Weezer’s seventh studio album, Raditude, found the seasoned alt-rockers stepping out of their comfort zones and, for the very first time, allowing a variety of outside writers to lend their talents to a project. The album – which primarily revolves around themes of young love and the general awkwardness that comes with being a teenager – is filled with delicious pop hooks and just the right amount of cheese, thanks in part to the wide range of artists that joined the band in the studio.
Weezer began work on Raditude in the fall of 2008, collaborating with several producers, primarily Jacknife Lee (U2, R.E.M., The Killers) and Butch Walker (Fall Out Boy, Katy Perry, Pete Yorn). Frontman Rivers Cuomo also co-wrote the track “Can’t Stop Partying” with legendary hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri and rapper Lil Wayne, while he worked on “Put Me Back Together” with Tyson Ritter and Nick Wheeler of The All-American Rejects. Pop producer Dr Luke also pitched in on Raditude, co-writing and producing the album’s second single, “I’m Your Daddy.”
“An amazingly cool and scary and fun idea”
In a 2009 interview with Pitchfork, Cuomo explained why they chose to bring fresh ears into the studio: “We did the Hootenanny tour last year, where we had between 100 to 300 Weezer fans come and reinterpret our songs in very surprising, bizarre, grotesque, and sometimes gorgeous ways. From there, I got super excited about working with different people and being in strange and exotic creative situations… It just seemed like such an amazingly cool and scary and fun idea.”
Raditude opens with the album’s first single, “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To).” The catchy tune is the perfect ode to the uncertainty of teenage romance and sets up the themes of Raditude as a whole. Filled with 90s references (“We watched Titanic and it didn’t make us sad/I took you to Best Buy, you took me home to meet your mom and dad”), the nostalgic tune feels like it was written for Weezer fans who came of age during the “Blue Album” and Pinkerton eras.
The hook-filled “I’m Your Daddy” follows a similar storyline, but this time the protagonist is at a party, watching his crush dance, feeling confident that they’d be a perfect match. With its anthemic arrangement, “The Girl Got Hot” harkens back to 70s glam rock and tells the tale of discovering – and wooing – a wallflower that bloomed, while “Put Me Back Together” summons feelings of adolescent insecurity. The Patrick Wilson-penned “In The Mall” recalls the drummer/guitarist’s teenage years running amok in suburban malls, while Raditude closes with the lovesick ballad “I Don’t Want to Let You Go.”
“It allowed me to sing with conviction”
There are also a few thematic outliers on Raditude. Cuomo certainly sounds a little out of place singing about Patrón and clubs in “Can’t Stop Partying,” but he explained his thought process behind the Dupri-penned track in the liner notes for Alone II: The Home Recordings Of Rivers Cuomo, where the song first appeared.
Cuomo wrote that “The lyrics were clearly a celebration of drinking and drug-taking, which I could not sing without qualms… It suddenly occurred to me that I could change the meaning of the song, not by changing the lyrics, but by changing the music under the lyrics.” He added, that his chords “Suggested sadness and resignation in the face of something ineluctable, something fated, a drug-habit, a drinking addiction. Suddenly, ‘I Can’t Stop Partying” might be a sad thing to say, and this was the undertone which, I believed, allowed me to sing the song with conviction.”
Another distinctive song on Raditude is “Love Is the Answer.” Originally intended for 2005’s Make Believe, the song was shelved and instead offered to the band Sugar Ray (who recorded it for their 2009 album, Music For Cougars). Cuomo resurrected the tune with the help of Jacknife Lee and Indian classical singer Amrita Sen, who sang the chorus in Hindi. A sitarist also added a unique flavor to the track.
Released on November 3, 2009, Raditude featured an eye-catching photo of a dog named Sidney captured mid-jump on its cover. It had won a National Geographic reader-submitted photo contest, and, according to Weezerpedia, “Cuomo thought it would make the perfect cover… because, to him, it represented the feeling he gets when he performs live.” The album, which debuted at No.7 on the Billboard 200, was sold with an accompanying Weezer-ized version of the ubiquitous Snuggie wearable blanket.
An ode to youth
Raditude was an ode to youth not only in its lyrical themes but also in the way that it incorporated artists, genres and cultural references that were relevant to a new generation of fans. Throughout the promotion of the album, Weezer continued to integrate different voices into their performances, including Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald and actress/singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.
The band also enlisted saxophonist (and eternal good sport) Kenny G for a Sessions@AOL performance, while seasoned drummer Josh Freese took over percussion on the Raditude tour, covering for Pat Wilson (who played guitar on many of the songs). Though fans and critics were divided over Weezer’s new direction, Raditude is ultimately about embracing possibilities and taking risks –much like Sidney the dog’s brave flight across a living room. Weezer were going out on a limb, trying something new and, with youthful abandon, embracing the changing times.