Hi haters, break’s over. Four years after they made a great album that flopped so hard they were forced into side-project exile, platinum emo-pop poster boys Fall Out Boy made a surprise return on Monday morning with a new single and video, and plans for a new album and tour. In its first month, 2013 has already been flush with cold open comebacks from people we didn’t expect to hear from this year. But while Bowie threw out a ballad and Timberlake did jazz hands, the radioactive men of Fall Out Boy are going down swinging. The album title Save Rock And Roll is so wonderfully grandiose it makes Infinity on High seem kind of humble by comparison. And they go full bat-shaped heart with the title of the single, which manages to fit career meta-commentary, a Jennifer Love Hewitt reference, and an unnecessary parenthetical into 12 words: “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up).” If the song is any indication, they’re darker, heavier, and funkier than when they left us last. So what was Fall Out Boy listening to when they went away to dream it all up again? Here are our best guesses:
Pink – “Are We All We Are”
“My Songs” was produced by Butch Walker, who’s carved an interesting career out for himself since his late ’90s one hit wonder moment as the frontman of Marvelous 3. (Remember “Freak Of The Week”?) In addition to a cultish following as a solo artist, Walker has straddled the line between pop and alterna-rock as a producer and songwriter, assisting in hits for acts ranging from Avril Lavigne to Train to Weezer. Walker had a small hand in Fall Out Boy’s 2007 album Infinity on High, but the track in his discography that “My Songs” most clearly echoes is the bombastic opening track from Pink’s excellent 2012 album The Truth About Love.
fun. ft. Janelle Monae – “We Are Young”
When “Sugar, We’re Going Down” sailed to No. 8 on the Hot 100 in 2005, it was a surprise to see a band that had started out on the once-tiny Florida emo label Fueled By Ramen hit the pop charts. But in the ensuing years, Fueled By Ramen became a house of hits, firing off Top 10 hits of its own, often by acts on Pete Wentz’s Fueled imprint Decaydance Records, including Panic! At The Disco, Gym Class Heroes, and Cobra Starship. But the biggest Fueled By Ramen success story may be last year’s No. 1 megahit “We Are Young” by fun., who aren’t part of the Decaydance stable, but share Wentz’s hip-hop-friendly ethos. After spotting producer Jeff Bhasker’s name in Kanye and Drake liner notes, fun. frontman Nate Ruess arranged a meeting, which quickly resulted in the song that would go on to be a sextuple-platinum single featured in Super Bowl ads two years in a row. “My Songs” doesn’t quite grab for the same kind of pop radio brass ring, but you just know Wentz got some competitive fire in his belly looking at the sales figures for Some Nights.
Juicy J featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz – “Bandz A Make Her Dance”
“My Songs” opens with a rhythm that distinctly echoes the stomping eighth-note handclaps that have dominated mainstream hip-hop and R&B for the past year or so, on songs like Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$)” or Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake.” And one of the biggest clappers of the last few months is the debut solo hit from Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia, which even features the star of Fall Out Boy’s video, 2 Chainz. So it’s pretty easy to imagine that the band that made “Dance, Dance” has been bumping this.
Adam Lambert – “For Your Entertainment”
After Fall Out Boy had made the mainstream safe for guyliner, Adam Lambert made waves as the first out-and-proud pop star launched by American Idol, and his first solo hit “For Your Entertainment” rode the same wave of glam-romp stomp as FOB’s “I Don’t Care.” Patrick Stump’s fantastic 2011 solo album may have failed to set the charts on fire, but “My Songs” once again proves that he still knows how to belt out some Idol-worthy high notes.
Linkin Park – “Waiting for the End”
When the bottom fell out of Fall Out Boy’s sales a few years ago, it seemed a little inevitable, the fate of any rock band who sums up the zeitgeist so well that they seem “over” once that cultural moment passes. But perhaps they’ve learned a thing or two from another band who’s spent time in the studio with Jay-Z. The rap-rock wave Linkin Park rode in the early 2000s was supposed to die around the time FOB and other emo bands hit the big time, but they’re still here, still making hits. And “Waiting for the End,” like “My Songs,” finds subtle new ways to integrate the band’s awareness of pop and hip-hop without sounding too eager to please.