What Does It Mean To Be A Weezer Fan In 2019?
THE WORLD HAS TURNED AND LEFT US… WHAT?

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There's a new Weezer album out today, which I learned about the moment I woke up. When I switched off my phone's alarm and checked my messages, there were texts about it from both my partner and my best friend from high school (who's also the biggest Weezer fan I've ever known, unless someone's been hiding their fandom from me like a dark secret).

It's the fifth of their self-titled/color-coded albums, and their twelfth studio album since their 1994 debut. "The Teal Album," in the wake of last year's viral #WeezerCoverAfrica campaign — which somehow launched the band back into the broader public consciousness in a way they haven't been since Rivers Cuomo grew a terrible mustache — is a cover album.

 

There's another "real" album slated to come out in a couple months, so you might think that surprise-dropping a 36-minutes of covers is just a marketing move. I wouldn't blame you for believing this after listening to the covers, which anyone who's heard the originals and more than two Weezer songs can perfectly imagine in their heads. "Faithful," "uninspired" and "lazy" are all fair descriptors.

I don't even think the "surprise" part of the surprise drop even registered with me this morning, because of course Weezer would put out an album of cover songs with no announcement. "So this is what Rivers Cuomo singing 'No Scrubs' sounds like," you'll go. "About what I expected," is the conclusion I came to. It's okay to be mad about Weezer joining the ranks of white people appropriating black music through covers, and fine if you just want to dunk on them for it — but we've already been over this, they covered "Hey Ya" on tour in 2017.

Part of why I found the #WeezerCoverAfrica campaign so funny wasn't because I thought they would never do it, but because I savored the remote, absurd possibility that they might actually act like they were too good to. Of course, now we're reaping the obvious-in-hindsight outcome of that gambit: here's a whole album, and don't forget the other Toto cover.

Judging by the chatter online, the move definitely brought Weezer a good measure of attention, but they don't exactly seem like a band that's desperate for it. Weezer has always had a legion of fans and they've always had their fair share of haters, and they're a band that so famously has fans doubling as haters there's a recent "Saturday Night Live" sketch about it:

 

Not to shit on "SNL," but if the old "'Blue Album' and 'Pinkerton' are Weezer's only good albums" line of thought is now so played-out that Matt Damon agreed to do a four minute sketch about it for America's #1, mostly unadventurous sketch comedy institution, then it's time for the stans of those albums (myself included) to admit we've been ripe for parody for some time. Meanwhile, none of our grousing has stopped Weezer from doing whatever the fuck they want!

Subjective assessment of their music aside, there are plenty of good reasons to have always hated on Weezer or to slowly grow out of them. Yes, a lot of the songs on "The Blue Album" and especially "Pinkerton" have a rare-in-pop-rock vulnerability to them, but freely expressing unsubtle misogyny is a trait of early Weezer that has actually endured while others haven't. "Pinkerton" may have been trashed by many critics at the time for reasons that don't hold up to scrutiny, but the accurate reads on Cuomo's creepiness did not stick.

 

 

Oh, and because it's worth mentioning and in line with nothing under the sun about Weezer being surprising anymore: I guess Rivers is into gaming and tweeting too much nowadays?

 

 

Maybe he's being a troll! Maybe it's all real! It definitely does not matter either way, and not in the sense where a normal person performing irony for far too long could risk turning themselves into a genuine asshole. No, Rivers — and by extension, Weezer as a unit — has been performing "the Weezer thing" for so long now that the barrier that once existed between human and rock act has completely dissolved. I don't think this is uncommon: A lot of bands achieve a similar level of success, the lives they used to lead that informed their art either vanish without a trace or get absorbed into the band's artistic project, the albums get shittier and eventually they break up or devise a 20-year touring plan that ends with them playing the casino circuits between knee surgeries.

I, and many others, might not like new Weezer, but I do think they're traveling down their own path, and I think that's because there was a porousness between themselves and the band's legend from the early days. The band cultivated close relationships with devoted fans before their first album dropped — two of them, Mykel and Carli Allan (to whom the "Undone" B-side "Mykel and Carli" is dedicated) were quick to start a fan club for the band soon after the release of "The Blue Album." Thanks to Rivers' relatable-if-questionable lyrics, Ric Ocasek's timeless production and some heavy grunge counter-programming radio and MTV rotation, Weezer became a huge band really, really fast.

By the time I was actually old enough to start caring about bands the way a gatekeeping "real fan" cares, the drama of the band's post-"Pinkerton" hiatus/Rivers' break to attend Harvard and the "Green Album" comeback/naysayers' "every post-2000 album sucks" stance had not only been crystallized within the fandom, but for all intents and purposes had been played along with by the band. Weezer gave all of what comparatively little it had to fans right out the gate, and with the exception of Rivers' collegiate recluse phase (which is now as much a part of the band's mythology as anything else), the band has been consistently serving up fodder for fans — new albums, old demos, questionable tweets — ever since.

