College radio is the place where artists get discovered, the place that doesn’t follow the dictations of taste from the mainstream and the place where artists ignored elsewhere can shine. But sometimes college radio does unexpected things. It overlooks albums that later become cornerstones of any music nerd’s repertoire. It shamelessly supports albums that cross over into major mainstream success. It backs artists because of who they once were, not because of who they have become. Over the past 20 years Weezer has become many things, one of which is an anomaly in college radio. With the release of Everything Will Be Alright In The End on the horizon, let’s look back at Weezer’s surprising history on the CMJ charts.
The first two, and undeniably best, albums from the Weezer catalog, Weezer (The Blue Album) and Pinkerton, had the worst runs on the CMJ charts. The Blue Album received ample mainstream success, but it did not receive as much support from college radio, where it just barely cracked the the Top 20 and peaked at No. 19 on September 5, 1994. Its accessibility and nerdy light-heartedness made it stand out and allowed it to become a definitive moment in the history of ’90s power-pop. Just reaching No. 19 is not all that surprising though, given college radio’s general hesitance to endorse music upheld by the mainstream. But this ideal of what college radio typically supports is shattered by Weezer’s later career and college radio success.
The 1996 release Pinkerton seemed like much more of a college radio album: trashed by critics and shunned by mainstream outlets, it was thought to be inaccessible for much of their previous fanbase, and overall seen as a let-down from the expectations created by their debut. But still college radio didn’t throw its weight behind Weezer. Pinkerton would go on to become a cult album, and a gateway into emotive left-of-center pop for many music lovers coming of age at the time, but it reached its peak in college radio at No. 22 the week of November 11, 1996. Rivers Cuomo traded in the accessibility of The Blue Album for a darker more introspective tone. But embedded in the brooding of Pinkerton came misogynistic undertones, as Cuomo moved past the innocent adolescence of the band’s first album. Coming at a time when female-fronted bands Luscious Jackson and Cardigans were sitting in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions on the CMJ chart, perhaps it was Cuomo’s disregard for women that hurt the album’s college radio airplay?
CMJ Chart For The Week Of November 11, 1996
ARTIST & TITLE
|1||Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Now I Got Worry||Matador|
|2||Luscious Jackson Fever In Fever Out||Grand Royal|
|3||Cardigans First Band On The Moon||Stockholm|
|4||Archers Of Loaf All The Nations Airports||Elektra|
|6||Cake Fashion Nugget||Capricorn|
|7||Marilyn Manson Antichrist Superstar||Nothing|
|8||Sebadoh Harmacy||Sub Pop|
|9||Catherine Hot Saki & Bedtime Stories||TVT|
|10||Mazzy Star Among My Swan||Capitol|
|11||Yo La Tengo Genius+Love = Yo La Tengo||Matador|
|12||John Parish & Polly Jean Harvey Dance Hall At Louis Point||Island|
|13||R.E.M New Adventures In Hi-Fi||Warner Bros|
|14||They Might Be GiantsFactory Showroom||Elektra|
|15||Kula Shaker K||Columbia|
|16||Silver Jews The Natural Bridge||Drag City|
|17||Descendents Everything Sucks||Epitaph|
|18||Lemonheads Car Button Cloth||Atlantic|
|19||Wedding Present Saturnalia||Cooking Vinyl|
|20||Social Distortion White Light, White Heat, White Trash||Epic||21||Cat Power What Would The Community Think||Matador||22||Weezer Pinkerton||DGC||23||Bad Brains Black Dots||Caroline||24||Korn Life Is Peachy||Immortal||25||Butter 08 Butter 08||Grand Royal|
After Pinkerton, Weezer took a few years off and returned with their second self-titled release, better known as The Green Album, an album that was overall unremarkable. But The Green Album is the album that would take Weezer to No. 1 on the CMJ Charts in May 2001. After the emptiness and blatant commercial appeal of the record, Weezer would go on to put out increasingly less relevant albums, all of which would do significantly better on the charts than the now-beloved Blue Album or Pinkerton. While The Green Album would be see Weezer’s apex at college radio, their more recent albums would all make it to the top ten. The still-underrated Maladroit peaked at No. 5, Make Believe and the self-titled Red Album both peaked at No. 10, Raditude peaked at No. 6, and Hurley reached No. 8.
Everything Will Be Alright In The End, Weezer’s ninth album, comes out next week. And just maybe, everything will be alright for Weezer because this album is more in the vein of their earlier work and is better than their more recent releases. So the question becomes, what will college radio think of Weezer’s newest release? Their past six albums all made it to the top ten, so will this one follow suit?