Although the band were often labeled as emo, their sound has always more closely resembled pop punk and pop rock, however, their associations with the genre (which was very much on trend during the 00’s) allowed them to build a large and ravenous fan base, meaning they are often seen as the band from this scene and era. Although their debut album Take This to Your Grave was only a moderate success, they soon broke into the mainstream with its follow-up, the seminal From Under the Cork Tree which went double platinum. The band’s third album Infinity on High went straight to number one on the Billboard 200, however, the next album, Folie á Deux, was not as well received. Feeling that a break was necessary, the band went on hiatus between 2009 and 2012, before returning straight back to number one with the album Save Rock and Roll and its followup American Beauty/American Psycho.
There are few bands who could enjoy such monumental success after being absent for three years, but this just goes to show the hunger that fans had for the band’s high energy pop punk and Patrick Stump’s distinctive and unparalleled vocals. This Top 10 Fall Out Boy Songs list was a real fun one to write.
# 10 – Thriller
Fall Out Boy have never been afraid to play with their song titles (see Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued), but naming the opening track of their third album after Michael Jackson’s most famous song is a move so cocky and egomaniacal that only a band as knowing and willing to be tongue in cheek as FOB could possibly get away with it. That the song starts with an intro from Jay-Z, of all people, further adds to the creative insanity of the song; the band are both boasting of their enormous success and access to VIP collaborators, while simultaneously mocking the ridiculousness of such displays of bombastic swagger. That you have to be in the know to fully understand the band’s references is no doubt part of their success – you really feel that you’re in on a big joke.
Musically the track features some frantically heavy guitar strumming, which pairs well with the song’s frenetic drums. These fevered elements contrast perfectly with the subdued and dream-like riffs present during the verses, something which perfectly represents the song’s lyrics, which discuss the band’s rise to worldwide fame from humble beginnings. The song is very much a shout-out to the band’s hardcore fans, showing that they know they are only able to create bizarre – but amazing – tracks such as this because of the unwavering support of their fan base.
# 9 – The Take Over, The Breaks Over
The composition of the song takes its cues from two classic rock icons, with Patrick Stump taking inspiration from David Bowie and the Rolling Stones by creating a track where the riff essentially makes up the entire song. Thankfully the riff that he chose to form the core of the track is an irresistibly catchy one, bubbling throughout the song to great effect. Andy Hurley also deserves a shout-out for his great drumming on the track, creating a flawless clapping beat at the start of the song and finishing on an almost military-like flourish.
This track follows Thriller on Infinity on High (2007) just as it does on this list, so it’s no surprise that The Take Over… carries on the latter’s themes of fame and media attention. The song’s second half features a particularly cheeky lyrical hook which, though it seems to be about sex at first glance, could also be aimed at “ex” fans who have publicly denounced Fall Out Boy yet continue to listen to and enjoy the band in secret. Meta elements like this are a big part of Pete Wentz’s superlative lyricism, and this song is a perfect example of how his writing and Stump’s composing represent a creative force to be reckoned with.
# 8 – I Don’t Care
As you can see, the band have always been interested in fame, and this track from Folie á Deux (2008)(really the only notable track from an otherwise slightly underwhelming album) saw the band tackle the kind of ultra-modern, narcissistic and superficial fame associated with contemporary pop culture. Although they were just at the start of their rise to infamy, a modern listener can’t help but align the song with the kind of empty fame that is enjoyed by “Youtubers” and the Kardashians.
The chorus is effortlessly anthemic and almost impossible to ignore. This, of course, is no accident, with Stump stating that he enjoyed the idea of people being unable to resist chanting along with a vacuous and self-obsessed hook, something that is perfectly suited to the themes of the song, and typical of the kind of meta-humor common with Fall Out Boy Songs.
Though you will likely only notice after having it pointed out to you, the end chorus of the song actually features a fierce guitar solo from Joe Trohman. That something that requires true talent is hidden and obstructed by the bluster of the superficial and catchy chorus is no doubt another pointed comment from writers Wentz and Stump. Folie á Deux may not have set the charts on fire but I Don’t Care is a gem of a track that requires – and deserves – multiple listens.
