Fall Out Boy is back at it again with an adventurous new single and a striking purple wave theme. The song, “Young and Menace,” is the first act of their next album,
M A N I A, which is due to release on September 15th.
In the spirit of hype (and there are so many upcoming releases that I’m hyped for right now), allow me to make a somewhat bold claim:
“Young and Menace” is one of the three best songs that Fall Out Boy has ever written.
Now hold on, before anyone starts scoffing at my arrogance, let me explain. There are many perspectives from which to judge how good a song is, and of course which one you use depends a lot on personal preference.
There are three things I generally listen for when judging a song:
- Do the melodies, harmonies, and arrangement play off of each other in an interesting way, that builds and gets more interesting as the song goes on? (AKA Is the music good?)
- Do the lyrics resonate with me and sound insightful in this musical context, or are they cringe-inducing or too generic? (AKA is the story good?)
- Does this combination of music and lyrics make me feel something? (AKA Is the song good?)
“Young and Menace” hits all three of those questions with a resounding “Yes.” Its success comes after Fall Out Boy’s long history of songwriting, and it shows.
First off, the lyrics (of course I can’t help but start here) are wonderfully reminiscent of their Folie à Deux era, when they were scathing and filled with beautiful imagery and metaphors. They demanded your attention and bundled you up in the warmth of their angst and insight.
Unlike that album, however, this song isn’t so abstract that it loses the listener, and manages to keep the critical depiction of a very specific situation. It’s great because the words aren’t so obvious that they bore you after hearing them once, but they aren’t so confusing that no one will ever decipher what they meant. What on earth it must be like to feel that “[you]’ve lived so much life that I think God is gonna have to kill [you] twice.”
Then, of course, is the obvious style change they’ve made. In an interview with Beats1, Patrick Stump, the lead singer of FOB, said that he was simply messing around and came up with a demo for “Young and Menace.”
Stump is a fantastic songwriter and musician, which is evident in the solo album he released back in 2011 during FOB’s hiatus. That record, Soul Punk, wasn’t afraid to break new ground, try distinctly un-rock-like arrangements, and in general do a lot of weird things that FOB had never done before.
This song reminds me of that album.
It’s got the harmonies and creativity of Stump’s solo songs mixed with the rock polish that makes it so intense (and marketable to a wide audience). They clearly had no fear of trying something new.
The best part of the arrangement is something that Stump brought up in the same interview, where he said that he was trying to write a song that could be played on stage by just the four band members, but didn’t necessarily sound the same as the average rock band.
One of the greatest strengths of having a full long-term band lineup is the ability to have each member contribute to their part in a song. Not only does it allow bands like FOB to keep a fairly consistent album release schedule of about two and a half years, it also makes it so that songs like this one get special, detailed improvements to the drum part, the guitar parts, the bass licks, and the vocals and lyrics. Each member specializes, and thus can focus on what they do best to make the song all the more interesting.
(As a side note, one of the unfortunate side effects of Panic! At The Disco losing all its members is that Brendon now has to write all parts to all songs. He’s a great songwriter and musician, but I’m worried about his ability to produce high quality music long-term if he’s always the main songwriter. Tangent over)
The diversity of sound and part layering is one of the greatest strengths of this new single. It may not be as iconic as “Dance, Dance” or “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” but time will tell how it is remembered. It’s also a hella fun song to listen to. It makes me feel something, and not just silly from getting such a big smile on my face while I dance around the college campus with my headphones in.
“Young and Menace” is a fearless and unexpected confluence of all of FOB’s strengths being put to their greatest potential.
Let’s hope the rest of the album has many more pleasant surprises awaiting us on September 15th, because I am so excited.