Weezer fandom follows a particular pattern. Their first two albums are required listening for any teenager whose hormones are constantly bombarding them to feel feelings, and the love they engender causes those teenagers to continue listening to Weezer’s later, much-less-good albums — usually an equal mix of novelty songs, catchy tracks with embarrassing lyrics, and pale imitations of early Weezer — their fierce loyalty to the band compelling them to listen to even the bad stuff, until one day, Weezer does something so unconscionable that the teenager realizes they are really too old to be listening to Weezer.
Growing up is a trap— Rivers Cuomo (@RiversCuomo) October 10, 2018
For me, that moment occurred in 2005, when Weezer released “Beverly Hills,” a rap-rock song that sounds like a truly horrifying collaboration between Steve Miller and Kid Rock. I was 16. Now that I am adult, I sense that for a whole new generation of 16-year-old Weezer fans, it is happening again.
I hereby give you the new Weezer single, “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” a truly unconscionable semi-write of the Jay Z song of the same name that is about how much Weezer singer Rivers Cuomo loves the sharing economy. The music video stars Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy playing an Uber driver.
Now, Jay Z’s “Can’t Knock the Hustle” is an unimpeachable classic. When Jay raps, “I’m leanin’ on any n—ga intervenin’ with the sound of my money machine-in’,” throwing an extra syllable on the final word so that “money machine” mimics the sound of bills flipping through an actual money-counter, or boasts, “Got the US Open — advantage, Jigga,” I get chills from the combination of clever construction and effortless execution.
Weezer’s version of “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” meanwhile, preserves the theme of Jay’s original while completely missing the point. Where Jay Z’s “Can’t Knock the Hustle” glorified circumventing a rigged system by using your smarts to work outside of it (“Y’all n—gas lunchin’, punchin’ the clock / My function is to make much and lay back munchin, sippin’ Remy on the rocks”), Weezer mimics the dirge-like solemnity of the sharing economy, in which the rigged system has shifted gears and left us all on our own (“Leave a five-star review, and I’ll leave you one too”). As Rivers Cuomo mumbles, “Don’t step to me… Don’t step to me… Don’t step to me…,” I die a little inside with each repetition, before becoming fully deceased when he caps the interlude off by throwing in the word “bitch” for no apparent reason. (And I’m not going to even get into the implications of Rivers Cuomo tacitly comparing selling drugs to driving an Uber, but it is, as the French say, le problématique.)
It’s not even that Weezer’s periodic descents into arch goofiness have to end horribly. Their recent single, “California Snow,” has all the trappings of a bad Weezer song — corny and nonsensical lyrics, counterintuitive instrumentation, a general sense of old trying to make music for young people — but it’s anchored by an absolutely massive chorus and a go-for-broke attitude, as if Weezer bandleader Rivers Cuomo firmly believes his entire career has been leading up to a song that begins with him singing, “When I play guitar it’s sick,” and then closing it out with a short but actually kind of sick guitar solo. It’s just that if you’re flirting with iconography considered borderline holy by countless music fans, you’ve got to add something to the equation rather than simply cashing in on the novelty of it all.
Anyways, “Can’t Knock the Hustle” is Weezer’s first single from their upcoming The Black Album. Given that it shares its title with the record that capped off Jay Z’s reign as the king of hip-hop, I am more than a little worried every song is going to be like this one. May God have mercy on our souls.