Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fall Out Boy: more than just a punk rock band

Fall Out Boy is an American rock band. The band members, Patrick Stump (vocals/guitarist), Peter Wentz (bassist), Joe Trothman (guitarist) and Andy Hurley (drums) were the product of the hardcore punk scene in Chicago. According to one interview, the band got their name from fans who yelled out “Fallout Boy” at a concert. They liked the name never realizing that Fallout Boy is the sidekick of comic book hero, Radioactive Man on the TV show The Simpsons. The band has been going strong since their debut album, Take This to Your Grave (2003). Fall Out Boy isn’t just another rock band. They use their music to bring awareness to an important issue: mental health and many of their fans have found comfort and support in their lyrics.

The bassist, Peter Wentz, was diagnosed with bipolar depression with rapid cycling. This means his moods swung from depression to manic states fairly quickly. In 2005, he attempted suicide by overdosing on Ativan. He claimed Jeff Buckley’s version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah saved his life. The song, Hum Hallelujah, was written describing the night he tried to commit suicide and the moment he thought he knew what he wanted to do. The chorus says “So hum hallelujah,/Just off the key of reason/I thought I loved you/It was just how you looked in the light./A teenage vow in a parking lot/"Till tonight do us part"/I sing the blues and swallow them too.” In my opinion, the chorus speaks of someone who has survived to look back on that moment and say I thought I knew what I was doing. The title may come from a repeated line in Hallelujah, “Sing Hallelujah.” I think the use of the word “hum” is significant. Humming is a song without words and many people who are depressed claim they are without words.

Many people of the general public don’t realize that mental health and drug use often go hand-in-hand. Individuals who with mental health issues will often self-medicate. The song, The (After) Life of the Party, is an example of this issue. One line sticks out to me is “I’m a stitch away from making it/And a scar away from falling apart.” As I listened to this line, I see an individual who is hurting. Stitch his or her life back together and being aware that one more scar could cause him or her to fall apart. As someone with her own stitches and scars, I see a person who is struggling and knows there is a fine line between surviving and falling apart. A person who is one hit from death or one day from survival. While researching this song, I came across several message boards where fans have reported feelings of peace and calm. As I listen to the melody, it is easy to see how they could feel this way.

A third song which speaks to many fans is Short, Fast and Loud. The song is about someone who is in a constant battle with his or her own mistakes and wishing that he or she could be better. The song describes a relationship where one individual continually belittles the other. “The battles only halfway done/I might look young/But I’m no less defeated” defines the internal battles that everyone often has with themselves. Some are better for it and some are not. The repeated line “Good God, I wish I was tall” is not to be taken literally, in my opinion, the line means I wish I could be want you want me to be. The closing line “Go figure, I was bigger than that” speaks to the person realizing that he or she is more than he or she thought.

In conclusion, Fall Out Boy has a legion of fans from their debut and each day their lyrics speaks to the listener in a way that only music can. While Fall Out Boy is not my kind of music, I can appreciate their honest and transparency while bringing important issues facing young adults today. Whether it be for mental health awareness or other social issues, Fall Out Boy speaks to their fans and reaches deep in their souls. And for the length of one song or even one album, they can help bring peace or realization to the listener who may need help and searching for answers. I recommend giving Fall Out Boy a listen, you might be surprised by their music and their message.