Fall Out Boy's Rendition Of Billy Joel's Hit Angered Critics, But Pete Wentz Says It Was Intentional
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Highlights

  • Fall Out Boy’s performance of their new song at the VMAs received more critics than fans, suggesting that the band is facing obscurity.
  • The song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” that Fall Out Boy debuted is a cover of Billy Joel’s earlier hit and received mixed reviews from critics.
  • Pete Wentz, the band’s lead member, doesn’t care about the negative reception of the song, as he wanted to create something controversial and give the internet something to complain about.


Fans might feel differently, but many people seem to think that Fall Out Boy has fallen into obscurity, and is doing wild things to get back on the music industry map. At least, that was the consensus when they performed their then-newest song at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards.

It was the third time Fall Out Boy graced the stage at the VMAs, and, given that their entire persona is punk rock, it makes sense that not everyone loved them those times, either. But with their song “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” Fall Out Boy earned more critics than fans.


Fall Out Boy Debuted A New Song At The VMAs

Via: Instar

Fall Out Boy debuted its eighth studio album in 2023; So Much (for) Stardust is the album they pulled a track from for the VMAs. It might be a bit early, as of late 2023, to guess whether that album will earn any awards, but Fall Out Boy does have a history of receiving accolades for its music.

The band, led by Patrick Stump with lead vocals and backed by Pete Wentz, Andy Hurley, and Joe Trohman, has earned Alternative Press Music Awards, Kerrang! Awards, Teen Choice Awards, and various other awards like MTV Video Music Awards.

The band hasn’t always been consistent though; the members took a hiatus in 2009, after 2008’s Folie à Deux came out, but jumped back in with Save Rock and Roll in 2013.

Releasing albums every few years, Fall Out Boy has clearly remained relevant in its own genre, but in general, people weren’t too thrilled with the VMA performance or the song the band debuted.

“We Didn’t Start The Fire” Is A Cover Of Billy Joel’s Earlier Hit

“We Didn’t Start The Fire” is a cover of Billy Joel’s song by the same name, which was released in 1989. Joel’s song was a lyrical timeline from the year before Billy was born (1948) through 1989.

The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989 and became a part of pop culture. It also spawned many parodies.

In an interview years later, despite the success the song enjoyed, Billy himself criticized the track.

In a 1994 Q&A at Oxford, someone asked Billy about his inspiration for “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” and he first admitted that he was asked if he would create more songs in the same vein, to cover more years of important events, political and otherwise.

Related: Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohman Isn’t In “Love From The Other Side” For This Heartbreaking Reason

Billy’s response was that he “didn’t think it was really that good to begin with, harmonically.” Saying, “look at the melody,” Joel got up and played the melody on a nearby piano, miming looking at his watch and being bored.

He quipped, “It’s almost like a dentist drill,” before noting (perhaps jokingly) that he was being sued for the melody, finding it hilarious that he ‘actually had to steal’ that melody from anyone. Obviously, Billy doesn’t think his version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was one of his best songs.

Critics Eviscerated “We Didn’t Start The Fire”

Pete Wntz, Patrick Stump, and Joseph Trohman
Via: Deposit Photos

Fall Out Boy released the album So Much (for) Stardust in March 2023, preceded by two singles in January. Neither was the controversial song that the band performed for MTV, though—that song was only available on the album’s “Digital Deluxe Edition.”

The album received mostly positive reviews, though it’s unclear whether those reviews included the Digital Deluxe Edition and, thus, “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”

By summer, however, critics were happy to jump all over the song, with Slate even listing “33 things wrong with” the song. “Slate Staff” compared the song to Gal Gadot’s “Imagine,” called the song “sloppy,” and cited its “syntactical messiness,” telling Fall Out Boy to “buy some prepositions.”

Other complaints about the song center on the skipping of many crucial events and topics, such as social media (other than Myspace), though Slate admits that it’s “a fool’s game” to object to a “thrown-together list of random-a** things and voice angry-history based” questions about where certain things, like Beyoncé, are.

Related: Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump’s Rare Condition And 9 Other Interesting Facts About The Singer

While much of Slate‘s piece appears tongue-in-cheek, it wasn’t the only publication to eviscerate Fall Out Boy.

However, Pete Wentz seriously doesn’t care—and may have even done it on purpose.

In an interview with Apple Music, Pete Wentz explained how he didn’t want So Much (for) Stardust to be a throwback record or an attempt at a hit (even if that’s what the whole team behind Fall Out Boy wanted).

The first question when Fall Out Boy decided to go back into the studio was what they were writing about, rather than the sound or the mixing or any other part of production.

Calling the album a “rock opera,” Zane Lowe asked Pete about his writing process, and Pete even admitted his writing is “not linear” and disconnected—hence, the lack of prepositions in “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”

Pete explained that he doesn’t care about things flow, and it’s more about the feelings than the words.

Pete Wentz Had A Feeling People Wouldn’t Like “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” But He Doesn’t Care

In another interview, in June 2023, Pete chatted with Zane again, specifically about the band’s controversial song.

Pete admitted that the idea for the song had been “brewing” for 30 years, and the band finally decided just to do it. In fact, Pete wanted a song on the 30-year anniversary of Billy Joel’s track, but it took a bit longer.

Related: Why Pete Wentz’s Marriage To Ashlee Simpson Didn’t Last

Pete noted, “it was just interesting thinking about the stuff we would include versus you wouldn’t. Because there’s some stuff that was in the original that kind of is lost to the sands of time. You know what I mean? So yeah, we just did it. We put it together. It’s just a fun, goofy thing, you know what I mean?”

Wentz admitted it was difficult to put the song together, but he concluded, “we wanted the Internet to still have something to complain about.”

As for leaving out many important points, Pete elaborated, “There were things that were in that we kind of bailed on because we thought other things were more important and less important,” calling the song a judgment-free “tapestry of human existence.”

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