Weezer was formed on February 14, 1992, in Los Angeles by Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Matt Sharp, and Jason Cropper. At the time, they would play at clubs and other small venues around L.A.. However, it took a long time for the band to gain popularity. Cuomo explained:
... I remember just being totally shocked at how little people responded to us, because I thought we were so good. I mean, we were playing the same songs that eventually became big hits, like 'The Sweater Song' and 'Say It Ain't So,' and we'd play 'em out in the L.A. clubs would just be like, 'Go away. We want a grunge band.'
Weezer recorded The Kitchen Tapes as an attempt to create a buzz around L.A. The band eventually attracted attention from major-label A&R reps looking for alternative rock bands while performing on the same bill as the band That Dog. They were then signed to DGC Records on June 26, 1993, by Todd Sullivan, an A&R rep from Geffen Records.
While prepping for the forthcoming studio sessions, the band focused on their vocal interplay by practicing barbershop quartet-styled songs, which helped both Cuomo and Sharp achieve a newfound collaborative comfort during rehearsals. Sharp, who never sang before joining Weezer, developed his falsetto backing vocal: "I had to sing an octave higher than Rivers. After a lot of practice, I started to get it down." Fifteen songs were rehearsed for the album pre-production sessions in New York in preparation for the Electric Lady Studios recording sessions. Four songs from this rehearsal would not be attempted for the album: "Lullaby for Wayne", "I Swear It's True", "Getting Up and Leaving", and a reprise version of "In The Garage". The other song, an ode to two women who ran the Weezer fanclub called "Mykel & Carli", was attempted during the Electric Lady sessions, but was also abandoned (this recording would later be released as a digital bonus track on the 2010 Death to False Metal album). A later re-recording of "Mykel & Carli" would be featured as a B-side on the "Undone - The Sweater Song" single.
The band briefly considered self-producing, but were pressured by Geffen to choose a producer. They ultimately decided on Ric Ocasek; Cuomo explained his choice: "I'd always admired The Cars and Ric Ocasek's songwriting and production skills." During production, Ocasek convinced the band to change their guitar pickup from the neck pick-up to the bridge pick-up, resulting in a brighter sound. During these sessions, founding guitarist Jason Cropper left the band and was replaced by current guitarist Brian Bell, leading to some speculation about how much Bell contributed to the album. While Bell's vocals are clearly audible on some tracks, Cuomo re-recorded all of Cropper's guitar parts. According to Ocasek, all ten tracks were laid down by Cuomo in one day, each in one take. However, Bell is still credited for playing guitar in the album liner notes. Cropper's writing credit on "My Name Is Jonas" is earned by his coming up with the intro to the song.
Most of the album was written by Rivers Cuomo. Exceptions are "My Name Is Jonas", which was co-written with Jason Cropper and Patrick Wilson, and "Surf Wax America" and "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here", which were composed and written by Cuomo and Wilson. Weezer touches upon various life experiences of Cuomo, including subjects such as his brother's car accident, heartbreak, jealousy, alcohol, and former girlfriends. Weezer incorporates the genres alternative rock and power pop.
Many songs from the album are inspired by Cuomo's past personal experiences. "My Name is Jonas", deals with Cuomo's brother Leaves who had been seriously injured in a car accident while a student at Oberlin College and was having problem with his insurance. Jason Cropper earned co-writing credit for coming up with the intro to the song. Both "No One Else" and "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" are lyrically connected, with Cuomo describing the narrator of "No One Else" as "the jealous-obsessive asshole in me freaking out on my girlfriend" and claiming that "'The World has Turned and Left Me Here' is the same asshole wondering why she's gone." The second single from The Blue Album was "Buddy Holly", whose music video was also directed by Spike Jonze. It portrayed the band performing at the original Arnold's Drive-In diner from the popular 1970s television show, Happy Days. The video combined contemporary footage of the band with clips from the show. Happy Days cast member Al Molinaro made a cameo appearance in the video. The video was met with great popularity and heavy rotation on MTV. The music video was also featured as an extra in the Microsoft Windows 95 Upgrade CD, along with Edie Brickell's "Good Times" music video and the movie trailer for Rob Roy. The video won four awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, including prizes for Breakthrough Video and Best Alternative Video.
