Emo Omnivores: How Fall Out Boy Became America’s Most Promiscuous Pop Band

In May 2005, the Illinois quartet Fall Out Boy were just starting to get known outside of Midwestern emo circles when they took a candid backstage pic with two unlikely supporters: JAY Z and Beyoncé. Jay, then an executive at the Island Def Jam conglomerate that had just released the band’s latest album, was probably just schmoozing as a businessman. But that photo-op foreshadowed Fall Out Boy’s ambitions to reach outside of pop-punk, and mix rap, R&B, dance music, and classic rock into a sound that could provide a little something for everyone.

Fall Out Boy’s early forays into hip-hop were self consciously awkward. Their next album, 2007’s Infinity On High, featured a cameo appearance by JAY Z, but he just blandly played hypeman on the opening track, “Thriller.” The video for the lead single, “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” mockingly depicts the culture clash of Fall Out Boy recording with a hip-hop producer, and being “thrown out the hood” after they break someone’s 40 ounce. Kanye West appeared on a remix of the song, but he mostly just shrugged that he didn’t know what the song was about and riffed on the band’s tight jeans. But Infinity On High showed signs that the group wasn’t just clowning on their own tenuous grasp of black music: The Babyface-produced “I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off” was an early glimpse of Patrick Stump’s chops as an R&B crooner.

Over the next few years, Fall Out Boy would work hip-hop into their sound more fluidly, utilizing Lil Wayne and Pharrell Williams to great effect on 2008’s Folie à Deux. But they also demonstrated that their taste in rock ranged far outside pop-punk and emo, seeking out Elvis Costello, Elton John, and Courtney Love for collaborations. They wrote their own cheeky Christmas song, “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out,” and their cover sources ranged from Michael Jackson to Disney’s The Jungle Book.

During an extended hiatus in the early 2010s, the members of Fall Out Boy moved onto side projects that illustrated their far-ranging influences. Patrick Stump’s 2011 solo album, Soul Punk, was full of lo-fi homages to Prince; bassist Pete Wentz united with future pop star Bebe Rexha for the dancey duo Black Cards; and guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley formed the metal band The Damned Things with members of Anthrax and Volbeat.

Since reconvening in 2013, Fall Out Boy have put even more of a pop polish on their albums and have continued to stir together genres, making an entire rap remix album (2015’s Make America Psycho Again) and working with everyone from Demi Lovato to Missy Elliott. They even dashed off an EP of breakneck punk anthems produced by Ryan Adams, 2013’s PAX AM Days, just to prove they hadn’t abandoned their roots. Their seventh album, Mania, is set to continue diversifying Fall Out Boy’s résumé through collaborations with pop superstar Sia, folk singer Audra Mae, R&B producer Illangelo, and Afrobeat star Burna Boy. And it was preceded by a single, “Young And Menace,” that put the band’s sound in an EDM blender even while the lyrics nodded to Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx—yet another defiant statement that Fall Out Boy will never stay in their lane.