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[2019-09-18] weezer2_960

Break It Down: 'Beverly Hills' by Weezer

12/04/2019 12:00 PM

By Natasha Adorlee

You may have noticed that Weezer's smash hit “Beverly Hills,” a single from 2005's Make Believe, shares the same rhythmic beat as Queen's immortal stadium anthem "We Will Rock You." In both songs, that infectious clap on the second beat begs for your participation. For Queen, it made every audience a part of every show. By contrast, the audience participation Weezer offers with "Beverly Hills" feels much more subtle – it's an ongoing, understated rallying cry.

Don't get me wrong, "Beverly Hills" is still an anthem, just not the kind that they imagined the lyrics rocking stadiums with (although they do that, too). According to the band's songwriter Rivers Cuomo, a photo of Wilson Philips inspired the song. "And for some reason, I just thought how nice it would be to marry, like, an established celebrity and live in Beverly Hills and be part of that world," he recalled. "And it was a totally sincere desire. And then I wrote that song. For some reason, by the time it came out and the video came out, it got twisted into something that seemed sarcastic. But originally, it wasn't meant to be sarcastic at all."

That's always a risk of releasing your work to the public – once it's out there, the audience owns a part of it, too. Here, fans interpreted and repurposed Weezer's song as a reflection of our culture and times. "Beverly Hills" is an anthem, but it represents a tee-shirt and glasses-wearing wallflower in a culture that likes to overly emphasize power and sex with a dash of aloofness for the sake of being "cool." The lyrics speak about the experience of being an outsider, something Rivers – who, unlike most Connecticut kids, grew up in an ashram – can speak to from experience. It's a topic the band explores frequently; the video for "Pork and Beans," a single off The Red Album, features a montage of winks and nods to viral videos that dominated the pop-culture landscape in 2008. It's a combination of a time capsule and an escape pod; today it feels like a release from the present. YouTube gave everyday people a very loud voice and through those viral stars – these outsiders found success by being themselves, and in turn helped us cope with feeling like outsiders, too.

Weezer's simplistically constructed songs – insidiously catchy riffs married to a "I'm gonna do me, and that is cool" lyrical message – resonate with a wide audience; it's brought the band both commercial success and critical credibility at the same time. Maybe Rivers Cuomo didn't set out to be a vessel of philosophical introspection, but it's hard to argue with the results.

Natasha Adorlee writes, produces, sings, DJs, and performs as Saint Tiimbre. She has been a featured singer and performer with Amp Live. She's also a video producer at Ubisoft San Francisco.

"Weezer" by James is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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