# 7 – My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)
This was the band’s comeback single after their three-year hiatus, and no one thought a band so entwined with 00’s culture could possibly stage a decent comeback in a new decade, yet this lead single from Save Rock and Roll (2013) proved the naysayers wrong and was met with impressive success. Reaching top five in the UK and top 20 in the US, this track sounded exactly like modern-day Fall Out Boy songs should; hugely catchy, undeniably slick, and full of some killer riffs.
The song begins with some pop-inspired crowd-pleasing chants, before launching into a harsh and gritty first verse, its lyrics intercut with grinding and distorted guitar notes. Following a brief pre-chorus in which Stump ominously and melodically croons the song’s title, the sing-along main-chorus begins, with Stump’s high-pitched and crunchy vocal hook perfectly capturing the chorus’ destructive energy whilst Trohman’s siren-like guitar wails in the background.
There’s something hugely foreboding about this song, but not in an unpleasant way. The track is very energizing, psyching listeners up with multiple air punch-worthy moments. It’s no surprise that the track became a common feature of sporting events at the time, as it perfectly captures the nervous, fizzing energy of these occasions. This was a triumphant return for Fall Out Boy, and fans across the globe were grateful for this overdue comeback.
# 6 – Uma Thurman
The third single from the band’s American Beauty/American Psycho (2015) album came about after the band realized that the theme tune to 1964 sitcom The Munsters bared a striking resemblance to the type of music used by cult film director Quentin Tarantino. Inspired by this bizarre combination, the band decided to sample the funky electric guitar/saxophone theme tune in a song dedicated to Tarantino’s regular collaborator, actress Uma Thurman. Despite the chorus referencing Thurman’s famous dance scene with John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, the majority of the song actually refers to her role as master assassin The Bride in Kill Bill, with references to weddings, poison and being buried alive.
As you would imagine, this song is endlessly cinematic, and it’s hard to believe that The Munsters theme isn’t actually taken straight from a Tarantino epic. With its stadium-filling clapped drum beat and some frantic piano chords, along with some fantastically fidgety surf rock guitar screams, the track would fit perfectly into any action film. When it’s done well, sampling can work to phenomenal effect, and this is a rare rock song that gets the balance just right, managing to repurpose a piece of music in a new and original way.
# 5 – Thnks fr th Mmrs
Legend has it the title of this second single from Infinity on High came about after the record label asked the band to shorten the titles of Fall Out Boy songs. Fall Out Boy have never been afraid to be experimental in their music, and Thnks fr th Mmrs is a perfect example of this, featuring a number of unconventional elements which manage to elevate an already great rock song to the next level.
Starting with some brooding strings and brass, the first verse sees Stump performing a duet with himself, simultaneously singing in two different registers thanks to clever post-production. Similarly, the balance on certain lines varies between different audio channels, giving the impression that there are multiple people singing along. Following a thumping infectious chorus, the second verse features a random synth riff and ends in a choral, almost falsetto-like note. In addition to all this, the penultimate chorus drops all instruments except drums, resulting in a stripped back, more immediate sound.
The song’s willingness to introduce unusual elements before completely dropping them ensures that this banger of a track is a real musical rollercoaster, showcasing the band’s brave musical choices and ever-playful inclinations.
# 4 – The Phoenix
As the opening track to the band’s comeback album, The Phoenix had to immediately assert itself, introducing listeners to the returning sound of Fall Out Boy songs. The songs manage to achieve this to great effect. It’s not hard to read the lyrics of the song in terms of the band’s hiatus, with them dying and finally being reborn as a majestic phoenix, so it’s no surprise that the instrumental of this song is an intense rock/orchestral extravaganza.
The song’s chief hook is orchestral, relying heavily on strings, and was inspired by Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7. The London Symphony Orchestra provide the orchestral elements, and only Fall Out Boy could score such an illustrious collaboration for their comeback single. This soaring instrumentation is perfect for the song, which is equal parts intense and uplifting, with the guitar riffs fusing perfectly with the classical elements to create a unique and enthralling sound.