The single "Undone - The Sweater Song" was described by Cuomo as "the feeling you get when the train stops and the little guy comes knockin' on your door. It was supposed to be a sad song, but everyone thinks it's hilarious." The video marks one of the early directorial efforts of Spike Jonze, whose pitch was simply "A blue stage, a steadicam, a pack of wild dogs." The video became an instant hit on MTV. The final single, "Say it Ain't So", was again inspired by Cuomo believing his parents split up when he was four because he thought his dad was an alcoholic. The music video, which was directed by Sophie Muller, was less successful than the previous Spike Jonze-directed video. It featured the band performing in the garage of their former house, and the bandmates playing hacky sack in the backyard.
The album artwork, photographed by American glamour photographer Peter Gowland, features Patrick Wilson, Rivers Cuomo, Matt Sharp, and Brian Bell standing left to right in front of a plain, blue background. The simple image would be used prominently in the advertising of the album. The cover received many comparisons to the Feelies' album Crazy Rhythms.
In an interview with Adobe, for the Adobe Imagination Challenge, Cuomo revealed that Adobe Photoshop was used to digitally alter the cover. Cuomo stated that, while the band liked the chosen band photo for the cover, Matt Sharp was not happy with the way his head looked. The Geffen Art Director used Photoshop to swap out the head with one from another shot.
On some vinyl pressings of the album, the cover does not crop off their feet. On the Deluxe Edition case the feet are presented on the back cover, and the band sold an official T-shirt with a shot of the band's feet after the deluxe edition release.
Inside the album booklet, Rivers Cuomo pays tribute to his past metal influences with a photo taken in the group's garage on Amherst (this same garage would be featured in the "Say It Ain't So" music video). A poster of Judas Priest's album British Steel is featured on the left side of the photo, while on the right a Quiet Riot concert poster is displayed. The Deluxe Edition features additional photographs of the band and hand-written lyrics for each song.
The Blue Album was released on May 10, 1994. It was certified gold just under seven months later on December 1, 1994, and certified platinum on January 1, 1995; since then it has gone three times multi-platinum in the United States. The album peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard 200. As a single, "Undone – The Sweater Song" peaked at No. 35 on the UK Top 40, and "Buddy Holly" and "Say It Ain't So" peaked at No. 12 and No. 37 on the UK Top 40 respectively. In the U.S., "Buddy Holly" peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart.
A "deluxe edition" of the album was released on March 23, 2004, including the original album and a second disc, Dusty Gems and Raw Nuggets, containing B-sides and rarities. As of December 2007, the "deluxe edition" had sold 86,000 copies.
The album was well received by critics. Rolling Stone praised the album in their year-end review, saying "Weezer's Rivers Cuomo is great at sketching vignettes (the Dungeons and Dragons games and Kiss posters that inspire the hapless daydreamer of 'In the Garage'), and with sweet inspiration like the waltz tempo of 'My Name Is Jonas' and the self-deprecating humor of lines like "I look just like Buddy Holly/And you're Mary Tyler Moore", his songs easily ingratiate." Robert Christgau of The Village Voice was less complimentary and awarded the album a "neither" rating.
