than lovestruck shouting “No, there is no other one!” from the rooftops.
23. “Slob,” Maladroit
Cuomo’s bandmates tend to ballast his most despondent lyrics with a paradoxical breeziness, making his cloudiest days sound a little brighter. Not on “Slob,” which encases a bleak glimpse into the singer-songwriter’s thought process during what sounds like a very dark episode with almost claustrophobically caustic rock. “Leave me alone,” is how he begins, before ambiguously lashing out at a meddling someone (a parent? an opinionated friend?) trying to make his big life choices for him, all while the music forms a shell of bitterness around him. It’s grippingly standoffish, preserving in amber a mood we have to hope passed swiftly.
22. “Why Bother?,” Pinkerton
“Slob” aside, this is why Weezer generally mops the floor with whole festivals of like-minded self-pitiers: They offer hopeless defeatism you can dance to. A total bop about jacking off instead of trying to meet someone.
If you were a big Weezer devotee in the mid-’90s, chances are you knew (or at least knew of) Mykel and Carli Allan, Los Angeles-based sisters at the center of the band’s grassroots fan community. Tragically, these truest and bluest of friends/supporters died in a car accident on the way to a show in 1997. All of this lends Cuomo’s tribute to the Allans, written and recorded a couple years before the accident, some richly bittersweet pathos. Yet no context is really required to attune yourself to its schoolyard merriment, the gleeful hopscotch of harmonica and fuzzy guitar. In or out of context, it’s a gift—to the two biggest Weezer fans ever, but also to everyone else who cues it up.
20. “Buddy Holly,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
Though not technically the band’s biggest hit, “Buddy Holly” is almost certainly the song that will forever define Weezer in the public imagination—the one that exemplifies its winningly plugged-in, smile-and-riff sound and vaguely anachronistic image. When Cuomo compares himself to the titular rock legend, it’s not just a nerd-chic fashion statement; it’s a mission statement, too—a straight line drawn from the grunge (and slang) of the ’90s to the more innocuous guitar rock of the 1950s. “Buddy Holly” announced Weezer’s intention to make these two great tastes taste great together, a time-warping agenda abstractly reflected in the remarkable Spike Jonze music video that spliced Cuomo and his bandmates, Robert Zemeckis-style, into an old episode of Happy Days. Today, the song sounds as ageless as “Everyday,” still worth cranking after umpteenth listens. Just try not to grin all over again when that joyful solo kicks in at the end of the bridge.
19. “L.A. Girlz,” Weezer (The White Album)
Don’t sweat the dumbly misspelled title: Just this once, the guys of Weezer ignored kidz today and did make one like they used to. For all of The White Album’s aspirations to déjà vu, only “L.A. Girlz” truly sounds like something the band could have cut back in the shack. That it can genuinely be mentioned in the same breath as the Blue and Pinkerton classics it harkens back to is due largely to the way the song pushes beyond transparent fan service with smart, literate wordplay and a climactic grace note: that moment when Cuomo taps into the full breadth of his big feels, urgently asking, again and again, “Does anybody love anybody as much as I love you, baby?” For a chest-clenching minute there, his infatuation is ours.
Weezer may only have released two full LPs at its ’90s creative peak, but the band kicked out at least another couple records’ worth of great non-album cuts during the period. Sitting near the pinnacle of that mountain of supplementary triumphs is a primo casualty of the unfinished Songs From The Black Hole, in which Cuomo finally reciprocates the feelings of a bestie he’s kept firmly in the friend zone while searching for some hypothetical Mrs. Right. While plenty of rock bands have amplified the sound of settling, this B-side is downright enchanting in the way it vocalizes a victory over stubborn self-denial—it’s like the climax to When Harry Met Sally… put to music. Where “Devotion” really earns ours is in the wall of lilting guitar. How could Weezer have left such a top-shelf song on the shelf?
17. “Burndt Jamb,” Maladroit
Much has been written about Cuomo’s proverbial songwriting laboratory—the way he consults a database of stray hooks and melodies, then stitches them together through the calculus of his mad song science. If the guy is a Dr. Frankenstein of popcraft, consider “Burndt Jamb” his most electrifying experiment. On it, he combines a bubbly, tropical lick filched from George Benson with a lightning bolt of guitar that cleaves the song right down the middle. In the process, Cuomo shaves away just about every ounce of fat from the Weezer formula, leaving beyond two verses, no chorus, and the biggest, coolest goddamn riff of his career. The result is a platonic ideal of loud-quiet-loud—a pressurized presentation of just the good parts.
