Weezer (Teal Album)
Weezer are no strangers to familiar takes on pop classics—they did The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” for Shrek Forever After and The Cars’ “You Might Think” for Cars 2. But after a fan’s successful viral campaign to get them to cover Toto’s “Africa” gave them their biggest hit in ages, they made a project of it—with ground rules. Inspired by Phil Collins’ version of “You Can't Hurry Love,” they would stick to largely faithful readings of pre-’90s songs and avoid alt-rock peers as well as obvious classic-rock staples like “Hotel California.” “We don’t wanna be a bar band,” Rivers Cuomo tells Apple Music. “The Teal Album is what was left.” Cuomo and guitarist Brian Bell explain their picks for this set of other people’s greatest hits.
“Africa” (Toto) “The first verse is longer than the second one, which is shorter than the third, and the verse is in a different key than the chorus,” says Bell. “Things like that just get you thinking different ways. But it’s so smooth.” “The lyrics seem like he’s just rambling off the top of his head and they don’t really make sense but nobody seems to mind,” says Cuomo. “I’ll spend weeks working on lyrics and it’s like, ‘Maybe people don’t really care.’”
“Everybody Wants To Rule the World” (Tears for Fears) “This and ‘Sweet Dreams’ are from the same lineage as Weezer, it’s not that much of a stretch,” Cuomo says. “It’s such a great guitar song, too,” says Bell. “The riffs are so neat.”
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Eurythmics) “The biggest challenge for me,” says Cuomo, “was how to pronounce ‘this.’ It drove me nuts as a listener. [Annie Lennox] somehow finds the exact way to pronounce it so it rhymes. It took me so many takes to get right.”
“Take On Me” (a-ha) “I’ve been doing that live acoustically by myself for a long time, it’s just great to hear the crowd singing along,” says Cuomo. “It’s such a beautiful song and just coincidentally, it’s exactly my range. So I come across as a better singer than I am, just by luck.” “And it’s like Nordic pop at its finest,” adds Bell.
“Happy Together” (The Turtles) “Spike Jonze wanted us to do this for his movie Adaptation. He didn’t like our version. I think we sent him a live recording and he was like, ‘Ah, this isn’t right.’”
“Paranoid” (Black Sabbath) “On our tour last summer with the Pixies, I’d get to the end of the set and we were ending with ‘Say It Ain’t So’ and there was this incredible feeling of emotion,” says Cuomo. “The set was over and we just played this kinda slow, sludgy song, so I just started playing ‘Paranoid’ because I wanted to play a fast guitar riff. I had a lot of energy and I was excited.”
“Mr. Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra) “I hope that doesn‘t become a hit because it‘s so challenging,” says Bell. “I‘m afraid it sounds too good. I‘d never heard the song before. I‘ve always loved ELO but that wasn‘t my top choice of an ELO song to do. But hearing it, I was definitely like, ‘Weezer could do a good version of this.‘”
“No Scrubs” (TLC) “I just thought it‘s one of those songs that‘s freakishly popular,” says Cuomo. “I was trying to decide which gender perspective to sing it from then I saw this tweet that said, ‘If you’re a guy covering a song by a girl, you gotta keep the pronouns. For those three minutes you‘re gay.‘ So I was like, ‘Cool, let’s try this.‘”
“Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson) “It took me seven hours to sing this song,” says Cuomo. “He had somewhere around 75 tracks of vocals, doubling and tripling everything. It was all cool, hooky stuff I remember from listening as a kid and I was like, we gotta get all of this. And then there‘s the energy, the athleticism.”
“Stand By Me” (Ben E. King) “We got an email from Rivers: ‘I wanna do ‘Stand By Me,‘ I know I can kill it,‘” Bell says. “That’s all I needed to hear, it was done in a day. And it‘s very Weezer, this 1-6-4-5 chord progression.” “Wasn’t it in that River Phoenix movie [Stand By Me]?” asks Cuomo. “I was always attached to the song because of that connection.”