Released in 2008, ‘Folie à Deux‘ (meaning ‘a madness shared by two’) is the fourth studio album by American pop-punk band, Fall Out Boy.
When it came out, though it received a wholly positive response from critics, fans were more divided in opinion. While I very much enjoyed this album, I can see why fans at the time were uncertain. It’s lyrics leave behind personal experiences and troubled romances, veering away from the classic topics of punk music and begin to be much more politically charged and critical of the music industry. This is especially evident in ‘America’s Suitehearts‘, the second of four singles to come from the album which covers topics of fame and corruption, and ‘(Coffee’s For Closers)’ which talks about apathy and narcisism. This kind of album to album change, however, has become typical of Fall Out Boy’s style and, in my opinion, always seems like a very natural progression. In an interview in 2015, bassist Pete Wentz joked that “The only way [their changes in style] wouldn’t make sense would be if [listeners] went straight from ‘Evening Out With Your Girlfriend‘ to ‘American Beauty/American Psycho‘”.
Folie explores the extremes of vocalist Patrick Stump’s range, with him hitting an F2 in the first verse of ‘Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet‘ and a G#5 in ‘The (Shipped) Gold Standard‘ (a range of 3 octaves and 3 semitones). He also displays many vocal techniques such as falsetto and belted notes. His performance in ‘I Don’t Care‘, the first single on the album, has been compared to John Lee Hooker.
A few of the tracks on the album stray from Fall Out Boy’s classic rock band instrumentation. For example, both ‘What A Catch, Donnie’ and ‘Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes’ use piano, which is especially effective during the quieter moments. Also, at the end of ‘(Coffee’s For Closers)’ the guitars fade into a string reprise to finish the song with a perfect cadence.
‘What A Catch, Donnie’ was written as a tribute to Donny Hathaway, an American singer/songwriter who committed suicide in 1979. The song also references Hathaway’s friend and writing partner, Roberta Flack. This has led some fans of Fall Out Boy to believe that ‘What A Catch’ was Pete Wentz’s promise to Patrick Stump that he would never kill himself after the bassist’s attempt on his own life in 2005. Wentz has, however, said in interviews that he wrote the lyrics from Stump’s point of view.
There is use of contrasting textures and timbres throughout the album, especially in ‘Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes’ (with piano only at the beginning being replaced by the typical band instruments), ‘What A Catch, Donnie’ (which uses piano throughout) and ‘Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet‘ (which has two sections of pre-chorus that are stripped down so that vocal harmonies become more prominent). There are also contrasting styles throughout. From guitar anthem, ‘Disloyal order of Water Buffalos’ to “disco rockabilly” style in ‘I don’t care’. ’20 Dollar Nose Bleed’ is a much more upbeat sounding song despite the ever cynical nature of the lyrics and the connotations of the title to drug use.
Fall Out Boy cite some of the influences for the album as Elton John (who they went on to work with on their 2013 album Save Rock and Roll), Bob Dylan, Prince, Queen and The Rolling Stones.
Overall, I feel that this is a well-rounded and musically complex album. Although it may be scorned by some due to its genre, the musical techniques used can be found in the works of many different composers in the worlds of classical, jazz and popular music.
Thanks for reading my music nerd waffle. I urge you to listen to the album (if you haven’t already!) and comment your favourite song. Is there anything interesting I missed? Let me know as well as suggesting other albums as I am always open to new music and would love to do more of these.