Song 24: Weezer, “Say It Ain’t So” (1994)


The best thing about learning how to play a musical instrument is the moment when you realize that you’re making actual music. When what you’re producing changes from squawking and screeching to notes. I was learning how to play the guitar when Weezer’s self-titled debut came out, and the guitar magazines (most notably Guitar World) were full of Weezer tabs. One of those magazines taught me how to play the best Weezer song of all, “Say It Ain’t So,” and it when I played it, it sounded like the actual song by Weezer. Oh the thrill of it all!

A friend of mine in high school once described Weezer’s distortion as “triumphant,” and that’s stuck with me for almost 20 years. Whether the song is about joy or heartbreak, the triumphant distortion is there. Being able to reproduce “Say It Ain’t So” (or Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today,” or, ugh, Collective Soul’s “Shine”), was incredibly empowering. It was like Spider-Man discovering his powers, giddily swooping around the city. But with some Candlebox thrown in.

So why is this the best Weezer song? I like that, despite the weirdness of all the parts, everything fits together so satisfyingly. It’s very Weezeresque in its dissonance–like the main riff of “Undone (The Sweater Song),” the intro of “Say It Ain’t So” combines an open B string with a note a half-step away–and the guitars in the verses are playing on the upbeats, making the song sound like a slowed-down reggae song. Then the chorus, of course, comes in like a miracle.

This song is purportedly about Rivers Cuomo’s fear that alcoholism would break up his mother’s second marriage, as it did her first, so this is obviously not a happy song. But the damn thing still sounds triumphant, whether he wants it to or not.

Also? Best Weezer music video. I love “Buddy Holly” too, but the epic hacky sack game gives this one the edge.


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