Fodder feels like the right word. Weezer hasn't spent the last 20 years consistently trying to please or troll some segment of their fans. They've been producing things they know fans will respond to however they see fit. You can reject it, you can begrudgingly like it, you can be ecstatic about every new drip but the one thing you can't do is deny that it exists. Every new song and piece of information about the band doesn't or can't challenge the immutable idea of what Weezer is, good or bad. That's Weezer's longevity in a nutshell — if they were out here striving to make good music and it all ended up bad, they'd be criticized, increasingly ignored and then forgotten. Instead, Weezer makes music that reminds you that Weezer is around. That people like some of their albums but not others. That Rivers is a creep. That "Say It Ain't So" is fun to sing, isn't it?

I think Weezer fans know this. If they've outgrown the band and rarely talk about it, somehow the other fans or lapsed fans in their orbit will know to text them the morning of a surprise album drop, and those people already know what reaction they'll get out of whoever they texted. A Weezer fan might change so much over the course of their life that they legitimately forget what they really liked about the band in the first place, but it's hard to forget the motions of liking or not liking certain things about the band. They'll yell "smoke dope" during the breakdown of "Surf Wax America" at live shows not only because they want to, but because they know it's just what you do.

Sometimes Weezer's creative raison d'être might be more veiled than others, but an album of rote covers that you know people will debate online is an exceptionally clear way to declare that you're still here. For that reason alone, it might be Weezer's best release since "Pinkerton."

Mathew Olson is an Associate Editor at Digg.



There Are Too Many Streaming Services. Which Ones Are Worth Your Money?
REQUIEM FOR A STREAM

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Disney+ launched this week, with HBO Max and NBC's Peacock soon to follow. With Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video already on the market, how can you choose between streamers? Here's a breakdown of each service's pros and cons.


Netflix

Essentially synonymous with the word "streaming," Netflix is still the big boy on the block. And you probably already have access via your brother's girlfriend's parent's account — at least until the crackdown on password sharing begins.

Price: $9 to $16 per month

Pros: You'll never see a commercial on Netflix, and the viewing experience is extremely user-friendly. But the biggest strength Netflix has to offer is its massive content library:

Even if Netflix were to lose all of its licensed content, the company has prepared by building a huge catalog of original shows and movies. Plus, now that they've poached just about every big name in TV from the floundering networks, including Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes, they've essentially replaced the networks as the key provider of television content.

[TIME]

Cons: Netflix's price point is slightly more costly than other streaming services, although given its voluminous library, it's easy to argue Netflix provides a solid bang for your buck. That aforementioned library will soon lose some essential titles, however, as shows like The Office, Friends, Parks and Recreation, and The West Wing are heading for other platforms.

Verdict: How else are you going to watch Stranger Things?


Disney+

Following its debut on November 12th, Disney+ is adding A Whole New WorldTM of content to the streaming game. 

Price: $7 per month or $70 per year

Pros: With a price tag that's less than half of Netflix's premium plan, Disney+ offers outstanding value. And if you have children, Disney+ is nearly a must (plop your kids in front of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while you stream The Mandalorian). The content is never-ending:

In year one, the service will have 30 original series, 7,500 past episodes and 500 movie titles. That includes Marvel films such as "Avengers: Endgame," documentaries from National Geographic and 30 seasons of "The Simpsons."

[CNN]

Cons: While the catalog is extensive, not every Disney title seems to have made its way onto Disney+ just yet:

The content on Disney Plus will be the deciding factor that makes or breaks the service. At the moment we can't seem to find recent blockbusters like Aladdin, The Lion King or Avengers: Endgame. If Disney waits too long to put their titles on there, Disney Plus will be left feeling more like an archive of movies past than a platform for current, hit content - but all signs point to that changing in the months after launch.

[TechRadar]

Additionally, the prospects for original content (beyond "The Mandalorian") remain to be seen:

Calling Disney Plus an essential streaming service feels a bit preemptive at this point as, without a strategy to fill the well with new content, the service is in real danger of running dry in a few month's time. 

[TechRadar]

Some users also reported glitches during the Disney+ rollout, with error messages and long load times leading to frustration:

Verdict:

$6.99 is a pittance to pay for such an archive, particularly when the appeasement of one's offspring is what's actually for sale; with Netflix as a precedent, raising prices somewhere down the line is a when, not an if, and we'll continue to oblige even once the sticker price is no longer falsely deflated.

