Scott Greenstone

An in-depth Emerald investigation into one of the most divisive pop bands in recent history.

My earliest memory of Weezer comes from 2001, when I first saw a video titled “H--- Pipe” on MTV. My mom sent my brother on a mission to discover what the blurred out word was. When he returned from school with news that it was “Hash Pipe,” we were all disappointed, hoping for something more risqué.

I was seven years old. This was my first hint that Weezer might not be as cool as I thought.

That’s why I was surprised when the releases of “Thank God For Girls” (Oct. 25) and “Do You Wanna Get High?” (Nov. 3) were accompanied by levels of coverage usually reserved for Justin Bieber, Adele and One Direction — the elite of today’s music industry. Rolling Stone promptly published articles following both releases, as well as an interview with Rivers Cuomo, Weezer’s lead vocalist.

YouTube comments on the songs varied from “Really loving this song! Reminds me of why I became a Weezer fan!” to “well weezer are shit again.”

And the question is revived: Is Weezer cool? Were they ever?

Earlier this week, we posted this question on the Emerald Twitter account. 24 hours later, results were dubious. Out of 106 votes total, “no” won with 51 percent.

For this article, the Emerald decided to speak with some of the band’s declared fans here at the University of Oregon, professional music critics, and others with a commitment to Weezer, because Weezer’s biggest fans are also its greatest critics.

Steven Hyden, former writer for Grantland and Pitchfork, lays it out simply in an email:

“Weezer was never cool. Not in the ‘90s, not in the ‘00s and certainly not now. Perhaps there was a brief window of time when being a Weezer fan had some cachet post-Pinkerton/pre-Green Album, but the whole point of liking Weezer (and I suppose being in Weezer) is owning your inherent uncoolness.”

But for people like myself who grew up with Weezer — now looked at as one of the most influential rock bands of the ‘90s — Weezer was inherently cool, but not by the standard metric.

What rock star other than frontman Rivers Cuomo has (a) declared that he is “Tired Of Sex,” (b) gone to Harvard and (c) traded in a life of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll for Shakespeare, celibacy and meditation?

Click on the albums for analysis of each era of Weezer.

Today, when we speak of Weezer, we are usually talking about what the band did between 1994-2002. What followed was a decade-long dry spell of albums that are patently bad, even for a band that embraces that sort of thing.

At my middle school, people seemed to turn on Weezer about a year after Make Believe — specifically, after “Beverly Hills” ran its course. Pretty soon, people only played “Beverly Hills” in jest to annoy others. One friend, in a true act of rebellion, defaced his homemade white Weezer t-shirt by replacing the “W” with a “G” to spell “Geezer.” He then wore it more proudly than ever.

For a band that didn’t release a popular album for the majority of current college students’ formative years, it left a lasting impact.

“My guess is that Weezer hasn’t been cool since Pinkerton, really, but they keep fooling new generations of high school kids anyway,” said David Greenwald, music critic for The Oregonian.

Silas Valentino, a contributor for The Village Voice and former Emerald staff writer took this notion one step further:

“One day, I’m going to fall in love with a woman and she will have her complexities and her perfections. And I’ll be able to draw this beautiful comparison to Weezer where it’s like, ‘I see you for your Blue and I see you for your Pinkerton, but I also acknowledge your Make Believe.’ ”

When describing why it’s possible to simultaneously love and hate Weezer, the phrase “endearing” was common. Weezer attempted to diversify its sound and the results were less than stellar. Instead of making a poor version of Pinkerton five times, they admirably kept attempting new things.

For many fans, it doesn’t matter how bad the tracks get. Nathan Stevens, a KWVA DJ and UO student, said Rivers Cuomo would have to be filmed kicking puppies for Stevens to give up on the band.

“The point of Weezer is that they were never cool,” Stevens said. “ ‘Buddy Holly’ is about not being cool, but also not giving a fuck. They’ve always been a dorky, nerdy, lovable, great band. I don't think cool has anything to do with it.”

Other listeners, such as Eli Burch, a senior product design major at UO, have not followed modern Weezer closely. Burch said the first four albums helped shape his music experience growing up when most other students were listening to hip-hop.

“I don’t think they’re cool again, but maybe they’ll prove me wrong,” Burch said. “I’m cheering for them, but I’m not very optimistic. I would love if they made an awesome comeback.”

Loving Weezer goes hand-in-hand with hating Weezer. True fans accept the bad albums, as they wholeheartedly love the good ones.

“Weezer is Kool-Aid,” Valentino said. “I’ll drink it every day and twice on Sunday. Weezer is definitely cool and relevant in 2015, as they will be for another 21 years, even though fresh fans are probably scarce. They made enough magic in that L.A. garage back in ‘94 to last a career.” The future of Weezer is unwritten. In 1996, Pinkerton was panned. Rolling Stone readers voted it as the third worst album of the year, before doubling back in 2002 to name it the 16th greatest album of all time.

“I don’t need anything more from Weezer at this point,” Stevens said. “If there’s something amazing they come up with, I will be so, so happy. But they gave me those two albums of my childhood [Blue and Pinkerton]. I don’t want to demand anything.”

