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Everybody Get Dangerous

In more ways than one, “Everybody Get Dangerous” was the first song from The Red Album that Weezer fans heard. Enterprising fans managed to snag a glimpse of the song from a scene in the flop comedy flick 21, where a brief clip of the song is buried on a distant radio in a poker club. The song was uncovered in March of ’08 — a couple of months before the incomplete, 8-song leak of the album would occur.

As such, this scratchy little snippet had plenty of time to be thoroughly dissected and debated. Discernible was a stupid party rock hook par excellence — some particularly adept listeners were able to discern the sound of guitarist Brian Bell singing lead vocals — and the beginning of a Rivers-sung bridge that mentions a “guardian angel.” Fans were sharply divided about whether or not the clip boded well for the song: some thought it could be an enjoyable track if executed well, while others were disappointed in the lack of emotional depth this tune hinted for Red. A couple months later, it was one of the first songs (along with “Troublemaker”) from the album to leak on the forums and beyond. And truth be told, even the brief clip from 21 couldn’t have forecasted what “Get Dangerous” wound up being in its final form.

It all begins with the sound of an engine roaring, glass breaking, some young voices shouting — not so much a cinematic moment as one that sounds like it was directly sampled from some bloated summer-teen blockbuster. A two-bit, Chilli Peppers funk riff enters — which was apparently refined with the help of drummer Pat Wilson, after his complaint in the studio that the song was not sounding nearly “dangerous” enough — as does Cuomo’s barely-three-note lead vocal, beginning rather unbelievably: “When I was younger / I used to go and tip cows for fun, yeah / Actually, I didn’t do that / Because I didn’t want the cows to be sad.” Even then, it’s not the most awkward thing about the first verse: the band actually manages to straight-facedly use a stock sample of someone scratching a vinyl record as a transition.

From there, Cuomo relinquishes the lead to Bell for the chorus — a repetition of the song’s title — while he takes to the mix’s backdrop, chanting “booyah!” every other measure. It’s kind of like the chorus to EMF’s “Unbelievable” after not exercising for a decade and a half. As it turns out, “Dangerous” features some of the most personal lyrics Cuomo’s allowed onto a record in a long time — it’s a recollection of what he and his delinquent friends used to do for fun as teenagers in rural Connecticut, and “everybody get dangerous” used to be their battle cry. Perhaps “booyah” was another one, which makes me wonder if the catchphrase even existed in the mid-to-late-’80s — but just as “it really happened!” fails to justify using the cow anecdote above as actual lyrics, “booyah” has no real place in a Weezer song, or probably any good song by anyone at all (I’d be interested to hear some counterexamples in the comments!). The 21 mix of this song evidently lacked Cuomo’s regrettable interjection, and was all the better for it.

The second verse and chorus are more of the same, but from there, something interesting happens: the “guardian angel” bridge. It’s a moment wherein the point of the song really takes shape and begins to produce something compelling: “We should’ve died a long time ago,” Cuomo realizes, shaking his head at his young self’s wreckless exploits with awe. And then, in a clever moment of the present catching up to him, Cuomo asks in harmony: “What will we say when our kids come to us / And ask with a smile on their faces / ‘Hey dad! My friends bought some new ninja swords! / Is it cool if we slash up this place?'”

I enjoy this moment because it hints at the kind of lyrics I wouldn’t mind from Cuomo at this point. A reflection on how to negotiate letting your kids do what you know you did at your age (even if it was bad) is a pretty mature topic to be discussing in song — certainly a lot better than “Who needs stupid books? / They are for petty crooks.” It’s more than just a little bit touching, too…Especially segueing into the rather pretty wordless bridge, which serves as the eye-of-the-storm highlight of the tune even despite can’t-be-intentional sour harmonies and voice cracks. There’s even a moment in there that feels like classic Weezer, when Bell repeats in a child-like voice and a winning countermelody,”Is it cool if we slash up this place?” But then it’s back to that botched chorus, followed by a 30-second outro that features some commanding rolls from Wilson and some truly bizarre yelps and yowls from the band that momentarily intrigue, but winds up going nowhere. The song ends on a fadeout.

Sadly, “Get Dangerous” never made it to the one place I think it could really thrive: the live stage. Even though it’s a nice-but-misguided attempt from Cuomo to bare his soul on record a little more, it winds up being no more than an empty party jam — one that could really benefit from some cool stage lights and explosive pyrotechnics on the chorus. Besides, it’s a pretty competent reappropriation of the old “Smells Like Teen Spirit” riff, which is always a good way to get a crowd moving. This is one of a few songs on Red that I wish had remained strictly live staples, to be saved for the eventual in-concert DVD release — but I suppose you can’t have that if the band shies away from ever playing it.