16. “Only In Dreams,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
“Burndt Jamb” ruthlessly streamlines the Weezer sound. Here, it’s stretched like taffy. “Stairway To Heaven” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” are two of the extended antecedents critics have cited while looking to categorize what still stands as the longest song of this band’s career. Yet even at an anomalously leisurely nine minutes, “Only In Dreams” remains pure Weezer, indie-rock melodious and classic-rock bodacious in equal measure. Those qualities just happen to blossom from a slow burn, set to the pace of Matt Sharp’s low, inimitable bass line. The guys have never quite replicated the tune’s patient, gratifying build, the way it pays off the enrapturing groove of its opening stretch with an ass-kicking solo that Cuomo claims among his personal favorites.
15. “Getchoo,” Pinkerton
One does not generally look to the cuddly Californians of Weezer for ferocity; they usually seem pretty friendly even at their loudest and most anguished. But there’s a twinge of genuine teeth-bared menace to “Getchoo,” which weaponizes Cuomo’s desperation—his incessant attempts to rekindle an extinguished flame—into a firehose of hostility. Excepting perhaps “Paperface,” it’s as aggressive as the frontman has ever sounded on mic, and his bandmates back up his bellowed toxicity with a tumbling bottom-end blitzkrieg. Van Weezer might be directly heavy-metal inspired, but it could never get a pit churning as well as this extrinsic rager.
14. “Pink Triangle,” Pinkerton
Admiring a classmate from afar, only to become convinced (without ever even speaking to her) that she’s not attracted to men anyway, is one of the awkward real-life Harvard experiences Cuomo mined for Pinkerton in what he would later liken to an embarrassing overshare. He’s not wrong, but the enduring “Pink Triangle” side steps (or at least complicates) proto-incel distastefulness by making the singer and his chicken-shit paralysis the butt of the joke—and by casually implying that his own sexuality may be more fluid than fixed. Aired via another unstoppable chorus, and flanked with some grabby xylophone, his self-deprecation is funny. Funnier still is the label thinking they might finally have an actual hit single off the record in the song that builds to Cuomo shouting “I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian.”
13. “Holiday,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
Cuomo supposedly wrote “Holiday” right after Weezer got signed, and his happiness is evident in every heeeeeartbeeeeeeat of the song. It’s also quite catching: The tango of beatific guitars, digressive doo-wop acapella, and extolling of Kerouacian virtues works like one hell of a pick me up, whether you’re embarking on a getaway or just wishing for one.
12. “Tired Of Sex,” Pinkerton
It’s no mystery why the world rejected Pinkerton on first listen. It immediately torches the persona The Blue Album established, confronting unsuspecting record buyers with the sound of that un-intimidating boy next door from the Happy Days video gloomily grumbling about all the groupies he was bedding. “Tired Of Sex” is basically a warning shot: Abandon all hope, ye expecting another “Buddy Holly.” Which is, of course, what makes it so thrilling, in its defiant rejection of expectations, communicated through not just the boldly unsympathetic lyrics but also the abrasively unvarnished production. Not even In Utero so successfully alienated the legions that made ’90s rock stars out of its creators one album earlier.
11. “Butterfly,” Pinkerton
Pinkerton is bookended by the antithesis to “Tired Of Sex,” answering that song’s squall of distorted self-involvement with sparse self-awareness. Though the whole album is loosely modeled on Madama Butterfly, only on the austere final track does that thematic through-line slip into focus, as Cuomo—armed only with his voice and an acoustic guitar—becomes B.F. Pinkerton, whispering apologies to someone he seduced and abandoned. The Metropolitan Opera House framework can’t disguise the remorse in his vocals, the sense that we’re hearing the real Cuomo, trying to atone for his sins of hit-and-run bedroom callousness. The first fully unplugged Weezer song, “Butterfly” would become one of the band’s flagship efforts, cherished for its vulnerability. But it still works best in the context of Pinkerton, cutting through the myopic bellyaching of the tracks before it with a closing realization of where the blame should be laid.
Back in 1994, one might have predicted a spot on the one hit wonder list for Weezer. The band’s first single, which introduced these polite-looking college boys to the world, was a wiseacre curiosity about an unraveling shirt, bracketed by ambling, looping guitar and an ellipses of distortion, with an amusing din of mundane party chatter pumped into the verses. It sounded like a novelty, not so different from what was being pushed onto the radio by major labels gobbling up weird underground acts in search of the next Nirvana. Of course, Weezer had something those bands didn’t: a quick study at the reins, smuggling his pop smarts into a song that only seemed off the cuff. “Undone” proved a harbinger of big hooks to come; if only Cuomo better minded its ratio of multi-platinum mathematics to unchained eccentricity on the singles that followed.
