Fall Out Boy is back! After a 5 year drought between studio albums, So Much (for) Stardust is here with a vengeance–and also, a little bit of disco, 80’s synth, some orchestral strings, and a whole lot of pop-rock power. I need a whole separate sentence to mention how good Patrick Stump’s vocals are: I have always thought his voice has gotten better over the years, and that continues to be true on SMFS.
This album is a departure from the other albums in the modern era of Fall Out Boy (2013-present). It’s much more rock-focused, for one. No hip-hop-inspired moments, no electronica, not even a single rap feature to be found. It has more than a hint of the alt-rock, emo glory days that the band used to be known for at the height of their popularity. Indeed, there is a reason for that. Conceived as a “multiverse” type album, Stardust is an exploration of what a follow-up to 2008’s Folie à Deux would have sounded like, if the band hadn’t taken an extended break instead.
This Multiverse of Madness is made possible in part due to a reunion with record label Fueled by Ramen, which released FOB’s first official album, Take This to Your Grave, in 2003. It’s also a reunion with Folie à Deux producer Neal Avron. I clocked the old-school Fall Out Boy vibes right away, but refused to use the term “return to form” because I don’t believe in a band only making one type of music forever. I appreciate evolution and growth. Even if I don’t love MANIA the way I do the other albums, I applaud the effort and enjoy many of its songs.
That being said, I can’t pretend I don’t love Stardust more than almost any other modern-era Fall Out Boy album. When I first wrote that sentence, my favorite post-reunion album was American Beauty/American Psycho. Now, it feels laughable to say that, but I’m leaving that comment as a historical document of me ever having doubts that So Much (for) Stardust was my favorite modern Fall Out Boy album. I don’t know if it’s because the band is simply better at doing pop-punk or if it’s because I am extremely biased. Or maybe this album was just a better product.
I need to take a giant aside, so massive, that the intro might as well be the aside and the rest is the main bulk of the review. Something came up while I was trying to do the track rankings. It was this important question I had to keep asking myself along the way: “Do I really like this song, or am I being biased?” It’s hard to be objective with bands and albums you have feelings for. Why do I even care if I’m being objective on a blog about my music opinions? Well, I’ll distill it down to this single point: I want to be able to describe WHY I like something.
For me, connection with a song is most important. Connection. That can boil down to simply liking or not liking something. End of analysis. You don’t need a reason. However, the gratuitous explanation for that connection is what I am interested in. I may like or dislike a song because of the lyrics, the story, the way it makes me feel, how much I like or dislike a particular hook, the riff, the style, or just a particular moment. Those are highly subjective things about music that need no defense or explanation beyond “I like this song” or “I do not like this song”. But I am going to defend and explain it anyway.
I am over-simplifying it and, at the same time, over-scrutinizing it because that connection is so important to me. I want to be able to describe for myself why I love or hate something. That analysis is the whole reason I made this blog.
That brings us back to track rankings. I actually enjoy forcing myself to put them in an order and justify to myself WHY I did it. It sharpens my analytical and critical thinking skills. The rankings at positions 5-8 were the hardest for me. Figuring that out was challenging, but that’s what makes it fun. Yes, agonizing over arbitrary, meaningless decisions and then defending them is fun for me. This kind of analysis is why I made this blog.
You can see my favorite song on the album by reading the track rankings below, but no spoilers here. I will say that I liked the theme of good and bad being intertwined. You can’t have one without the other; life is like riding this wave, and neither good nor bad will last (the Ethan Hawke interlude quoting his character from Reality Bites encapsulates this perfectly; the album should have been called Pink Seashell).
A criticism I would offer is that sometimes the lyrics don’t hit as hard as they think they do or could have used a more poignant metaphor or phrasing (I give some examples in the track rankings below). I’m always a big fan of Fall Out Boy lyrics, and this was a strong effort, but probably not my favorite overall lyrically. It gave me other reasons to love it though.
A final note about the rankings: saying something is 11th ranked or least favorite can cause this visceral reaction of hate or negativity. I know it happens to me when reading other fans’ track rankings. But saying something is my least favorite or 11th favorite isn’t the same as saying I don’t like it. I don’t hate or dislike any of the songs. There are no bad songs and I rarely skip any tracks. So this is just my order based on how the songs hit me and connect to me personally.
11. “Fake Out” – When I first heard the pop-punk energy and inoffensive, cute high school story lyrics, I knew this would be a hit with fans. It would honestly be higher if not for the acoustic guitar. I watched an interview where Patrick said he was blown away by guitarist Joe Trohman’s choice to use acoustic guitar on the melody. So clearly people love it, but I would have loved it more if it had been high-energy and fast. Still, not a bad song by any means.
Favorite lyric: “Do you laugh about me whenever I leave? Or do I just need more therapy?”
10. “Flu Game” – It has taken me a neurodivergently long amount of time to get past the name. I really hate the name. Even after realizing it was a reference to the famous 1997 NBA Finals game Michael Jordan played against the Utah Jazz, I just obsessed over how that was related to breaking up with someone. I hate that I’ve spent this long writing about what I hate about the song and my barriers to it. It shouldn’t matter. The song’s content and musical attributes should matter the most. It’s a good song. Maybe better than this ranking. I still don’t like it more than the other songs above it though, but to its credit, the chorus is catchy and it has some memorable lyrics.
Favorite lyric: “Confront all your pain, like a gift under the tree; oh please, I can’t be what you need me to be.”
