“Island in the Sun” is the most released song of Weezer’s career. Too released. More released than any one song ever should be. To wit:
THE (MAYBE IN)COMPLETE “ISLAND IN THE SUN” DISCOGRAPHY
- The Green Album (2001)
- Radio-only promo CD (2001)
- UK retail CD single #1 (2001; with “Island in the Sun” music video CD-ROM)
- UK retail CD single #2 (2001)
- UK retail yellow vinyl 7-inch (2001)
- Japanese retail CD single (2001)
- The Lion and the Witch EP (2002; live)
- Japanese Maladroit CD (2002; Green Album version)
- Australian Maladroit CD (2002; Green Album version)
- UK Maladroit CD (2002; Green Album version)
- Video Capture Device DVD (2004; music video Version 1)
- Video Capture Device DVD (2004; music video Version 2)
- UK “Beverly Hills” CD single (2005; live)
- Japanese “Beverly Hills” CD single (2005; live)
- “Island in the Sun (Live)” iTunes single (2005; live)
- UK Make Believe CD (2005; live)
- Japanese Make Believe CD (2005; live)
- Holiday in the Sun movie (2001; used as theme song, as covered by the Olsen Twins)
- Island in the Sun karaoke single (2001; as imitated by a band called Obscure; incls. regular, Karaoke Remix, Tiki Bar Remix, and Unplugged Remix)
- Mr. Deeds soundtrack (2002)
- Triple J’s Hottest 100 compilation (2002)
- Smallville: The Talon Mix soundtrack (2003)
- Aquamarine soundtrack (2006; as covered by Emma Roberts)
- The Definitive Tom Dunne Vol. 01: 2000-2006 compilation (2006)
- Lance Armstrong: Run Longer Nike+ Playlist (2007)
And probably scores more.
In truth, it is a great song. Great enough to warrant 17 official Weezer releases and a handful of spinoffs and soundtrack releases (including shows like The Sopranos and The Simpsons, which use the song but have never issued it on a soundtrack)? Maybe not. I mean, in Japan and the UK, the song was released on three consecutive, official, studio albums: The Green Album, then Maladroit less than a year later (with the Green version simply being tacked onto the end — not even a different mix!), then Make Believe (as a live rendition). What the fuck!
It really is Green‘s top standout, though. “Sun,” along with “Photograph” and “Hash Pipe,” is one of the album’s few songs not mixed and compressed to sound middled-out and bland — it actually has some depth, a sense of space. The arrangement is one of the album’s sharpest, as well: the verse bassline is one of the best of the era, lending the song its central buoyancy (if you replaced its danceability with something more plodding (like more Weezer-typical straight eighth notes), it probably wouldn’t have been a hit). The intro, production of the lead rhythm guitar, addition of a second (acoustic) rhythm guitar on the verse, the simple lead line, those great “ooooh” backups (which, to be fair, shouldn’t have been all but buried), etc. The bridge rockout is predictable (practically inevitable, coming from these guys; see also “Burndt Jamb”), but works nicely here, and the guitar solo is one of the few instances of the Green album verse-melody-solo working so well. The lyrics are nice, as well — a rare example of Cuomo’s purposefully detached lyrics working to a song’s advantage.
The live version we have from The Lion and the Witch EP is somewhat disposable (though still probably my favorite cut from that disc), but I do like Cuomo’s delay-heavy outro, especially when it’s just him singing at the end with Scott Shriner’s bass for company. A lovely little ending, which certainly fares better than the studio version’s simple fadeout.
The other live version we have (are there really no more than two between all those releases?) is interesting for taking a slightly faster tempo (a little more energetic than its usual performance), for Pat Wilson’s unusually busy (pretty cool) drum work, and for Cuomo’s new and much improved solo. The band attempts a similar outro to the Lion and the Witch version, but it doesn’t take nearly as well.
Finally, of the live versions in any form of circulation, there is the “re-worked” arrangement from the Extended Hyper Midget Tour of 2001 (live cuts from which were, for a time, distributed to fans via weezer.com). It is comparable to the other two live cuts we have, minus any kind of outro at all.
And believe it or not, there are versions of this song that have (thus far) escaped official release! Cuomo’s home demo from 1999 is an endearing take on the song, with a synth-organ on the bridge rather than a rockout. However, as some fans have noted, to contrast his vocal performance here with his on “Velouria” just a year prior is remarkable. In 1998, Cuomo’s voice was the best it has ever sounded; in 1999, he sounds like a pitch-challenged teenager coughing his way through this first home recording. The only tenable explanation is that he is trying (quite audibly) to sound like Liam Gallagher, as Oasis was a huge deliberate influence of Cuomo’s at this time, and (just as audibly) failing.
There’s also a 17-second clip of an early full-band recording of this song that has been lifted from the Video Capture Device DVD. It is notably more upbeat and uptempo, and with a crazy solo that Karl Koch had apparently grafted into the mix from “No More Confusin’,” which was demoed several times with Weezer at Cuomo’s home studio. Recorded in 2000, these come from the uncirculated “October Demos.”
Two music videos were released for this song. One was directed by “Hash Pipe” director Marcos Siega, which is notable for both the presence of Mikey (lookin’ sharp) and the absurd Mexican wedding setting. The band was understandably displeased with the result, so they reunited with Spike Jonze (Mr. “Buddy Holly”) to do one of the band playing outdoors with various zoo animals. It marks a bizarre point in the band’s history when Mikey was “missing” (in rehab, actually) and the band still had not yet found Scott to forcibly replace him, so the band is erroneously presented as a three-piece.