Album Review: M A N I A by Fall Out Boy

WRITTEN BY: Katie Donahue

MANIA is the best album Fall Out Boy has come out with in a long time. Fall Out Boy has been releasing music for 15 years and the band’s more recent albums are lackluster compared to the band’s earlier releases.

Originally, Fall Out Boy began as a side-project, as a distraction from the musicians’ other bands. Fall Out Boy released its debut album, Take This to Your Grave, in 2003 and became an independent success. A few years later, Fall Out Boy received major commercial success with its 2005 record, From Under the Cork Tree. Fall Out Boy was even nominated for a Grammy in 2006.

The band began to make more pop sounding music with elements inspired by its pop-punk origins. In 2007, Fall Out Boy released its third studio album Infinity on High, another album that caused the band to receive large amounts of success. The band went on to release its fourth album, Folie à Deux, in 2008. The album was met with criticism and the band went on a two and a half year hiatus.

After returning from hiatus, Fall Out Boy released Save Rock and Roll (2013) and American Beauty/American Psycho (2015). Both albums are considered successes for Fall Out Boy, but both albums lacked something. Neither album was special.

From its initial announcement, Fall Out Boy’s MANIA was somehow both calculated and haphazard.  

The announcement began with a cryptic video on the band’s Instagram page with a caption listing a number of movie theaters in Chicago. The listed movie theaters played a short video of seaside scenery. The video shows a storm coming in and purple waves crashing. The video ends with the words “FALL OUT BOY” and the date April 28, 2017 displaying on the screen in neon, purple letters.

On April 27, 2017, a day before advertised, Fall Out Boy released “Young and Menace,” an EDM-inspired song unlike anything the band had ever done before. The song’s long-winded choruses and electronic effects set it apart from other songs on MANIA.

Initially, the album was supposed to be released on September 15, 2017. However, on August 3, 2017, Patrick Stump, the lead singer of Fall Out Boy, released a short statement over social media, stating the album would be delayed. In the statement, Stump said the album was delayed so the band could release an album better than its last. MANIA was pushed back and released on January 19, 2018.

“Champion,” the second single from MANIA, is an uplifting anthem that will likely be played at live sporting events for the next few years. The song is definitely catchy. But the problem is, “Champion” lacks originality. The song is nothing new, and it isn’t even an original concept for Fall Out Boy. “Champion” sounds very similar to “Centuries”, the lead single off of Fall Out Boy’s 2015 release (American Beauty/American Psycho). “Centuries” was a major success for Fall Out Boy and it reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been used in NFL commercials. “Champion” sounds like the band tried to chase the same success it found with “Centuries” and created something that sounds almost exactly the same.

“The Last of the Real Ones” was also released as a single to promote the album. The song is a poignant love song. The lyrics “I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me,” in the chorus are especially compelling. The song is easily one of the best songs on the album. The song is a new concept, but the lyrics sound like Fall Out Boy.

Mental and emotional instability is referenced throughout the album. Fall Out Boy is no stranger to these topics. Pete Wentz, bassist and lyricist of Fall Out Boy, has bipolar disorder. His personal struggles have become the subject to many songs over the years. A reoccurring aspect of many Fall Out Boy songs is sad words with upbeat sounding music. Much of MANIA fits into this mold.

“HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” is the most forgettable song on the album. Its uninteresting chorus makes it easy to skip. The Latin-inspired music of the song proves Fall Out Boy is experimenting with sound on this album.

“Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” is a single that was released at live shows on Fall Out Boy’s MANIA Tour last fall. The song is named after the volleyball in Cast Away. “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” is the standout of the singles on the album. The song is about struggling to get one’s life together and constantly making mistakes. It’s relatable and catchy.

The standout non-singles on the album are “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” and “Sunshine Riptide.” “Stay Frosty” is the strangest track on the album. The song begins with a reference to Tonya Harding and breaking knees. It progresses into an energetic bop with a pre-chorus that ends with “Eau de résistance!”. The song also ends with an explosion sound effect.

“Sunshine Riptide” also displays how Fall Out Boy used MANIA as a means to experiment with its sound. The song opens with Stump not singing, but speaking along to music. The sound is different than anything Fall Out Boy has done in the past.

The songs “Bishops Knife Trick,” “Church,” and “Heaven’s Gate,” highlight Stump’s vocal abilities. Each song showcases Patrick Stump’s versatility, similar to previous albums.

For the most part, MANIA is unlike anything Fall Out Boy has done in the past. At the same time, MANIA still sounds like Fall Out Boy, a reimaged Fall Out Boy.

Track List:

Young and Menace

Champion

Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea

HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T

The Last of the Real Ones

Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)

Church

Heaven’s Gate

Sunshine Riptide (feat. Burna Boy)

Bishops Knife Trick