Saving Rock and Roll
Other than the Raffi records my mother would play for my brother and I in my early childhood, the very first “album” that I grew to love on my own was Amy Grant's Heart in Motion. It was part of a couple huge presents for Christmas when I was 7, the bedroom set for my American Girl doll Addy Walker, and my very own cassette player. My brother received a similar gift, the Nickelodeon “blast box”. It never did get very loud, but it was a good boom box. My mom told me that she thought it was important that we started to develop an interest and appreciation of music. I thought it was funny, but she was serious. I played that tape until it was so worn out there was hardly any sound.
When I was 10, we moved into a larger house with a big basement that my parents split into two rooms with curtain dividers. My brother and I could play our music as loud as we wanted because we were in the basement. Wow 1998, WWJD, and DC Talk's Jesus Freak were among the most played tapes we owned. I got a CD player shortly afterward, but my disc library was small, and I wasn't allowed to take it around the house, so I stuck to the stereo in the basement. When I did finally expand my CD collection, I got swept into pop music overdrive in the late 90's, bought several of Britney Spears' albums, and all of *NSYNC's. As you can tell, most of my childhood, I mainly listened to “Christian music,” but it wasn't because my parents made me, it was what I largely had access to. My mother was (and still is) a member of the choir at our church, and she collected the tapes that the Music Ministry's library had no more room for. Quite honestly, as long as there wasn't extreme swearing (and I wasn't playing it too loudly) my parents didn't object to anything I wanted to listen to. That freedom led me into “secular music” once I was in my early teens.
Our household switched from cable to satellite tv, and XM Radio channels were part of the plan my parents purchased. With a little trepidation, my brother and I switched on the Top 100 channel and were introduced to artists from all genres of music, from Outkast to Daniel Bedingfield. The sudden discovery of the broader spectrum of music finally landed me on music videos. I preferred music videos because, with the help of the tv's captioning option, I could learn lyrics lightning fast. I delved into rock genres, becoming a fan of bands like Brand New and The Used. Searching for the physical CDs at the local library led me down an endless rabbit hole of other bands and musicians. At one point, I was finding a new band to listen to every few weeks; it was amazing!
“Long live the car-crash hearts”
With the introduction of their first mainstream album, From Under the Cork Tree in 2004, I discovered Fall Out Boy. I liked their music, it was an interesting concoction of the fast paced punk of the early 2000's, with sprinklings of pop here and there. What ultimately drew me in to the band, and what has kept me a fan for the last decade, were the lyrics.
I won't get any objections if I mention the blatant mindlessness that is prevalent in the music of today. Arguably, there probably have always been songs that have had less than intelligent lyrics, but I'm not always interested in dancing and singing at the same time. We've all heard absolutely idiotic lyrics all for the sake of rhyming (Umbrella anyone?). For Fall Out Boy, the opposite exists: The music, while always good in my opinion, takes a secondary position to the lyrics. With their last three albums, the band has been extremely experimental in musical exploration while upholding the usual quality of the lyrics.
Many of the band's early songs were loosely based on the failed relationships and breakups of bassist Pete Wentz, others are about his struggles with depression, including a suicide attempt in the song Seven Minutes in Heaven (Atavan Halen). Here is an example of the cleverness of the lyric writing:
I'm coming apart at the seams/Pitching myself for leads in other people's dreams – The Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes
Have you ever wanted to disappear/and join a monastery/Go out and preach on Manic Street/Where will I be when I wake up next to a stranger on a passenger plane (passenger plane) – 20 Dollar Nosebleed
I will defend the faith/Going down swinging/I will save the songs/That we can't stop singing – Save Rock and Roll
“When people start talking about rock 'n' roll, that's the thing you're not supposed to ever do. When you try to define it, it makes everyone act funny.” – Pete Wentz
There have been references to the band's attempts to please fans, their rise to mainstream music, and their struggles to write thoughtfully, but Save Rock and Roll specifically addresses music as a whole. Other than the usual complaints that occur when an underground band “sells out” to a major recording company, for Fall Out Boy the complaint has been surrounding the fact that the band's genre. The "pop" overtones in their music cause many to roll their eyes, yet the band has never denied that pop is an influence to their sound.Critics are reluctant to call Fall Out Boy a “rock” band, and many believe that they're hypocrites for not sticking to a specific type of musical composition.Rolling Stone went as far as labeling the band "emo" a few years ago.
In a recent interview with Time Pete Wentz explained the meaning behind Save Rock and Roll. The goal of the album was not just for itself, or a celebration of the return of the band after a five year hiatus, it was to continue the preservation of what is known as “rock music.” In other subsequent interviews, lead singer and guitarist Patrick Stump went even further to say, “when rock'n'roll becomes predictable – a certain look or sound – it's the least rock'n'roll thing I can think of. It's like there's a prescription available for how you should rock, and we're here to save the idea of rock'n'roll."
Predictably, people are upset about the title of the album, the contents of the album, and the fact that Elton John is featured in the song Save Rock and Roll. But that brings us to an interesting point: What even defines “rock and roll?” Historically, the genre of “rock” music has been a pretty wide brimmed umbrella. Rock 'n' roll was born from a fusion of gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues music in the 1940s. Fast forward a few decades and compare today's respected rock musicians and bands to those of the 50s and 60s. It's obvious that evolution has occurred. Music today is very amorphous. So, with the definition of rock music being so broad, why is it that Fall Out Boy feels the need to make such a statement?Save Rock and Roll is meant to bridge the gap between genres, leading listeners to other artists, thus “saving” rock from complete extinction.
So is Fall Out Boy really saving rock and roll? Maybe, maybe not. My gateway into music was Amy Grant's Heart In Motion. As far as his own introduction to music,Wentz called Green Day “gateway drug” into rock Every individual has a moment of inspiration, a spark, or revelation that drives them to be passionate about something, whether it's a lifestyle choice, or profession. Fall Out Boy isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I think their attempt to create a point of inspiration for listeners and potential fans is marvelous.
Thriller, performed by Fall Out Boy, written by Pete Wentz
The Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes, performed by Fall Out Boy, written by Pete Wentz
20 Dollar Nosebleed, performed by Fall Out Boy, written by Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump
Save Rock and Roll, performed by Fall Out Boy and Elton John, written by Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump