In 2005, I was a hater.
It was my sophomore year of high school, and my love of scouring mp3 blogs, burning mix CDs and generally wasting away hours that should have been spent outside had turned me into a full-blown music snob. My taste was better than yours, and if you spent enough time around me, I’d probably let you know it in terms as blunt (before trying to hip you to something that was nine-plus minutes and snuck out of the Prince vault).
Very few fandoms brought out the insufferable dickhole in me like Fall Out Boy. Their breakout album From Under the Cork Tree had dropped that May, and was absolutely inescapable in high school circles. I despised the band’s heart-on-sleeve theatrics, their walking haircut of a bassist and Patrick Stump’s overblown bleating on the first single “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down.”
To cap it all off, the band were sellouts. The obvious stylistic shift toward pop from Take This to Your Grave to Cork Tree just wouldn’t fly to a No Idea-worshiping, Axl Rose-reinventing kid like me. But all that went in the garbage like so many pre-pubescently purchased Hanson CDs (guilty) after the release of their monstrous second single “Dance, Dance.”
In exactly three minutes, the Boys of Fall Out had made a convert out of me. It’s simply too good of a song. Screw that. It’s not even really a song so much as an endless series of hooks perfectly positioned to unfold one after the other. This is what it would sound like if Fetty Wap was an emo Midwesterner.
It almost seems like a waste that such a well-built song got used to make people… well, dance. Stump’s whispered delivery, the expertly timed rests and crashing starts, and, quite possibly, one of the best pre-choruses in pop history had the power to get people excited for just about anything. (Then again, if they made another ode to teenage love or tried to get political, there’s a good chance the song would lose something.)
Even with that pre-chorus and the song’s shout-along, demanding chorus, somehow there’s a better moment in the song. It comes between the two, and it’s an 8-note riff left to hang by itself. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything that so perfectly captures the tension in a room about to lose its goddamn mind. In that riff is sweat, sex and the tightening of leg muscles. It’s a riff that sounds like the concept of potential energy laid down in tablature. “Dance, Dance” is peak Fall Out Boy, and those eight notes are the best part of the whole song. Those notes can and should define their career.
That’s not to say the song doesn’t have problems. “Why don’t you show me a little bit of spark you’ve been saving for his mattress? / I only want sympathy in the form of you falling into bed with me” would launch approximately 17 million thinkpieces if someone dropped that song today. But even that admittedly gross bit isn’t enough to knock a song this propulsive off the rails.
If pop-punk died in 2000, then “Dance, Dance” was its viking funeral, burning as bright and intense as an invitation on a high-schooler’s front lawn. Even if the band has spent the intervening decade squandering the goodwill of “Dance, Dance” by trying to build something out of the ashes, they deserve respect for this one track that was so great, it even brought a curmudgeon like me on board.