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Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz: Rock Is Alive — But You Might Not Know It When You Hear It (Guest Column)

It’s an interesting time.

Consider Portugal. The Man, a rock band whose hit “Feel It Still” was one of the most pervasive songs of 2017. I heard it everywhere. And it sounded strange. It is truly an odd song — a throwback with entirely modern production at the same time. It stood out.

Today, you can’t necessarily think, “Rock music has to be this and it can’t be that.” We’re challenging the notion of what rock music can be. Listening to a playlist might mean going from a Beatles song into Twenty One Pilots into Lil Yachty. Kids are going to arenas to see Imagine Dragons and to hear those big songs. But they’re also checking out Bleachers and Jack Antonoff; he’s one of the biggest pop producers — one who clearly approaches songs as a kid in his bedroom listening to punk rock. Then there’s Lorde. Her records are considered rock or alternative albums. I remember hearing her debut for the first time and thinking, This thing is a game changer.

When Fall Out Boy was first looking [to get a record deal in the early 2000s], we really weren’t ready to be signed. We needed time to hang out in a petri dish and figure out what we sounded like and what about us was different from the thousands of other bands we were playing with — because no matter the sonic landscape that we live in, a rock song has to stand out. Twenty One Pilots did. We took them on tour [in 2013] and I saw how they tapped into something by taking different genres and incorporating rap. It’s melodic. It’s interesting. And it’s clearly a recipe for success because it can also get played on the radio.

These days, when I drop off my 9-year-old son at school, I’ll see little kids into Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert or a song like Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang.” Those guys are making the punk DIY version of hip-hop.

Rock music might not come the way people expect it, but it feels very much alive.

As told to Shirley Halperin

(Bassist Pete Wentz is the chief lyricist for Fall Out Boy. The band’s seventh studio album, “Mania,” was released Jan. 19.) 

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