Few vocal performances of the 1990s have become as iconic as the one from the Weezer song ‘Say It Ain’t So’. It’s the perfect combination of awesomely impassioned angsty grunge-adjacent rock and completely ridiculous high pitch strangeness that it’s spawned memes, reactions, covers, TikToks, and just about any other form of media that we covet in the modern day.
Why is Rivers Cuomo wrestling with Jimmy? Why can’t you say the Heineken is in the ice box so it doesn’t sound like someone’s butt is in there when you say “Heine”? Why does Matt Sharp insist on singing his parts a full octave above Rivers in a falsetto that just barely hits the intended notes? Mysteries. But I don’t want any of them answered because it would spoil the magic that is ‘Say It Ain’t So’.
The Blue Album has these kinds of moments in spades: the remarkably un-self-aware decisions that no other mid-’90s band would ever think to make. These were guys who were referencing dungeons and dragons, praising the virtues of Kiss on record, and singing about Sweaters, surfboards, and hanging out in their garages while still wondering why the rest of the world pegged them as the high school nerds who were probably hanging out at chess club meetings. They dressed dorkily, they sounded dorky, and they were dorky, but they also rocked with completely genuine sincerity.
This is why The Blue Album and especially its follow up, 1996’s Pinkerton, are far and away from the best things that Weezer have ever done. When people began to snicker at The Blue Album, Cuomo doubled down and made something even less cool, less-self conscious, and less accessible. It was so uncomfortably emotional and raw that it turned most people off, but it also helped to create emo and influenced the next generation of guitar-based bands in the process.
But something happened after Pinkerton. All of a sudden, Rivers and the band were in on the joke. They were affected by the initial failure of Pinkerton, and the decision was made to never do anything that inherently naive but also wonderfully honest again. Everything Weezer did from that point on would come with a wink and a nudge, and the increasingly diminished returns probably doomed them to a low lifetime batting average despite their uncanny ability to stay near the top of cultural relevance. No band from the ’90s survived like Weezer, but it was at the cost of good music.
Even though it’s been completely swallowed up by the internet nearly 30 years after its initial release, you can still hear that untainted lack of sophistication at the heart of ‘Say It Ain’t So’. That’s what makes it so raw, so enjoyable, and so everlasting. Innocence and sincerity were Rivers Cuomo’s greatest assets, but both were beaten out of him once the rest of the world rejected it. If you’re wondering how we got ‘Pork and Beans’ or their cover of ‘Africa’ or an album called Van Weezer, this is why. It’s not all bad, but we’ll never get a ‘Say It Ain’t So’ again.
Check out the isolated vocals for ‘Say It Ain’t So’ down below.