In describing the single from Weezer’s latest self-titled album, singer-songwriter Rivers Cuomo said “alright kids, let’s play with some gender stereotypes.” Cuomo has never shied away from writing unorthodox lyrics, with a style that references male pregnancy and undone sweaters with as much passion as it tackles love and romance.
Weezer, though, has always been a band writing songs for, and by, boys who like girls. Whether it’s the unashamed nerd rock of the blue album, the tortured and honest sexual anxiety of Pinkerton, or the self-effacing anthem of “Beverly Hills,” Cuomo’s songwriting has often dealt with the human desire to let down our guard and love someone, told through the lens of the perennially frustrated heterosexual young man.
Now a 45-year-old married man with a daughter of his own, Cuomo’s perspective on dating has changed. While “Thank God for Girls” is certainly one of the more playfully experimental songs on the white album, make no mistake: This is another song for the boys. Although Cuomo’s quirky songwriting continues to poke and prod at the male ego, the girls remain the object, not the subject, of our love. It doesn’t mean, though, that we have to love the song any less.
While you and “your bros that you’ve known since second grade” encounter “dragons or ruffians” on your hiking trip, it’s the girl in the pastry shop who gives you “bandaids and antiseptic ointments / and tender loving kisses on your stab wounds.”
Cuomo yells “She’s so big / she’s so strong / she’s so energetic in her sweaty overalls,” singing the praises of the girl he loves, but that girl isn’t the hero of the story. The second verse is where we’re hit with the real, classic Weezer protagonist.
“I’m so glad I got a girl to think of, even though she isn’t mine / I think about her all the day and all the night, it’s enough to know that she’s alive,” he crones; in traditional Weezer form, we’ve taken the role of a guy pining for a girl he isn’t brave enough to pursue.
When Cuomo sings about “looking at the underwear page of the Sears catalog like when I was 14,” and meditating “on a bed of nail with my pants pulled down,” he’s tapping into that same well of nervous energy that made Weezer’s first two albums so successful.
In a strange allegory, the song’s profession of admiration for women is reminiscent of the “I Heart Boobies” wristbands that seemed to infest every middle school during the late 2000s. The Keep A Breast foundation had finally found a way to get boys to care about women’s health issues, but it required sexuallizing and objectifing the very people they were trying to help. As many women pointed out in response to the bracelets, it’s the person we’re trying to save, not their “boobies.”
None of this is to say that “Thank God for Girls” is a bad, or shameful, or sexist song. Instead, it typifies the kind of writing that has always made Weezer so good. It’s impressionistic, rather than didactic. The song does not intend to impart a message or teach the listener any kind of lesson. It’s merely conveying the raw feelings and passions of the singer, expressing his thoughts and fears at their most vulnerable. When a songwriter simply shares their feelings with us, it’s not a matter of right or wrong. It’s simply about how well that musician can put into song something we all feel in some way or another.
The song’s satisfying ending involves Adam, “pissed at God” for taking his rib to make Eve, going around messing with the bees, lighting forest fires, and generally being a nuisance to everyone. It’s a great metaphor for the irritating and destructive ways that people’s fragile egos collapse when they’re turned down or denied by potential partners, and it’s Cuomo’s way of affirming to us that, yes, guys like this really are jerks.
Weezer isn’t a perfect band, and that’s precisely why they’re one of my favorites. They’re not afraid to write songs that come straight from the heart, or share the embarrassing and sometimes ugly feelings that come along for the ride whenever someone falls in love.
Today, take some time to thank God for some of the girls in your life, and remember: Anyone can make the cannoli and fight the dragons.
Reach columnist Alex Bruell at email@example.com. Twitter: @BruellAlex