Review: Fall Out Boy’s “MANIA” effectively fuses hodgepodge of styles


For many angsty teenagers, the “emo” community is home to Hot Topic lovers, dark makeup, intense music… and now the color purple. As the publicity built up to the final days before its release, Fall Out Boy’s newest purple-themed album “MANIA” lives up to the band’s reputation to satisfy life-long fans while simultaneously throwing in new elements to switch up the style for first-timers.

“MANIA” (stylized as M A  N   I    A) is the band’s seventh studio album and became available on Jan. 19. Beginning as an emo-pop band from Chicago, Fall Out Boy consists of vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump, bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz, drummer Andrew Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman. They have been described as pop punk and alternative rock, among other genres– and this album makes it even more complicated.

While some artists are constantly evolving from album to album, Fall Out Boy decides to mash one big hodgepodge of styles under a purple cover, which surprisingly works in their favor. A portion of the tracklist gives a nod to the band’s beginnings as a semi-intense punk band, with heavy guitar riffs and loud vocals. On the other side, there are songs that take a completely different approach, with electronic melodies and odd tempos. The album lacks smooth transitions from song to song, but rather serves as a collection of the band’s experimentation with songwriting, albeit enjoyable.

“Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea.” Not only is it a mouthful, but it’s an earful. This song’s intense background riff provides a striking entrance into Fall Out Boy’s greatest strength: high-energy dance beats. With “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” and “Champion,” the upbeat tempos blend with the unique combination of sounds and melodies to get listeners off their feet. Bottom line, you can’t help but smile and sing along.

Soon enough, the band enacts a change of pace and style alike. In the background of “Church” there are not only church bells, but also a whole angelic-like choir chanting behind Stump’s strong vocals. But this is only the introduction to the real plot twist: a slow ballad. Jumping on the Ed-Sheeran-love-song bandwagon, Stump trades his hardcore guitar for an echoing melody but turns up the volume on his powerfully emotional voice to strike the audience in the heart with “Heaven’s Gate.” It’s the song that fans never knew they needed, but they will soon find themselves singing along to the sweet lyrics.

Although the band found success in moving from striking to sweet, their addition of a few pop songs did not reward them as nicely, and strayed too far from the style the audience knows and loves. Fall Out Boy invited reggae-dancehall “singer” Burna Boy to make an appearance in “Sunshine Riptide,” promptly ruining the entire verse in which he spits pointless and incomprehensible raps to a generic background beat that you might find in a flip-flop commercial. The remainder of the song is only redeemed by a catchy chorus.

Similarly, “Young And Menace” takes an electronic approach, mixing pitch-warped echos in different octaves with synth-board sound effects. The song gets more appealing the more it is heard, but it is not initially a stand-out song. Nonetheless, the apprehensive slow-tempo build up to the major beat drop is addictively satisfying, yet Stump’s autotuned voice is less than desirable.

Due to the band’s lengthy history, its members are proficient in their methods of collaboration. Stump is often in the spotlight, but for fair reason; his vocal range surpasses expectations and the songs are usually not heavily autotuned, adding a touch of authenticity to his reputation. Over time, Wentz, Hurley, and Trohman have collaborated enough that they understand how to blend their instruments; once they know the routine, they’re ready to mix it up in this album.

To really see the whole band shine, “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” provides a prevalent guitar and bass riff to make the album’s “angry anthem.” Teenagers and adults are guaranteed to be screaming the lyrics within ten minutes (or your album back!). Another highlight of the album, and this song in particular, is the quirky and often comedic lyrics. For instance, “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color” is this anthem’s most famous phrase.

Out of all the sweat and tears put into “MANIA,” the spotlight fell on the second track, “The Last Of The Real Ones,” which exceeded all expectations and put the icing on this album’s cake. Opening with a snappy piano riff, the verses gradually add one instrument at a time, until the chorus features a multitude of sounds blending into one frosty milkshake of energy. It switches between quiet and simple verses featuring Stump’s consistently impressive singing, and a crazy chorus worthy of enthusiastic dancing and intense screaming– I mean, singing.

Fall Out Boy managed to drift away from their emo-punk origins, remain true to their style and release the fantastic collection known as “MANIA.” As for their upcoming September concert at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, commuters may want to avoid the area that night.

There will be mania.