Review: Fall Out Boy’s ‘Mania’ feels overproduced, lacks distinct voice

Posted on Feb 6 2018 - 7:55am by Adam Dunnells

Fall Out Boy’s seventh album, “Mania,” was released last month, and fans’ expectations were high, to say the least.

After worldwide acclaim for “American Beauty/American Psycho,” an album which had four songs crack into the US Billboard Hot 100, “Mania” had big shoes to fill. Fans and critics both expected a solid album when frontman Patrick Stump said the album was not ready, pushing the release date from September 2017 to January 2018. Though this album is solid, it is fair to say it’s not what many were expecting.

First, there were four songs released prior to the album’s debut, and none of them received critical praise. Fan response has been mixed at best.

The first single, “Young and Menace,” should have been an indicator of the direction this album was taking. It had a heavy EDM feel to it, with high-pitched “chipmunk” vocals, synth sounds on the chorus and an overall erratic pace.

“Young and Menace” felt more like a Patrick Stump passion project, as anyone familiar with his solo album “Soul Punk” will notice the similar EDM influences. Although this style works with Stump’s individual projects, it feels jarring to any Fall Out Boy fans who are expecting another pop-punk album. This is not to say that Fall Out Boy has never strayed from its roots before, but the lackluster response for its album “PAX AM Days,” which was far more punk than any other release by the band, should have served as a warning that the band should stick to what it knows.

“Mania” does have some high points. The second single from the album, “Champion,” feels a bit more like the Fall Out Boy of old. Every Fall Out Boy album has had a catchy song that never gets released as a single. “American Beauty/American Psycho” had “Favorite Record,” and “Where Did the Party Go” served that purpose on “Save Rock and Roll.” For this album, “(Wilson) Expensive Mistakes” is the standout song that did not get a single release.

Another staple of Fall Out Boy albums is a slow pop ballad like “What a Catch, Donnie” from “Folie a Deux” and the titular track from “Save Rock and Roll.” This album’s ballad, “Heaven’s Gate,” is undoubtedly one of the strongest tracks on the entire album. Fall Out Boy is a band that has evolved with its audience by growing from an emo-pop band into the alternative pop-rock group it is now. “Heaven’s Gate” is a standout on the album because it shows the direction that the band could be going as opposed to this more EDM style.

Other than the few exceptions listed above, most of the tracks aren’t very noteworthy. Occasionally, one track will flow seamlessly into the next, and that is not necessarily a good thing. “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea,” “The Last of the Real Ones” and “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” are easily confused. When a song does sound different, it is not usually for the better.

Though some have praised the song “Church,” it feels bland and uninspired, which is the opposite of the overproduced, passion-project feel that is maintained throughout the rest of the album. The song “Sunshine Riptide” takes its influence from reggae music, but it ultimately feels like a cheap imitation of the real thing. In addition to that, the guest artist on the track, Burna Boy, mumbles in a nearly incoherent manner.

Being a Fall Out Boy fan myself, I will more than likely be adding this album to my library, but none of these tracks will ever be mentioned among my favorite Fall Out Boy songs. The album feels too pop-punk to be EDM and too EDM to be pop-punk – it fails to find a happy medium. The casual fan will most likely find one or two songs that he or she enjoys but should probably steer clear until the next album.

Grade: B-