9. “The Good Life,” Pinkerton
It’s more half-truth than hard fact that Cuomo swore off personal songs after Pinkerton crashed and burned. But it is difficult to contest that nothing Weezer has done in the years since has approached the degree of emotional exhibitionism he practiced the second time around. On “The Good Life,” the beaming Dr. Jekyll of The Blue Album has morphed into a frowning Mr. Hyde; Cuomo wrote the song while recovering from painful leg surgery, through a haze of heavy medication that seemed to remove the filter between his mouth and a mind tortured by the desire to return to a “good life” of stardom, casual sex, and walking without a cane. Thing is, though, that shining hitmaker is still there beneath the overcoat of depression: Few of the smeared-mascara emo disciples that tout “The Good Life” as a sacred text have nailed its true appeal, the tension between cranky outlook and expert pop instincts.
8. “Surf Wax America,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
Weezer used to close almost every show with “Surf Wax America.” How could the band not? Though Cuomo has called it essentially sarcastic—an insincere cowabunga from a bunch of indoor kids who hadn’t caught a wave in their young lives—that’s basically irrelevant: Even if the enthusiasm is feigned, that’s proved no impediment to crowd surfers riding its cross-decade fusion, the way it sends a Brian Wilson sea breeze through a funnel of caffeinated punk rock. (Then again, Weezer is in good company there: Brian’s brother Dennis was the only Beach Boy who actually surfed.) The high point: how the music slows and then raves back up again to parallel the song’s jokey cautionary tale about getting lost at sea, a quiet lull giving way to the perfect crashing tsunami of a set-ender.
7. “Island In The Sun,” Weezer (The Green Album)
A post-2000 song in the top 10? Say it ain’t so! In truth, you’d have to draw a very thick, uncrossable line in the sands of fandom to deny that, at least once, Weezer 2.0 stumbled on a recipe every bit as delectable as the original. “Surf Wax America” may touch upon Dennis Wilson’s coastal sport of choice, but this is where Cuomo actually realized his unspoken career-long ambition to update the surfs-up innocence of the Beach Boys for a new generation of pedal-stompers. Despite the opening chant, “Island In The Sun” is more square than hip (hip), which somehow crystallizes the timelessness of its tropical-resort allure: It’s the song of the summer every summer, an eternal lūʻau of acoustic and electric guitars entwining like honeymooning lovers. And no matter how many times it pops up on the radio, on Spotify, in a commercial (boy was this thing licensed to near-death), you’re glad to be teleported yet again to the beach house it built on our collective neocortex.
For all the tales of amour that Cuomo has told over the years, he never seems more heartwarmingly heartfelt than when showing his appreciation for a platonic love or colleague. Like the even earlier “Jamie,” Weezer’s greatest non-album track (originally released as the B-side to “Undone,” then more widely heard on the Mallrats soundtrack) is a blushing thank you to someone who believed in the band: an A&R assistant who hit the singer with positive reinforcement at a moment of need. He repays that debt of kindness with one of his purest of no-frills love songs, specific in allusion (she really did bake him brownies and give him her coat) but also general enough to soundtrack first dates and wedding anniversaries alike. Credibly humbled, Weezer is truly lovable on “Susanne,” living up to the idealized rock-magazine image of nice boys with big guitars and bigger hearts.
5. “My Name Is Jonas,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
The first song on Weezer’s first album served for years as a reliable kick off for the band’s live show, too, and it’s easy to grasp why: “My Name Is Jonas” is an opener for the ages, catching the listener in a tractor beam of finger-picking and the instantly enticing crunch of its ax work. Inspired by the legal woes of Cuomo’s little brother, who was being screwed by his insurance company after a car accident, the tune lays out a wordy, half-legible narrative of swapping perspectives. It then improbably coalesces into a rallying cry for the workers of the world—a kind of rebel/union song even. Perhaps the all-for-one, decidedly non-navel-gazing direction it takes grew out of the collaborative songwriting process, atypical of that period in Weezer’s history; Cuomo shares a credit with Patrick Wilson and also founding member Jason Cropper, who left the band shortly after making key contributions to one of its very best songs.
4. “Say It Ain’t So,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
Exhibit A for the defense of Cuomo as a songwriter capable of moments of transcendent nuance. He’s a poet laureate of Gen X broken-home pathology on the ’90s rock hall-of-famer “Say It Ain’t So,” which spills an anecdote of childhood speculation—the way the singer, as a preteen, conflated his father leaving the family with alcoholism—over a reggae-tinged beat and an absolutely monstrous start-stop chorus. Ironies flood the cracks between the spikes in wrenching reflection. What’s weirder than a howl of boyish confusion becoming one of the signature hits from these party-committee chairmen? How about that Cuomo’s most vivid, heartbreaking lyrics became the stuff of slurred barroom recitals—a karaoke standard about fear of the damage booze can do?