So after all this, is it possible to declare Weezer cool again? The results were pretty evenly split. More people said yes, but arguments that Weezer has never been cool were more convincing. There’s only one question left to ask after an inconclusive study:

Does it matter if Weezer is cool?

No. Not at all.

What matters is that Weezer is one of the most interesting bands in present times: It’s reached the top, plummeted to rock bottom and may be ascending once again. If the next step of Weezer’s journey is to bottom out again, there will still be fans waving the Weezer flag as proudly as ever.

Nick Miller, an Oregon State University student I grew up with who reintroduced me to Weezer this past summer, had this to say about the contradiction that is being a Weezer fan:

“When you love something, you gotta love its faults too. You gotta accept [Weezer] for what they are, and those terrible, terrible records are a part of who they are now,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s a part of it.”

Is Weezer cool again? Click on one of the pictures below
"Weezer is not cool."
--Dahlia Bazzaz, editor-in-chief
"Weezer can never be 'cool'. At their height, Weezer's appeal was their nerd aesthetic and 'fuck the cool kids' attitude. Then by the time Beverly Hills hit, they were overexposed and thus uncool in a different way. Thus they can only ever return to 'cool because they're uncool' vibe."
--Chris Berg, video games and technology writer
"I do not have a sentimental relationship with Weezer as a band like most of my generation does. A lot of the time when I hear about Weezer, it seems like a nostalgia thing, so my sense of Weezer is a band that made a couple really solid albums early on, and they're not a group that I would want to throw their music on very often. I don't really see Weezer as ever having been cool. Maybe during The Blue Album. On the one hand they have the “Buddy Holly” thing, but to have the slow, chugging guitar style, it’s really cool. People hated Pinkerton. By the time people realized Pinkerton was this great, undiscovered gem, Weezer had already been uncool for a while. Any coolness Weezer has is in spite of them being uncool. Final Verdict: As far as the mainstream goes, I would say they’re not cool, but they’re beloved, like a big slobbering sheepdog."
--Daniel Bromfield, associate Arts and Culture editor
"In elementary school, they were a pretty integral part of my music experience. It didn't occur to me that they could be anything other than totally cool. The way they precariously handle their fame is the most compelling and stressful thing about them as a band. I don't have expectations for them anymore, because I don’t know where they’re going to go, or what they’re going to do with it. They’ve always been a band that alchemizes how uncool they are and makes that into something totally different. If they keep on that track where they’re very self-aware, but not spiraling out of control, making dorky Lost references, I think that would be pretty cool. There’s always the subtext that Weezer might be in on the joke, which is the troubling part of watching them tumble down a mid-career slope."
--Emerson Malone, senior Arts and Culture editor
"Weezer has always been cool. They just haven't been popular as of late due to their albums in the 2000s sounding too much like their stuff in the ‘90s. These two new songs sound like modern soft rock, which is why they have become relevant again. But they never will or have been super popular due to Weezer being in a niche. Hard and soft rock have diverged into pop rock and punk rock. It's rare to see normal rock groups make it really big these days like Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys, let alone a soft punk rock group like Weezer. While they will never be super big, I still like them and am glad to find their music is finally appealing to modern audiences again."
--Eric Schucht, science and research reporter
"For me, yes! Weezer is cool again."
--Madison Layton, women's volleyball reporter
"I absolutely adore Weezer, even through its Hurley days. However, I haven't adored every song, and I definitely feel like I'm eating too many pieces of bitter dark chocolate when I listen to both of these songs. While I love dark chocolate, as I love Weezer, too much of the bitterness of it makes me retract from it. Weezer's new singles are fuming with sick bitterness despite their almost ironic positive messages. I almost fell asleep during "Do You Want To Get High," as the lyrics meant nothing to me other than repetitive lines over and over again and the instrumentals reflected that same vibe. "Thank God For Girls" offended me, which is Weezer's best quality, but it offended me to the point where all I was asking afterward was why I wasted three minutes of my life listening. I have always been critical of Weezer's music, but have always loved at least one song on their albums, so I'm crossing my fingers that a piece of gold comes out of this pile."
--Olivia Decklar, Fraternity and Sorority Life reporter
"I guess I never got on the "Weezer is dumb!" wagon as much as I was on the "Weezer is old!" wagon. I thought that just like any band that was emblematic of a single era, they lost their shine after a while. I saw them at the Project Pabst in Portland this summer, and they were really fun and people were really into it. There was a huge Weezer flag. The W was blazing on the stage, like they are still proud of their brand. Brian Bell came onstage wearing a beer-sipping helmet that he ended up throwing into the crowd, and it was that same uncool-but-cool thing, you know?"
--Scott Greenstone, managing producer
"Weezer is cool again. I just love “Do You Wanna Get High” so much. It’s a step in the right direction. Weezer is cool again, but not in the way the Weeknd is cool. Weezer is always going to be nerd cool, or dad cool. Definitely still cool and relevant for now."
--Sophia June, former Arts and Culture editor (2014-15)
Code: Brandon Cao, Jake Urban
Words: Craig Wright
Graphics: Stacy Yurishcheva
Producer: Scott Greenstone