There are few albums more divisive than Weezer’s “Make Believe.” “The Blue Album” and “Pinkerton” were and still are heralded as milestones in the history of alternative and emo rock; however, “Make Believe’s” pop sensibilities made some fans question the band’s integrity while simultaneously gaining the admiration of others in their ability to incorporate a variety of genres.
“Make Believe’s” lead single “Beverly Hills” has inevitably become the face of the album thanks to its significant radio play and Grammy nod. Despite the recognition, the song is highly derivative in its themes of hopeless desire for fame and fascination with material wealth. Its chorus melodies and basic power chord progressions give it the sense of being catchy for the sake of being catchy as well. Its last verse has a redeeming quality in its words of eventual contentedness, but they are ultimately lost and overlooked. “Beverly Hills” seems to pander to the broadest demographic in its simplicity, and many write the entire album off as a series of similar attempts as a result.
Remove “Beverly Hills,” though, and the similar awkward, brooding Weezer is certainly still present, although they are somewhat more simplistic lyrically. Songs like “Perfect Situation” and “Peace” handle themes of rejection and lack of direction with a decent sense of delicateness and are some of the band’s most epic sounding instrumentals at this point in their career. “Hold Me” and “Freak Me Out” are delightfully weird, somewhat reminiscent of “Pinkerton’s” borderline nonsensical songs like “Falling For You” and “Butterfly.” Weezer’s aggression is here too, “We Are All on Drugs” and “My Best Friend” burst with blunt energy.
Fans who reject “Make Believe” as part of the Weezer canon are understandable in their views; “Beverly Hills” is easily Weezer’s least “Weezer-esque” song, and its mark is unfortunately found faintly on every track on the album. However, those fans are also doing themselves a major disservice in not seeing how the remaining songs are just as accessible to a mainstream crowd without losing what makes Weezer the nerdy rock icons that they are. There is remarkable balance in songwriting and it is certainly worthy of praise. If sacrificing a little familiarity means exposing a new legion of listeners to Weezer’s work, “Make Believe” should ultimately be remembered fondly.