Weezer's Self-Referential 'Africa' Video Sees the Band Age Appropriately, If Not Maturely


If there’s ever a band that has made critical enterprise out of performing juvenile, it might be Weezer. From the opening, upside-down shot of “Undone – The Sweater Song,” their 1993 debut single and video, to the Weird Al parody remedy of their video for “Africa,” launched on Monday (Sept. 24), Weezer have eschewed the tormented anguish of their alt-rock predecessors for a extra adolescent, self-deprecating ache.

When the “Undone” video first premiered on MTV, it was neither darkish and gritty like its rock contemporaries, nor flashy and arty like the brand new wave video stars of the channel's early years. Directed by Spike Jonze, “Undone" was introduced fully in slow-motion, depicting the band on a blue soundstage. Mop-haired frontman Rivers Cuomo wails “I’ve come undone” whereas taking part in guitar and sporting a soccer jersey. Midway via, a pack of Golden Retrievers inexplicably runs throughout the display, and in direction of the top of the clip, drummer Patrick Wilson will get up and sprints round his drum set, banging on the cymbals as he goes. Instead of instantly confronting internal demons via provocative movies, like Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” or Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” Weezer handled themes of rejection, loneliness, and loserdom of their songs by pairing them with visible humor.

Some of this was unintentional. According to Rivers’ Edge, John D. Luerssen’s biography of the band, the seemingly jol tone of “The Sweater Song” sarcastically got here from a spot of frustration. The one-take video needed to be shot over 25 instances to get it proper; at one level, one of many canines allegedly defecated on Wilson’s bass drum pedal. Fed up with how the shoot was going, the band gave up on making an attempt to deal with it with any form of seriousness.

It ended up working of their favor: The band’s winking humorousness and improvisation stood out in MTV rotation with out eclipsing their complete identification. In subsequent movies with Jonze, Weezer precisely parodied the '70s sitcom Happy Days in “Buddy Holly” and performed with wild animals on a sunny hilltop in “Island within the Sun.” They have been by no means as goofy as different Jonze collaborators like MC 900ft Jesus, however inheritor attraction rested in how they might snicker at themselves whereas pining after ladies or wallowing in their very own ennui.

That comedic method to rock has considerably miraculously endured even because the style has light in recognition, partly as a result of the Weezer/Jonze collaborations predicted the kinds of comedic YouTube movies and memes that will come to dominate tradition within the 21st century. Everything from OK Go’s mid-’00s makes an attempt at virality to Migos and Drake’’s Soul Train-revising “Walk It Talk It,” launched in March, could possibly be thought-about descendants.

But Weezer hasn’t stopped partaking with the web fan tradition that they helped to create. Late final 12 months, a 14-year-old fan from Cleveland named Mary Klym began a Twitter account known as @WeezerAfrica and started campaigning for Weezer to cowl the Toto traditional. Even although it was initially launched in 1982, the euphoric soft-rock tune had progressively gained recognition with on-line millennials and Gen Z’ers as a respite from the post-election information cycle. Klym’s marketing campaign gained traction, and 5 months after she started tweeting, Weezer launched “Africa” onto streaming providers together with, bafflingly, a limited-edition vinyl urgent offered at Urban Outfitters.

Weezer’s “Africa” is a really simple cowl, and its video, weirdly sufficient, could possibly be thought-about the identical. It’s a near-exact reproduction of the “Sweater Song” video, full with the one take, the blue soundstage (mimicking the duvet of the band’s debut album), and the opening upside-down digital camera flip. All that’s lacking, actually, are the canines. And there’s one other added element: Weird Al Yankovic performs Cuomo within the “Africa” video, lip syncing alongside to the phrases, taking part in accordion, and usually performing like his trademark goofy self. (The remainder of the band are additionally doppelgangers, though all of them resemble how the band seems now greater than how they appeared within the unique video.)

One look on the “Africa” video makes this apparent, however as Weezer has aged into rock music’s previous guard, they haven’t precisely matured. And whereas that consistency has helped their fanbase keep devoted for over 20 years, it’s unsurprisingly introduced its justifiable share of skepticism. The similar number of misogyny-laced, poor-me-I-can’t-get-laid lyrics current on 1996’s Pinkerton will be discovered on songs as latest as 2015’s “Thank God for Girls.” It’s a trait that has made Cuomo’s awkward-nerd character, sadly, much more relatable to some listeners and fully alienating to others – whereas some older followers have taken subject with Cuomo’s forays into weird, surrealist lyrics that belie the self-seriousness of the band’s typical self-pity. Above all, there has all the time been the kind of music nerd who can’t stand Weezer’s appropriation of churning, heavy-metal guitar work into limitless, pop-friendly hooks.

What has allowed Weezer to stay round for thus lengthy, other than a big cult-like following, is that the band has sufficient self-awareness to acknowledge their age and to develop, if not mature, into this present second of Internet virality that they helped construct the inspiration for a quarter-century in the past. Besides the apparent silliness of masking “Africa,” the meme tune du jour, on the request of a fan, they’ve doubled down on this method of their movies. It’s becoming that Cuomo casted Weird Al to play him in “Africa,” as Yankovic occupies an analogous cultural strata, during which he’s appreciated and beloved for enjoying the function of the jester within the music world. Even if he’s not on the excessive level of his profession, he has constantly held this function for over three a long time, with no main lulls. Like Weezer, numerous the continual love for Weird Al is born from nostalgia, however not like Weezer, Weird Al’s musical repertoire doesn’t have fairly as a lot baggage as a result of causes talked about above. Cuomo casting Yankovic is, to a level, aspirational.

“Africa” was directed by Brendan Walter and Jade Ehlers, who’ve labored with Weezer on previous movies each individually and as a duo. You’ll discover there’s a typical thread to a lot of their work. Here's the band impersonating Guns N' Roses. Here's Patton Oswalt lip-syncing within the Oval Office, whereas Cuomo acts as a Secret Service agent. There are different movies they've achieved, each with Weezer and bands like Fall Out Boy and Green Day, that parody traditional Americana/suburbia tropes; there's one the place Cuomo is a cult chief; there's one other the place Cuomo (unsuccessfully) tries to make an interesting Tinder profile.

None of that is groundbreaking stuff, but it surely demonstrates a sure kind of tacky, self-deprecating comedy that’s excusable, and even inspired, for a band in Weezer’s place. Again, there’s an attention-grabbing alignment occurring with the band casting themselves as traditional rock mainstays like Guns N' Roses, or having a longtime comic like Oswalt lip sync their tune from a performative place of energy. There’s an understanding, too, that self-promotion is not an important ingredient to their movies. Cuomo’s bespectacled face not must be the middle of each clip; he can don a wig and a fancy dress, or he can hardly seem within the video in any respect.

More usually, Weezer is now embracing dumb enjoyable in a approach that feels just like the logical evolution of the dumb enjoyable they engaged in throughout the earlier elements of their profession. They’re conscious that they most likely gained’t be the subsequent viral sensation — their time has handed for that — however the band is assuredly comfy in mixing inside the larger Internet panorama as elder statesmen of its sort. Hurry, boys, they’re ready there for you.