9. “So Good Right Now” – This is so goddamn poppy and peppy. The vocal riff sounds like “Rockin’ Robin”, if you haven’t heard it and want to know the vibes. It’s still laced with some pessimism, as the hook says “feelin’ so good right now, til we crash and burn somehow” and references to driving in the car until the engine gives up. While the melody is obviously just free serotonin, it’s a bit like chewing a piece of gum that loses flavor quickly. Good for a moment, but it doesn’t last.
Favorite lyric: “I know I know I’ve made mistakes; I know I know but at least they were mine to make.”
8. “Hold Me Like a Grudge” – The lyrics feel a little stitched together and like they’re trying too hard (“fever dream, tangerine sweat” is so awkward to me). However, watching a live performance proved that the song flows together better than I thought it did, so I like it quite a bit more. I like it the most when I am not paying attention to it and just jamming out. Plus, Patrick’s vocal delivery, especially on the chorus, is incredibly nice.
Favorite lyric: “And I guess I’m getting older cause I’m less pissed when I can’t get onto the guest list to the end of the world”
7. “I Am My Own Muse” – This song goes absolutely hard for no reason. Orchestral movements are a cheat code to sounding epic. Not crazy about “smash all the guitars until we see all the stars” as the main hook, but I think we can all agree that “we’ve got to throw this year away, like a bad luck charm” has been the mood since 2020. See my favorite lyric below though for my personal mantra.
Favorite lyric: “I’m trying to keep it together, but it gets a little harder when it never gets better”.
6. “The Kintsugi Kid (Ten Years)” – I like the theme, the nostalgic memories from the narrator, and the 80s-esque production. The concept of being a Kintsugi Kid, with kintsugi being the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, is relatable and inspiring. We may have been broken but we’ve been put back together. We aren’t what we were, but maybe we’re something better, something that has its own beauty.
Favorite lyric: “I miss the way I felt nothing, nothing.”
5. “Heartbreak Feels So Good” – I was hoping we’d hear some muted synth on a Fall Out Boy album. Very upbeat and catchy. My son says this song is a vibe and the “best thing Fall Out Boy has ever done”. It certainly is a vibe. I enjoy how lighthearted it feels, how easy it is to not listen to the lyrics about impending doom. That’s just SMFS in a nutshell, and I am extremely here for it. For this song being so high, it does underwhelm me lyrically (plus, I just think “heartbreak feels so good” is a weak line and hook, compared to some of the other songs). But the story and mood are what make it so likeable and so replayable.
Favorite lyric: “We could dance our tears away, emancipate ourselves.”
4. “So Much (For) Stardust” – Calling on the orchestral elements again, this song may not sound as big or as “epic” as “I Am My Own Muse” but it’s also less aware of its own epicness. I prefer it that way. It’s not overbearing or bombastic. Rather, it’s subdued, it’s vulnerable, it’s almost a confession. Rather than sarcastic lines about the apocalypse, these aren’t lyrics telling a specific narrative. They’re a diary entry. They’re rapid-fire stream-of-conscious thoughts that are painfully self-aware, insecure, and afraid.
Favorite lyric: “I’m pretty positive my pain isn’t cool enough”.
3. “What A Time to Be Alive” – Alright, we get some 70s love, too. This is hands-down the funkiest song FOB has ever attempted, though it’s definitely more soul/disco-inspired than pure funk. Obviously, I love it. Obviously, it’s fantastic. The juxtaposition between the upbeat, fun melody and the depressed lyrics is perfectly executed on this song.
Favorite lyric: I’ve got two – “We’re here and we’re ready to livestream the apocalypse” and “everything’s lit except my serotonin”.
2. “Heaven, Iowa” – This song is proof of how lyrics don’t matter if you have a good story and great delivery. Patrick sells this song to me and I am a willing buyer. At first, I couldn’t get past the chorus rhyming “forever” with “forever” and “later”. I was also bothered by the clunky “A Star Is Born” reference and the weak, nursery rhyme-style of the verses, which I am still not over, by the way. But I couldn’t deny that this was one of my favorite songs on the album due to its raw passion. Flaws don’t mean you can’t be loved or highly ranked. The song escalates and gets heavier and louder, as Patrick’s vocals become more convicted. It’s as if he, too, is escalating in his emotions as time passes. There’s something so powerful about that and I couldn’t deny it anymore. I knew the 2nd spot was right where “Heaven, Iowa” belonged once I let myself love it.
Favorite lyric: “Twice the dreams, but half the love; be careful what you bottle up.”
1. “Love From the Other Side” – This was the only song on the album whose position on the track rankings I knew immediately when I conceived of this blog post. I just love how it builds and changes as it goes, never staying in one place too long. It’s anthemic, high energy, perfectly crafted and very fun and sexy and cool. I would invite it to parties. The chorus’ 1-2 punch of “and I just about snapped, don’t look back” is one of my favorite moments on the entire album. The bridge slowing down for a moment and building back up to the chorus is great. I could hear this song being exploited in a movie sometime soon–can’t wait for that.
Some fun facts, this will probably be my Spotify #1 song of the year (Last.fm has me at 52 listens, currently), and I can’t imagine anything else will get played enough to beat it. For context, “Rain” by Issues is second-most played with 24 listens this year. I haven’t seriously ranked or considered my all-time favorite Fall Out Boy songs in awhile, but “Love” could easily be in the top 5, probably even top 3 *gets new content idea*.
Favorite lyric: I whittled it down to two: “I’ll never go, I just want to be invited,” and “What would you trade the pain for? I’m not sure.”