When exploring new musical styles, Fall Out Boy’s seventh studio album “Mania” often falters and is strongest when the group sticks to the sound that made it popular.
The project is a continuation of the group’s move from the realm of punk to the realm of pop, but this shift was not without challenges.
“Mania” was originally slated for release Sept. 15, 2017, but lead singer Patrick Stump announced in August that the release would be moved to Jan. 19, 2018. The group took those months to rewrite and rerecord much of the album, resulting in a record that explores new styles — some more successfully than others. The band truly succeeds when it returns to its alternative rock roots.
One factor that motivated Fall Out Boy to push back the album was the reception of its first single, “Young and Menace,” released April 27, 2017. On this track, the band tried its hand at EDM, and the song was not well-received. Stump’s powerful voice is one of the defining attributes of Fall Out Boy, but on “Young and Menace,” his singing is digitally manipulated to the detriment of the song. Ultimately, it was kept on the album, but it stands out for the wrong reasons.
“Champion,” released June 22, 2017, is the only other single kept from the original version of the album. The song is much more in line with what the group is known for: strong lyrics with an uplifting message. It is similar thematically to “Centuries,” the lead single from “American Beauty/American Psycho,” the band’s sixth studio album released in 2015. This song is also well-known for being used as ESPN’s official theme song for sports coverage.
Fall Out Boy’s albums are defined by their use of metaphor, imagery and emotion. “The Last of the Real Ones,” a fast-paced love song that uses images of space to describe the intensity of the narrator’s infatuation, best embodies these characteristics. One of the lines of the first verse sets the tone: “You are the sun and I am just the planets / Spinning around you.” Here, Fall Out Boy’s evocative imagery helps underline the lead singer’s devotion to his beloved, resulting in a successful love track. Additionally, the rhythmic tapping of a piano throughout the song gives it an otherworldly sound.
The group turns to spiritual imagery in “Church” and “Heaven’s Gate.” In “Church,” an organ, church choir and church bells accompany the band. It is another love song, but images of worship are used to indicate both the romantic and spiritual aspects of a relationship. The group’s decision to incorporate religious instrumentation and lyrics shows it is unafraid to take new approaches, while the tracks’ thematic similarities demonstrate a rare moment of cohesion on the album.
“Church” is followed by the slower ballad “Heaven’s Gate,” which relies on both supernatural and religious imagery. The main line of the chorus illustrates how the narrator needs his love interest to help him become a better person and ultimately enter heaven: “Give me a boost over heaven’s gate.”
On past projects, Fall Out Boy has frequently featured other artists, like Elton John, Courtney Love and Big Sean on the group’s fifth studio album, “Save Rock and Roll.”
However, “Mania” is devoid of features, except the upbeat “Sunshine Riptide,” which features Burna Boy, a Nigerian reggae singer and songwriter. The track is another example of Fall Out Boy venturing into other genres of music. Burna Boy’s carefree verse begins in the first half of the song with Stump’s vocals in the background. The pop-reggae blend is a surprising break from other tracks on the album, but it is commendable to see the group experiment with new styles.
Compared to the success of Fall Out Boy’s past albums, “Mania” lags behind and feels hastily thrown together. The band stretches itself in too many different directions with its use of various genres. Some tracks fit together, but the album overall lacks cohesiveness.
Nevertheless, the band deserves credit for returning to the drawing board when it thought the initial album did not reflect its identity. Fall Out Boy has been making music together since 2001, and its longevity allows it space to explore new musical realms. While some songs on “Mania” seem out of place, some are able to break away and shine.