The buildup to The Red Album was pretty immense. After the success of Make Believe, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a quick turnaround for the next record: in Weezer’s history, success has always made for quick follow-ups (The Blue Album gave rise to Pinkerton in a customary two years, while The Green Album‘s smash produced Maladroit in less than half that time), and precedent didn’t suggest the next record would arrive three whole years after Weezer’s biggest single to date.
But that’s how long it took. I’m not quite sure what the rumor mill was up to during the first year and a half of waiting, but after the leak of the demo of “Pig” — a song many hailed the best Rivers Cuomo composition of this decade — it was bustling. Official band webmaster and historian Karl Koch remarked that studio sessions had begun in “a large room that normally doesn’t serve as a place where bands record their albums.” While this wound up being a theater, fans conjectured that (along with the intensely thematic and refined subject matter of “Pig”) this could be a barn, and that Weezer’s sixth effort would be a farm animal concept album (had they known about “The Spider,” that would’ve only bolstered speculation). Theories grew even more complex and excited when news hit that all band members would be singing — something that had not been attempted since Songs From The Black Hole, Cuomo’s unfinished space rock opera that wound up being pared down and re-envisioned as Pinkerton. Of course, multiple vocalists meant multiple perspectives (like the Black Hole songs had employed), which seemed to corroborate the concept album theory.
Then came “This Is The Way.” Cuomo had been compiling and sequencing a selection of old demos from 1992-2007 to serve as a sort of stopgap release, which was released under his name as Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo. The one song on the tracklist from the post-Make Believe era would be heavily analyzed as something of a sampling for what was to come.
When the record leaked, pandemonium ensued on the Weezer fanboards. It is, simply put, an R&B ballad — complete with a drum machine beat, a cheesy synth progression, a sleazy guitar line, and an intro that has Rivers deadpanning, “This is the way, baby: This is the way.” The sad fanboy dream of an ambitious animal farm concept album quickly withered and died.
The lyrics tell the trite tale of a girl being abused by a boyfriend, and Cuomo, the hot-blooded hetero-protagonist, offers his services in setting her free. But the songwriting flies beneath that of most actual Top 40 R&B fare, and has amusingly birthed more than one message board theory about how the song is actually about anal sex (one of the few ways to make this song engaging at all). If taken as a parody, it’s a pretty entertaining little joke, but seeing how the song trudges through 4 minutes and 17 seconds without so much as the hint of a wink, it seems that Cuomo’s gesture is sincere. After all, this is the man who, during the Maladroit era, co-wrote and performed on a hit single by nu metal garbage bin Cold, tried to ghostwrite a tune for Enrique Iglesias, and at least considered collaborating with Fred Durst (if a recording exists, may God grant that it never sees the light of day).
When the Alone CD hit stores, the liner notes offered some minor reassurance. Cuomo unapologetically revealed that the song was founded on a progression/beat lifted pretty directly from Mario’s 2004 hit “Let Me Love You,” which was at once both a relief and even more embarrassing. But luckily (and rather tantalizingly), Cuomo promised that “an epic, 6-minute, symphonic type of art song” tentatively titled “Daydreamer” (later “Dreamin'”) would be released on the forthcoming album instead of this lame duck. His dismissive description of the “Way” demo — “a straight-ahead, nothing-fancy, middle-of-the-road, urban pop type of song” — made it seem that he didn’t care much for it, either.
And yet, Cuomo’s detailed chronicle contained the frightening admission that the other three members of the band wanted “This Is The Way” on the record instead of “Daydreamer.” Cuomo apparently insisted on the inclusion of “Daydreamer,” so “This Is The Way” was cut — even though, hilariously, bassist Scott Shriner desperately wanted the song to be on the album, saying, “I want to sing that song. I can own it.” Wouldn’t that be interesting to hear!
And who knows? We just might: Cuomo’s notes on the song conclude that “This Is The Way” might just end up on Album 7.