In the years since its release, The Blue Album has risen in stature to become one of the most highly regarded albums of the 1990s, appearing on many "Best-of" lists. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked the album number 297 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2002, the readers of Rolling Stone ranked the album the 21st greatest of all time. Blender named The Blue Album among the "500 CDs You Must Own", calling the album "Absolute geek-rock, out and proud." Non-U.S. publications have acclaimed the album as well: New Zealand's The Movement placed it at number 39 on a list of "The 101 Best Albums of the 90s", and Visions of Germany ranked it number 32 on a list of "The Most Important Albums of the 90s." In November 2011, The Blue Album was ranked number three on Guitar World magazine's top ten list of guitar albums of 1994, with Bad Religion's Stranger than Fiction and The Offspring's Smash in first and second place respectively. The album also peaked at number 25 on Guitar World's "Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994" list.
Reviews of the album when its deluxe edition was released have reflected its rise in stature continuing to be positive. In 2004, PopMatters gave the album a very positive review, saying "I'd go so far to declare the 'Blue Album' one of the greatest records of the last 20 years." And Rolling Stone reiterated their original positive review by further describing it as "big, vibrant pop-rock that would inspire thousands of emo kids." Blogcritics Magazine gave the album a score of 10/10 and asserted that "this is one of the most important debut albums of the last ten years."
In naming Weezer the 26th best album of the 1990s, Pitchfork summed up the album's critical recognition:
An album so substantial the band misguidedly attempted to tap into its resonance through cover graphics a mere two releases later. In 1994, 70s rock had come to mean either a bastardized version of Led Zeppelin or a bullshit reconstruction of punk rock. As guitar nerds, Weezer sought influence there but found true inspiration in forgotten bubblegum power-pop like Cheap Trick, Raspberries, 20/20, and The Quick. Most impressively, Rivers Cuomo rescued the thrilling guitar solo from finger-tapping metal and disregarding grunge/punk. A decade later air-guitaring to the album feels far less embarrassing than singing along. With the help of Spike Jonze, Weezer kept joy alive in arena rock, making the critical repositioning of Weezer as some emo touchstone even more absentminded. They called themselves Weezer, knowingly, for chrissakes. – Brent DiCrescenzo
NME claimed that the album "pretty much invented emo's melodic wing". AllMusic gave the album 5 stars, explaining "What makes the band so enjoyable is their charming geekiness; instead of singing about despair, they sing about love, which is kind of refreshing in the gloom-drenched world of '90s guitar-pop."
Since its release, The Blue Album has featured heavily in various "must have" lists compiled by the music media. Some of the more prominent of these lists to feature The Blue Album are shown below; this information is adapted from Acclaimed Music.
( * ) designates lists which are unordered.
In 2011, Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Chipettes covered the song "Holiday" as a bonus track on the iTunes deluxe edition of the soundtrack Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Music from the Motion Picture.
All tracks written by Rivers Cuomo, except where noted.
The 2004 deluxe edition included a bonus disc titled Dusty Gems and Raw Nuggets.
The tracks on the bonus disc originally appeared on the following releases:Tracks 1 and 3 from "Undone - The Sweater Song" single (1994)
Track 2 is from the soundtrack to Mallrats; an earlier mix of the same song was included on the "Undone" single
Track 4 from DGC Rarities compilation (1994)
Tracks 5 and 6 from "Buddy Holly" single (1994)
Tracks 7 and 8 from "Say It Ain't So" single (1995)
Tracks 9–11 previously unreleased, and part of Kitchen Tape demo (1992)
Tracks 12 and 13 previously unreleased, pre-production recordings done with Ric Ocasek just prior to Weezer's recording (1993)
Track 14 is the version featured on the original release of the album. The mix was changed for the single and was later added to newer versions of the album. The single mix is the version included on Disc 1 of this Deluxe Edition.
Rivers Cuomo – lead vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar on "Buddy Holly" and "Only In Dreams" keyboards, harmonica
Brian Bell – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Matt Sharp – bass, backing vocals
Patrick Wilson – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Mykel Allan – spoken intermission on "Undone – The Sweater Song"
Karl Koch – dialogue on "Undone – The Sweater Song"
Ric Ocasek – producer
Chris Shaw – engineer
Hal Belknap – assistant engineer