3. “El Scorcho,” Pinkerton
Pinkerton perverted, in multiple senses of the word, the profitable sound of The Blue Album. So it makes sense that the record’s lead single—selected because what the hell else was the label going to go with?—would play like some demented twin to the huge hits from its predecessor. The band seems positively giddy to hang as many zany ideas as possible on the clothesline of nominal accessibility: funny voices; a drunken stagger of guitar; a jet-engine bridge that kicks the whole song into high gear; a dense thicket of references to Public Enemy and Green Day, opera and professional wrestling. Here’s the thing, though: As conceptually audacious as “El Scorcho” is, it’s also ridiculously fun, even fulfilling the mandate of a big, goofy Weezer chorus every bit as tempting to join in on as the ones that anchor “Buddy Holly” and “Undone.” A little laughing-gas delirium shouldn’t have derailed its considerable sing-along potential; maybe it was the first hints of Pinkerton’s unguarded obsessiveness—here directed at one of several campus crushes that caught Cuomo’s fancy—that spooked/turned off listeners and DJs alike.
2. “Across The Sea,” Pinkerton
Should we expect every artist we love to write from a healthy, morally upstanding place? That’s a question much too complicated to be answered in the penultimate capsule of a giant song ranking. But it’s relevant to any discussion of Pinkerton, and especially to the album’s best track, in which Cuomo cops to lusting for the 18-year-old Japanese fan who’s sent him a letter. The unseemliness of his confession is inextricable from the song’s fascinating self-portrait, the way the singer lays bare his amorous longing for all to hear (and judge), eventually plummeting down a rabbit hole of auto-diagnoses to trace the rather Oedipal roots of his maladjustment. “Across The Sea” is the pinnacle of Cuomo’s since-suppressed talent for wrapping intense emotional candor in the blanket of his pop-rock chops; it’s every bit as ineffaceable as any of Weezer’s hits, just with a psychodramatic center that assured it could never join them on the charts. The song’s unmediated, maybe even repellent honesty is a good reminder that some of the most unforgettable music comes from people you wouldn’t necessarily invite to dinner.
1. “In The Garage,” Weezer (The Blue Album)
Weezer got big right before the internet did. That’s hard to remember, given the sheer size of the message board community that would quickly crop up around the band, and also the way its members would eventually embrace memes, viral trends, and the promotional possibilities of social media. One could argue that the four-piece was a bellwether for so-called nerd culture’s impending takeover of the mainstream, a phenomenon that probably wouldn’t have happened without the World Wide Web. Here was a group of young, hungry rockers that blurred the line between cool and uncool, all but rendering the distinction obsolete by turning “nerdiness” into a sellable brand. Weezer was made for the internet, but it predated the technology’s takeover of every aspect of life, including the way people discovered, consumed, and shared the art that mattered to them. In 1994, when most people first heard “Undone” or “Buddy Holly” or any of the other instant classics on The Blue Album, it was still possible to feel alone in your pop-culture interests.
Named for the primary rehearsal space of The Amherst House, where the guys of Weezer lived and made music on the cusp of fame, “In The Garage” is the band at its most simultaneously personal and relatable. Against a canvas of burly guitar that would make his hard-rock heroes proud, a young Cuomo—previewing the introspective introversion that would take center stage on Pinkerton—decamps for his sanctuary, where he disappears into X-Men comics, Dungeons & Dragons paraphernalia, and the posters of the arena stars whose theatricality he’d borrow and tweak. He cocoons himself in a whole universe of private passions, feeling safe enough in his safe space to make his own art and voice his insecurities about it. “No one hears me sing this song,” he concludes, with palpable relief, at the end of that powerhouse chorus.
Of course, many would hear him sing this song, and by releasing it into the world he was shrinking from, he was inviting all of us into that safe space, too—in a sense, creating a club for kids just like him, both voracious and omnivorous in their appetites for art of multiple varieties, for the superheroes and supergroups that filled their own personal safe havens with meaning. That’s the simple but profound magic of “In The Garage”: It’s an anthem about retreating from everyone and into your obsessions that paradoxically fosters a sense of belonging, making every outcast who ever turned to a cherished artwork for comfort feel seen… and maybe a little less alone, at a time right before the hiss of a modem would connect us all in a more direct way.