Not including the hiatus Fall Out Boy took after releasing Folie á Deux and their greatest hits compilation, this is the longest fans have waited for an album from the band. M A N I A was first announced last April, but five singles and a four-month delay later, the album came out exactly three years after its predecessor, American Beauty/American Psycho.
While pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy was a major part of the emo scene of the 2000s, post-hiatus FOB has unabashedly pushed into new musical territory. Last year’s lead single, “Young And Menace,” was their most experimental song yet, and it was polarizing among fans. Another single, “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T,” has also been met with mixed reactions. While these songs play with EDM and reggaeton styles, the other singles and album tracks range from traditional Fall Out Boy rock to gospel-inspired epics. In short, this album is a mixed bag as far as genres and moods go.
This eclecticism is one of M A N I A‘s strengths. Fall Out Boy shines the most when they’re pushing themselves creatively and aren’t afraid of trying out new styles. As divisive as some of their new songs are, these are also among their most interesting and inspired. Although tracks like “Champion” are comfortingly familiar, they’re also far from the album’s standouts. Instead, it is the songs that reach into the farthest corners of the genre spectrum that make the album. And while the record is diverse, it also feels natural and authentically ‘Fall Out Boy.’
When the band delayed M A N I A last summer, many worried about the quality of the album they were putting together. The first two singles were not universally liked, and it seemed to some that these songs were forced. Luckily, these doubts have been proven wrong. The extra four months gave Fall Out Boy just what they needed to craft a strong album. Despite the early worried reactions, it already seems that fans are loving M A N I A more than they’d expected.
M A N I A is an excellent album and a worthy addition to your Fall Out Boy collection. It’s their most compact release yet, with only ten songs, but it escapes having any filler. Every song on the album is good, even if a little unexpected and in need of some getting used to. If you’re willing to try these new flavors, you may find that you actually grow to like them. And even so, there’s still enough of Fall Out Boy’s familiar sound to satisfy old-school fans. For all the drama surrounding it, M A N I A was fully worth the wait.
Track by Track
“Young And Menace” – M A N I A‘s first single, “Young And Menace,” kicks things off. It starts with an ominous mood, soulful vocals adding to the tension as it builds up. The lyrics and music both become more playful as Patrick sings, “Oops, I did it again,” yet that eerie vibe is still there. Suddenly it explodes into a chaotic, trippy chorus featuring pitch-shifted screams over a pounding beat. After the chorus dies down, it returns to that same slow scene of the first verse, yet it feels only barely restrained, waiting to break free again. This is the first time we’ve heard Fall Out Boy dive into EDM territory, and the effect is astounding if polarizing. “Young And Menace” is an electro-rock stunner that highlights Fall Out Boy’s fearless creativity.
“Champion” – Next up is single number two. The song’s verse starts off subdued, but it kicks into higher gear as Patrick sings about being back with the madness. In the chorus, he chants, “If I can live through this, I can do anything.” It’s uplifting, the feeling of persevering when the odds are stacked against you. As charming as “Champion” is, it does feel a bit too safe after the first track. It’s a good song, yet it feels that Fall Out Boy has moved beyond such simplicity at this point.
“Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” – Our first truly new song on M A N I A so far, “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” begins with invigorating, stomping energy. It sounds the most like pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy, emo attitude and guitars intact. It’s a somewhat bitter song, pointing out how the world has lost its mind and all his childhood heroes have already died. This is also the third song so far talking about going crazy. But, after throwing in a bit of French before the chorus, Patrick turns it around, saying “The only thing that’s stopping me is me.” He alone has the power to succeed, a similar message to that of “Champion.”
“HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” – Upbeat keys, finger snaps, and whistling lead us into the fourth single. “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” is perhaps the most pop song on M A N I A, and its tropical vibe is impossible to resist. With its reggaeton beat, it sounds like a party – the kind you’d actually want to be invited to. Using a strange metaphor, the lyrics describe a fixation on someone you can’t have. Like “Young And Menace,” “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” finds Fall Out Boy exploring new territory. Likewise, it’s a standout on the album.
“The Last Of The Real Ones” – Right around the announcement of M A N I A‘s delay last summer, Fall Out Boy shared the record’s third single, “The Last Of The Real Ones.” Frenzied piano backdrops this song about obsession. He likens himself to planets spinning around the sun, declaring that he needs this person more than anyone else. As such, in the chorus he ponders how much he comes up the therapy sessions of the object of his obsession. “The Last Of The Real Ones” is an excellent song, and among the most rock here.
“Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” – After playing it on tour last fall, “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” became the album’s fifth single last week. Musically, this track has a lighthearted, fun vibe. But lyrically, this is among Fall Out Boy’s most emo songs to date. Patrick sings of hating his friends and hoping he gets blown off into space. Suitably, he’d only stop wearing black once they make a darker color. As sad as the lyrics are, it’s hard not to relate to and really enjoy “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes).”
“Church” – More than any other songs, “Church” feels like the centerpiece on the album. It starts with organ, and it isn’t long before the intro crashes into a big chorus. A slightly-terrifying choir chants in the background as Fall Out Boy turns this church into a rock concert. There’s something epic about this song, and “Church” is one of the biggest statements on M A N I A.
“Heaven’s Gate” – The counterpart to “Church” is the gentler “Heaven’s Gate.” The bluesy, soulful ballad gives Patrick a chance to really show off his vocals over a rolling piano. He admits that while he has dreams of his own, he wants to make yours come true first. In spite of his honorable intentions, the chorus is about needing to sneak into heaven.
“Sunshine Riptide” (feat. Burna Boy) – M A N I A‘s only guest artist is Nigerian singer Burna Boy. “Sunshine Riptide” is perhaps the most unexpected song on the album. The verses are glitchy with chopped vocals and digital effects. A bouncy bass line comes in before a sunny chorus. Burna Boy takes center stage on the second verse, helping cement the vibe of the song. “Sunshine Riptide” will likely be a song that grows on you after a few listens.
“Bishops Knife Trick” – The closing track starts off like a ballad, its heavenly aura belying a gloomy vibe. Energy moves just below the surface, slowly crescendoing to an epic chorus. Patrick screams of being “the last,” letting the words hauntingly echo out. This track has a similar sensation to “Young And Menace,” making both songs superb bookends. “Bishops Knife Trick” ends with the chiming heavenly sound of the intro flickering out. It’s the perfect way to end M A N I A.
Highlights on M A N I A include: “Young And Menace,” “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T,” “Church,” and “Heaven’s Gate.”
- Review: ‘Only Smith & Burrows Is Good Enough’ Balances Fun & Sincerity - February 19, 2021
- Review: Alicia Keys Offers Best Album in a Decade with ‘ALICIA’ - September 18, 2020
- Review: Sara Bareilles Offers ‘More Love’ in ‘Little Voice’ Concept Album - September 4, 2020