It's catchy, it's unashamedly motivational, it's going to fit snugly in your gym playlist, but Fall Out Boy's latest offering has little more to offer.
I’d just like to preface this by professing my love for Fall Out Boy, something which I’m more likely to be defending to myself, rather than to any indifferent readers who have to begrudgingly read the words of someone who has voluntarily decided to criticise the work of her favourite band, for fear of the petering end of an era. Which is unlikely to happen, I say with minimal circumstantial evidence – but still, the fact remains that I have never come across a FOB song I didn’t adore at best, and admire at worst. ‘Champion,’ the second single to be released from the band’s upcoming seventh studio album MANIA, dropped in the UK last Friday, and whilst it’s a far cry from terrible, and even further from the results of a similar pop-punk effort in recent weeks, it’s taken a considerable number of loops on Spotify to muster up something resembling admiration for it.
I am being overly harsh. ‘Champion’ channels much of the pounding energy of ‘Centuries’ and the melodic doggedness of ‘Rat A Tat’ into an assured and motivating record that signals the rock-icon’s move into new territory, though markedly less so than MANIA’s first release (‘Young And Menace’). Frontman Patrick Stump’s vocals are particularly enjoyable to listen to, and, in the first verse especially, intertwines with Andy Hurley’s work on drums in a way reminiscent of the boldness and fortitude of 2008 hit ‘I Don’t Care’. But it’s that grit that marked the Folie à Deux lead single, and a great deal of the group’s pre-hiatus material that elevated them to icons of alternative music, which has been lost. It’s the same grit that Save Rock And Roll, Fall Out Boy’s 2013 comeback record, still paraded and proved that their new pop-heavy direction had little to blame itself for. But it’s that grit that wavered in American Beauty/American Psycho, and I fear it has been misplaced.
Instead, we are met with a bland chorus that repeats itself like an overused mantra. ‘If I can live through this/ If I can live through this/ If I can live through this, I can do anything’, Stump’s vocals loop. Ironically, there is little to be described as ‘anthemic’ about the song, despite the seemingly motivational lyrics, and any emotion behind it is obscured. The poetry that Fall Out Boy have become emblematic of is lost, always on the edge of something cerebral, something determined, something more, but never quite able to reach further.
Admittedly, ‘Champion’ is easy to listen to, and does more in terms of boldness and dexterity than many an evolving pop-punk band stuck in the midst of redefinition. Without the brilliant shock of ‘Young and Menace’ and lacking the oomph of previous records, however, easy doesn’t quite cut it. Maybe I have high expectations, but ‘Champion’ just misses the mark and, unfortunately, misses it where it counts.
‘Champion’ is out now via Island Records