Fall Out Boy || Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division cover)
Why was Fall Out Boy one of the most polarizing bands in the last decade of pop music?
Any band who grabs as much of the limelight as FOB did is bound to catch some heat from self-styled music critics, especially the kind that like to establish their tastemaker status by standing in opposition to whatever is the hot thing of the moment. And those same critics have offered plenty of reasons why it’s socially acceptable to hate on them:
Patrick Stump has an annoying voice. They’re just flogging the same damn chord progressions that Bob Pollard already did first and best twenty years before they were a twinkle in Island Records’ eye. Pete Wentz is a glammed-out, self-involved mess who was only using the band as way to show off his handsome… face.
I’m proposing a much simpler explanation for why the music world had such a love-hate relationship with Fall Out Boy (indeed, pop-punk and emo in general): A majority of their fans were teenage girls. And teenage girls, as we all have been socially conditioned to believe, are the worst kind of fans for any “serious” artist to have. (Side thought: Are Mumford and Sons the new Fall Out Boy?)
You can be a top-40 sensation if you’ve got throngs of teenage girls at your shows, but it’s the kiss of death as far as artistic credibility goes. I can already hear the thunderous cries of “reductive!” as I’m writing this, so let’s explore this idea. (Or “unpack,” for you grad-schoolers out there.)
Most of this has to do with Pete Wentz as the fey and über-sexually-ambiguous public face of the band. Remember this lyric from “Sugar, We’re Going Down” – I’m always sleeping in / and always sleeping for the wrong team ? And the group’s image was shaped, in large part, with Wentz acting as spokesman: Giving heart-on-sleeve interviews, appearing with copious amounts of eyeliner in press photographs and on the cover of magazines, and boasting about his bisexual escapades to whoever would listen.
With Wentz playing fast and loose with what are considered traditionally feminine aesthetics, is it any surprise that he drew such a fervent following from teenage girls? Especially given how sexually confused pretty much all American teenagers are these days? And what does it say about our culture that we react so viscerally and violently to sexual ambiguity?
Rather than do any more navel-gazing, I’m going to let the man himself complete these thoughts, from an excellent interview he did with Out magazine in 2008:
“Ambiguity makes you a lightning rod for people to hate you,” he says. “Some days I wake up and I couldn’t be bothered at all. Some days you Google yourself and you can’t eat.”
So, if you haven’t already, give a listen to their cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” that I posted today. Even if you don’t like Stump’s vocals, it’s a pretty worthy cover – the drum fills do a good job of adding extra weight to the acoustic-driven hooks, giving the whole package a minimalist feel not too far removed from the original.
Love, love will tear us [music fans] apart.