[The Ringer]


Hulu

Price: $6 to $12 per month; $45 to $51 per month includes live TV

Pros: If you want to cut the cord but *not really* cut the cord, Hulu offers a live TV subscription and DVR at a reasonable rate. And now that Disney owns Hulu, you can bundle Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ together for just $13 per month ($5 cheaper than buying all three services separately).

Cons: Unless you purchase the premium version of Hulu, you'll get ads while watching, which could be a deal-breaker for some. And while Hulu was built on the back of TV shows, it's unclear how Hulu's catalog will change now that NBC and CBS, among others, are creating their own streaming services. Seinfeld, for one, will be moving from Hulu to Netflix in 2021.

Verdict: If you need the option of live TV or simply can't miss an episode of The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu might be for you. But given the uncertainty of Hulu's catalog, other streaming services might be better alternatives.


Amazon Prime Video

Lord Bezos, give me your content.

Price: Included with Amazon Prime membership ($13 per month)

Pros: You probably already have an Amazon Prime subscription, meaning you already have  Amazon Prime Video! If not, you're missing out on exclusive shows like Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, plus archive exclusives like The Americans and Downton Abbey

Cons: The user experience can't match that of Netflix or other streaming giants:

Amazon's interface can be a bit unwieldy. It varies in style and usability from one device to another, with the best experience (no surprise) on its own Fire TV media streamers, while the execution on some smart TVs is less intuitive. The web interface for Prime Video is presented as a section within Amazon's online store, rather than its own, stand-alone experience. This can be a bit jarring, especially when you're trying to figure out how to search for a movie. The big search bar at the top of the screen is the right place, but it sure does look like you're about to search Amazon.com, not Amazon Prime Video. 

Amazon does not offer multiple user profiles for Prime Video, and its video recommendation engine isn't especially sophisticated. Complaints that it can be hard to find something decent to watch are not uncommon.

[Digital Trends]

Verdict: It's probably worth a subscription, unless you have an (admittedly valid!) moral issue with supporting Amazon.


HBO Max/HBO Go/HBO Now

Max and Go and Now, oh my! 

HBO Max: HBO's newest service is scheduled to launch in May 2020, reportedly at a price of $15 per month. HBO Max will have the rights to acclaimed TV series' such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory, and will be free for a lot of users — although sorting through who exactly is eligible for a free subscription may prove challenging.

HBO Go: Unlike Max and Now, HBO Go requires an HBO subscription through cable access or Amazon Prime. It's essentially a way for HBO subscribers to watch HBO content whenever they please. 

HBO Now: HBO's original streaming platform, HBO Now allows anyone to access HBO's library, whether or not they have an HBO subscription.

As of now, there are no plans to scrap either HBO Go or HBO Now despite the impending introduction of HBO Max. "Nothing will happen with HBO Go or HBO Now," an HBO rep told Fast Company earlier this year. "HBO Max will be a distinct offering. As a distinct offering, you would not automatically become a Max subscriber."

Still, it doesn't seem viable to keep both HBO Max and HBO Now around, especially at the same price point. But there may be reasons for keeping everything separate:

So why isn't the company simply rebranding HBOs Now and Go as HBO Max, moving everyone over and cleaning up its confusing mélange of streaming brands?

The answer: It would be an operational nightmare, and probably not even feasible in the near term given the company's obligations under distribution contracts for HBO products.

[Variety]


Peacock

Set to debut in the spring of 2020, NBC's ridiculously named Peacock streaming service will include virtually all of the NBC properties you've come to know and love: 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Cheers, Frasier, Saturday Night Live, The Office (in 2021, after Netflix relinquishes the rights). The most notable omission is Friends, which is instead heading to HBO Max.

The one thing we don't know is cost. Most streaming services land somewhere between $10 and $20, which seems like a reasonable price for Peacock, but NBC is reportedly considering making the platform free of charge (with ads, of course):

Previously, Comcast had planned on making Peacock free only to cable subscribers and Comcast broadband customers. The new plan, which is still under consideration, would be to give away the ad-supported Peacock streaming service to anyone who wants it. An ad-free product would also be available but will come with a charge, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

There may also be multiple tiers of Peacock to give Comcast customers and other pay-TV subscribers additional content or other benefits, said the people. But the cornerstone product will be free and ad-supported, for both cable and non-cable subscribers, the people said.

[CNBC]


Niche streaming sites 

If you just can't get enough streaming, fear not! There are plenty of niche services available for every interest. Here are a few:

  • Shudder: Owned by AMC, Shudder has enough horror and thriller content to satisfy your spooky urges. At $5.99 a month, though, it's probably only worth it if you're a horror buff.
  • Crunchyroll: Anime and manga. And it's free! (Ad-free requires a subscription).
  • Sony Crackle: A surprisingly decent lineup of movies and TV shows at no cost.

Dallas Robinson is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis

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