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Weekend Earworms: Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’ Turns 20 Years Old

Weekend Earworms: Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’ Turns 20 Years Old

An estimated 92% of us experience earworms. Despite the annoying times we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things, ever. We here at Nerdist are dead set on bringing you those types of songs—even if only for the weekend. So shove this into your grey matter!

I think everyone can probably point to a few favorite albums in their lives that have a direct hand in forming the people they are today. Albums that worked their way so deeply into us that the lyrics might as well be scrawled across our bones. These songs were there for us at pivotal points in our personal growth that we see them less as a soundtrack for those times and more as an actual part of us. These albums become, in some small way, shorthand for who we are. Should someone want to get to know you, they need only to put on a record. For me, one of those definitive and life altering albums turned 20 years old yesterday: Pinkerton by Weezer.

I ‘m prepared for the ire I’m probably setting myself up for and I already know the varied sources it’ll come from when talking about a band like Weezer. There will be people who hate the band. People who hate the album. People who love the band more than I do or think I’ve got the wrong idea about the album. There are those who will criticize me for not sharing the abandoned tracks of the rock opera Pinkerton was supposed to be and those who’ll criticize that I love it too much, too little, or not the right way.

The weird thing is, none of that really matters to me because of how this album is a part of me. Whatever feelings you may have about it are potentially valid because they likely come from the same deep-rooted places that helped to form you. Speaking to the portion of people who just think I have crappy music taste? Well, I wouldn’t really disagree, considering Pinkerton lives in my heart alongside albums like The Lion King soundtrack and Smash Mouth’s Fush Yu Mang.

Let’s get to this 20th birthday celebration for an album I can’t ever get out of my head.

“El Scorcho”

Pinkerton was released September 24th 1996 and, of all the songs on the album, this might be the one most people remember off the tops of their heads. Fittingly, as it’s one of the songs linked with the album name itself. The line “listening to Cio-Cio San” is a reference to the character in Madama Butterfly, the opera that Rivers Cuomo has cited as an inspiration for a good portion of the album. Cio-Cio San’s love interest in the opera? None other than United States Navy Lieutenant, B.F. Pinkerton. To me, there’s something akin to a Pavlovian response when I hear the first few seconds of “El Scorcho” that zaps me back to being 13 again. Which, I now realize, might be why this album is so important to me. It offered a glimpse of grown-up things at a time when I would have taken any form of input that let me fuel the undeserved angst-filled corners of my newly teenage mind.

“Falling For You”

At a time when hormones are just beginning their years-long rampage through your system and you think no one could possibly understand the way you feel about the world, life, and especially girls, an album with songs like this comes along. Today at 33, I’m barely able to form coherent thoughts about the things in my life that I care about so imagine hearing “But I’m shaking at your touch/I like you way too much/My baby, I’m afraid I’m falling for you/And I’d do about anything to get the hell out alive/Or maybe I would rather settle down with you” at thirteen years old.

This album came at a time where it could stand for everything that I at least thought I was feeling. Ugh, the amount of mix-tapes I made for girls I liked. This song was probably on every single one along with The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” Can this article just serve as a blanketed apology for any girl I made uncomfortable at Park View Junior High in 1996? Thankfully Pinkerton had a song for when those mixes didn’t work. Hold on. I actually don’t recall a single time they ever worked. I guess that’s why I know this next song so well

“Why Bother”

As an adult, I realize this song was far too much for my comic book-loving 13 year old mind. The broader idea of wanting to save yourself from heartbreak is perfect for that age but it’s a whole other ball of wax when you step back and realize the song (and album overall) is about the profound and deep-seated loneliness of a man wondering if his career had brought him to a place where it seemed better to maybe abandon personal connection altogether. Yikes. Let’s not end on such a downer.

“The Good Life”

Written while recovering from corrective leg surgery (still a downer, give it a second), “The Good Life” is an anthem for wanting to get back out into the world when you realize that what you had before wasn’t all that bad. On an album rife with desire, loneliness, unrequited love, and regret, it’s good to know that same introspection is applied to the idea that you can look forward to something whether it’s life in general, or just being done with leg surgery and all that comes with it.

The fact this album is still beloved 20 years after its release is a testament to the song writing and relatable themes. The staying power of a good earworm isn’t just a good hook (although Pinkerton has its fair share) but its ability to evoke something from within. To me, everything about this album brings me back to a time when I was figuring out what kind of person I was going to be. Twenty years later, I’m aware that “figuring out what kind of person you’ll become” is a process that never really stops and thankfully, I still have Pinkerton to help me with it.

Image: Weezer/DGC


Blake Rodgers writes for Nerdist from Chicago, IL where he lives happily with his Guinness World Record for High Fives. You can be his pal by following him on Twitter (@TheBlakeRodgers)

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