In case you haven’t already heard, emo megastars Fall Out Boy dropped a new record last month. M A N I A is their 7th full-length album, and their 3rd post-hiatus. If this isn’t news to you then you’ve probably heard a lot of different reviews on the record – some very positive, some decidedly not so. The band have split opinion with their music before, especially with 2015’s American Beauty/American Psycho, but never quite like this.
M A N I A has been fairly well received by critics within alternative music scenes. It’s clearly gone down well with Fall Out Boy’s most dedicated fans, too – it’s been immensely successful in the rock and pop charts so far. It clearly doesn’t make sense to the old men of music criticism – those who come from more traditional media – but it never has, so this is hardly surprising. However, the harshest criticism of the record has come from a certain legion of fans – those who grew up on emo and pop-punk; the angsty teens of 10 years ago.
When the first single, ‘Young And Menace’ was dropped last April, it was met with immediate unease and outrage from this population of fans. With each new song, that has only intensified.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with disliking an album. Nobody is ever obligated to like anything. Taste is an individual and subjective experience, although none of our opinions or preferences exist entirely in a vacuum. People don’t have to like M A N I A – that’s not the point.
The issue lies in the content of the criticism. Ask a stuck-in-2008 emo kid for their thoughts on the new Fall Out Boy record, and they will likely say that it is ‘cringey’, ‘tries too hard to be deep’, or ‘tries too hard to be different’. These kinds of comments have been thrown around a lot in discussion of M A N I A. There is, undeniably, a line or two which are reminiscent of MySpace statuses circa 2006 and 2010 Tumblr posts. “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour” would definitely have been the caption to an overexposed, side-fringe heavy profile picture several years back.
It’s fine to laugh about that. It’s fine to look back at who you were during the prime ‘scene’ years. But making fun of young people who are in their equivalent to that phase now? That’s not fine. Calling kids ‘cringey’ for liking the music they do – or dressing how they dress – now, just because you’ve moved on, isn’t cool. It’s exactly what people used to do to you, is it not? Being a Fall Out Boy fan back in the day involved a lot of teasing. Some people were physically attacked for it. One girl was even killed for the way she presented herself. Belittling the teenagers who love Fall out Boy as they are now isn’t innocent, and it hurts – don’t you remember?
It’s not really about the music, either – if it was, you’d stick with ‘I don’t like it’, and looking at the musical merits (and pitfalls). But it’s not – it never is. It’s about virtue signalling. It’s about setting yourself apart from the people who are into this music – and yes, that is predominantly teenagers. More specifically, teenage girls. The success Fall Out Boy has now is down to their work ethic and the exciting nature of their band, of course – but it’s also down to the teenage girls that have supported them throughout the years. Other people have been and are into them too yes, but it has always been teenage girls who run this operation. That’s who buys physical copies of the albums, buys merch and wears it proudly everywhere they go. That’s who hypes the bands on social media and waits in line all day for shows.
Success like this – much like One Direction’s, the YA author John Green’s, and Taylor Swift’s, for example – always has teenage girls behind it. And that’s what people really have a problem with. That’s what means some people have automatically marked M A N I A as ‘cringey’.
You don’t have to like M A N I A. You don’t have to like anything. But the way you talk about it – and about the people who do like it – says more about your attitudes than about the music.