By Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor
Key Tracks: “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea”, “Bishops Knife Trick”
Post-hiatus Fall Out Boy stuck the biggest middle finger to the pop-punk/alternative community, claiming that it’s perfectly okay to sell out as mainstream, money-hungry musicians embracing the shallowest of radio anthems. As Fall Out Boy holds a reputable career history and a trendsetting appeal in the scene, a bunch of other similar bands have also hopped on the same train, reducing themselves and their music for the big bucks. And for the record, Fall Out Boy never “saved rock ’n’ roll.”
M A N I A is the last good thing about this band.
This is phase three of the Patrick Stump soundboard extraordinaire and its cluttering electronics that overshadow the real instruments. M A N I A is, in fact, the perfect follow-up to American Beauty/American Psycho. Their sound has “evolved” with even more cringe-inducing hooks and repetitive stadium sing-alongs that are destined be overplayed like “Centuries” or popularized by edgy kids on musical.ly. It’s no surprise that M A N I A was going to be an eye-roll for the old fans, but it will also be the reason of musical disappointment for the average listener.
“Young and Menace” is possibly one of the worst openers (or songs) of 2018. It’s a subpar, EDM-inspired track that is too pretentious and off-putting to endure through. The main drop is a fiasco of all sorts; it’s nothing more than a train wreck of pitch-shifted vocal chops that is so poorly executed, resulting in a dull, bemusing melody. The song structure is utterly predictable, and the awkward lyrics don’t do the song any justice either. “Champion” is a little better—at least it reminds us that Fall Out Boy actually has a guitar player. Although it is a stretch to even call it rock, this is the only rock song that is on M A N I A, and it’s only bearable at most. Likewise, “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is not entirely terrible; the chorus is half decent and jammable, but the song still finds a way to raise an eyebrow by repeating the awkward line: “Are you smelling that shit?”
Expectations are pretty much nonexistent at this point. “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” is the epitome of cringe-pop, especially with the cliché whistle tune. The Latin groove is a good addition that fuels the song, but really only for catchiness’ sake. “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” definitely had some potential in the pre-chorus with its unique arrangement of chords, but the chorus killed it along with Stump’s temptation for “woahs”, which is lackadaisical in terms of songwriting. “Heaven” boasts Stump’s vocal talent for the umpteenth time, while “Sunshine Riptide” is an awkward, rap-reggae track that feels out of place. The whole album is a jumble of different musical elements and eccentric twists, which backfires with inconsistency, ultimately hindering their prospective direction.
M A N I A proves that experimenting and going full mainstream pop don’t blend well together. Many argue in defense that Fall Out Boy has “matured,” but in reality, they’re producing whatever serves the radio’s best interest while attempting to sound innovative to live up to their name. The level of creativity and the technical production of this album is existent – however, it is disrupted by the pitfalls of modern pop and formulaic songwriting, resulting in a cookie-cutter, bland sound that is, by now, only unique to Fall Out Boy.