Quick quiz: Name a predominantly male rock band in the last few years that has cracked the top 40 by way of their unabashed and straightforward pop sensibilities. It’s hard to do. Fall Out Boy was one such band — they operated at a very unique intersection of punk, rock and pop, which became particularly pronounced in the second half of their career.
Leaving aside the nitty gritty of gender politics for now, it’s fairly uncontroversial to say that pop music is generally thought of as female in its aesthetic, and rock music as male. Fall Out Boy was one of those rare bands that managed to keep a foot on each side of that line of scrimmage.
Rather than steal her words, I’ll leave it to the Village Voice's inimitable Maura Johnston to synthesize these thoughts, as she did in this excellent interview with NPR in 2009 on the overlooked music of the year. Give it a listen.
RAZ: It seems like, Maura - and I hate to crash your party here because you’re calling this one of your favorite albums of the decade - but these guys are sort of trying to be an alternative, indie version of a boy band.
JOHNSTON: No, I don’t think that at all. I don’t think that at all. I think they’re a really good rock band that’s sort of in a weird place for bands that are rock but that have pop sensibilities. I mean, if you look at the rock charts right now, Alice in Chains, you know, who are one of the…
RAZ: The Seattle grunge…
JOHNSTON: Seattle grunge bands, like, they’re still topping the modern rock chart, and a lot of bands operating in that idiom are still controlling the rock charts.
And, you know, it’s just a weird sort of glitch of the system right now, like women sing pop and men do rock. And for any man to sort of bridge that gap on radio right now is a tough haul.