As the opening to a comeback album, The Phoenix delivers in every way, showcasing the band’s classic pop-rock sound whilst introducing new and experimental elements that are perfectly suited to the grandiose return of these modern rock favorites. This was a statement of intent, a call to arms, and a perfect way for the band to reassert their musical dominance.
# 3 – Sugar We’re Going Down
Without a doubt, the band’s breakthrough single, Sugar We’re Going Down enabled Fall Out Boy to explode into the public consciousness. For many, this was their first exposure to the band, and what an introduction it was. This song contains all of the elements which make Fall Out Boy songs great; epic drumming, catchy guitar riffs and clever, thickly layered lyrics. That’s not even to mention the band’s trademark singalong choruses, of which this track’s joyous hook is one of the biggest, understandably becoming a summer festival essential.
While there can be no doubt that all four members of the band bring something truly special to proceedings, at the heart of everything is Patrick Stump’s superlative voice, which is capable of belting out some extraordinary notes whilst still sounding totally melodic and full of conviction. It could be argued that Sugar… contains the best vocals he’s ever delivered, with the punk-inspired (purposely) slurred chorus cementing him as a modern rock icon. It’s truly a privilege to hear Stump in action, and, despite his shy demeanor, he’s clearly having the time of his life. This was easily one of the most popular rock songs of the 2000s, becoming a genuine teen staple, and it’s really not hard to see why.
# 2 – This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race
This lead single from the band’s third album was their first chance to pontificate on their new found megastardom, and they did so to stunning effect. Using war-inspired imagery, the lyrics deconstruct the contemporary music scene (especially the band’s “emo” label – which Wentz had always rejected), looking in particular at the way that culture can become oversaturated and meaningless.
To go along with the cynical lyrics, the band created a very cool instrumental, which references soul music and ’70s funk. The song has a consistent guitar riff that fizzes throughout the song, with some harsher chords kicking in during the track’s anthem-like chorus. The song even features a singalong bridge that was inspired by an R&B Justin Timberlake cut.
The interplay between the content of the lyrics and the frenzied guitars works to great effect, perfectly capturing the band’s frustration, suffocation, and desire to escape from unnecessary genre labels. The choruses’ audience participation elements help to create a fun, and party-like vibe. This is echoed during the song’s video, which – among other things – features many of the song’s label-mates, as well as a gospel choir, celebrating Pete Wentz’s life at his funeral.
The pounding instrumental and clever, insightful lyrics of this track combine effortlessly to forge a tightly produced, utterly brilliant, rock wonder.
# 1 – Dance Dance
As the title suggests, the second single from From Under the Cork Tree is an immense emo/pop punk banger that is guaranteed to, at the very least, get feet tapping. The track starts simply, with a drum beat and a fiendish bass riff, before Stump’s vocals and the guitars begin. The slower elements during the song’s verses are the perfect foil to the rest of the song which – during the chorus in particular – features a non-stop assault of pop punk. The electric way Trohman attacks the guitar riffs is insane, delivering manic licks like a brutal – but not unpleasant – kick to the face.
Lyrically, the song concerns itself with an all too relatable story of teenage love, and how it can often border on obsession. The song’s protagonist slowly starts to resent the object of his affections, as she spends her time with other boys instead of him. Stump superbly captures the angst of this situation in his voice, even bordering on hysterical in some places. Stump has described Dance Dance as the best thing he’s ever done, and it is very hard to disagree with him. It was an easy choice to hit the No.1 spot on our Top 10 Fall Out Boy Songs list.
Throughout their career Fall Out Boy have produced some genuinely exceptional rock tracks, with Wentz’s biting lyricism and Stump’s dazzling delivery (along with the talents of Hurley and Trohman) making them a truly essential listen. Fall Out Boy have truly managed to escape from the shackles of their emo tag and deliver some truly inspired rock masterpieces.
Written by Ollie Dean
Top 10 Fall Out Boy Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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