I feel bad for Pat Stump and I feel bad for him in myriad ways that can’t be easily summed up. A quick background for those of you who are stupid or old: Pat Stump is/was the singer of the uber successful pop-punk band Fall Out Boy. However, he’s not the guy you think of when you think of Fall Out Boy. That guy is Pete Wentz, who is the bassist, lyricist and unofficial face of the band and was briefly Mr. Ashlee Simpson (side note: AshlEE? Nice spelling, hicks). Though Pete was always quick to point out in interviews that Pat Stump was a ‘genius of pop songcraft,’ he never really got much credit in the band that he sang for. And when the world soured on Fall Out Boy, after the release of their album [something French that I’m not gonna look up] the two guys in the back (the guitarist and the drummer) regrouped semi-anonymously (and made a surprisingly decent song with the dude from Anthrax and the singer of ETID), Pete continued on his track of being a tabloid star who’s famous for being famous and Pat Stump lost a bunch of weight, got some hairplugs and put out a record called Soul Punk, which (and I’m guessing a bit here) was not well received.
It’s easy to malign Pat Stump. Lord knows I have, on more than one occasion referred to him as ‘the Pillsbury Doughboy if he shopped at hot topic and wore ridiculous hats.’ And that’s fine. That’s what happens when you’re famous. Dumb shitheads who have it vastly worse than you, who are uglier than you, who are stupider than you, who have no business making fun of anyone at all, make fun of you loudly and often. I don’t think that Pat is unaware of this universal truth. In fact, I know he’s not, because yesterday(?) he published this little piece about why he’s been super bummed out lately. I read it and it made me sad.
Right away, I’ll tell you that Pat’s piece is refreshingly sincere and unguarded while still being self-aware enough to realize that he’s gonna get even more shit for daring to express dissatisfaction with what many consider to be an ideal life. Again, that’s how it is. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you don’t want people being as cruel as they can possibly be to you, mercilessly mocking your looks, your abilities, your dreams, your ideas, your kids, wishing death and worse upon you and your loved ones (and this is if you’re a guy. If you’re a female, god help you. There is no persona that needs to be more bulletproof than a famous female), then you should never, ever attempt to publically express yourself, creatively or otherwise. This is the way the world is, and more to the point, this is the way human beings are. Humans can be nice in close quarters, but consider the fact that even your sweet grandmother has celebrities that she doesn’t like for reasons that she SHOULD be smart enough to understand are frivolous. She doesn’t know the Kardashians. She knows that the show is at least somewhat scripted and sensationalized. She respects the old timey values of maximizing every advantage that comes your way. She’s never met Kim, but she still just doesn’t like her. And that’s your nice grandma who even likes your shithead friends that even your other shithead friends can’t stand. Imagine how crappy the kneejerk reactions of your shithead friends are when they see Pat Stump up there, being rich and famous for doing things that they feel that they do better, completely stinking up the place with his bullshit. They’re ALREADY mean shitheads. Completely remove the humanity of actual interpersonal interaction and they’re talking about pissing on his dead mom’s grave and punching his ugly girlfriend in the stomach so she doesn’t give birth to his retarded baby (I have no idea if Pat Stump has a dead mom or a girlfriend. I’m merely illustrating the cruelty spree that is celebrity shit talking) before the chorus of Dance Dance even kicks in.
And nobody hates you more than someone who loves you. Listen to Yankees fans talk about the Yankees. Listen to linguists discuss modern vernacular. Listen to your mom talk about your hair. Think about how fucking infuriating it is when your best friend slurps their coffee or mispronounces that one word that he always does or whatever and you’ll realize this is true.
By that logic, Pat Stump, no one hates your music more than people who love your music. And you have realized this shitty paradox and it’s broken you for the moment. But you need not feel broken. Here’s why:
Firstly, you are the one that’s in charge, whether it seems like it or not. Here’s what I mean: everyone is an armchair quarterback. Everyone who likes something thinks they know exactly how to make it better or to keep it successful in the face of perceived mismanagement. This is a universal human trait (this is even MORE universal than the notion of people being cruel to public figures, in fact) and it manifests in sports, politics, writing, television and music. But those people (us, because all of us do this), about 99.9999999 percent of the time have NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT. People don’t respond well to change. That’s why, to be successful, you need to not only embrace, but initiate change constantly. It’s the single most important ingredient to success. People have all sorts of fancy words for this, like being ‘visionary’ or ‘out there’ or ‘fearless’ but these are all just euphemisms for being able to anticipate, precipitate and weather the storm of change. That’s all vision is. Ever.
If everyone really knew what Bill Belichick should do, or how Bob Dylan should style his career or what kinds of novels Vonnegut should stick to writing, they’d be able to do the things that these hyper-successful individuals with long, successful careers have done. The people aren’t right. They have no fucking idea what they’re talking about. Anyone who’s truly successful has become successful and maintained their success precisely BECAUSE they’ve confounded people at large over and over again. That’s THE WHOLE THING. If you never buck expectations you’re John Irving, and eventually your fans turn on you and say “that dude never tried anything different over the course of his career. Yawn.”
I’m not saying that there aren’t missteps along the way, but to doubt your own taste, the taste and ability to envision change and weather the inevitable storm that comes with any change, the taste that got you here in the first place, is the kiss of death, because in order to be able to stay relevant, you need to change. And in order to keep changing, you need to be confident. Everyone puts out a dud of a record or has a bad season or accidentally shits during a big double anal scene, but if you don’t fail, you’re not trying very hard. The key is to weather the storm and trust that people around you will some day catch up, and if they never do, well, fuck em. You’re already on to the next thing anyway, Pat Stump. Do you see what I’m saying?
You put out a record and no one liked it. That stinks. Then, you went solo, got your appearance in order and came out with a new record and no one liked the record and no one liked the fact that you’d cleaned up your act either. Yeah. That happens. Nobody likes to see someone else improve themselves, especially when it’s in matters of concretely fixable cosmetic things like hair and weight. No one wants to be fat and bald and when people see someone else taking steps to improve themselves, the kneejerk reaction is to call that person insecure, or to otherwise pooh pooh the results. The truth is, it takes a lot of balls to be the fat guy in the gym. It takes a lot of balls to lay your insecurities bare and face them head on. So fuck those people who said you looked better fat. That’s one of the most transparently wimpy things someone can say to make themselves feel better about not improving themselves. You’ve gotta get a nutsack on you, Pat Stump. Which brings me to my next point:
You made a couple of albums people didn’t like. Boo fucking hoo. Even Willie Nelson has piles and piles of records that are completely dull and forgettable (in fact, I have a pile or two of completely forgettable Willie Nelson albums in my house). If you completely flip out every time you do something that isn’t the next Sugar, We’re goin Down, well, you’re in for a sad life full of disappointments. You’re only 27. You’re not dead, or even thirty, for fucks sake. This is a remarkably cruel business (you know this vastly better than I do) but it’s pretty fucking easy to ignore. So you fucked up. Good. That means you tried something. So people don’t like you skinny. Fuck them. That means they’re dildos. And they’re probably fat dildos.
The one thing that I, speaking as a spokesman for the entire rest of the world who isn’t you, will not tolerate in our celebrities, Pat Stump, is a lack of confidence. It’s the kiss of death. Desperation is the Corey Feldmanian stench that accompanies a sapping of confidence. And that’s when shit starts getting gross. Your open letter/essay deal was actually, (as I stated way back at the beginning of this) a remarkably frank and brave way to grapple with your (sorry to use this word like this) ‘feelings’ but it treads dangerously close to being the death rattle of bravery.
Sure, you can crap out now and say things like “well, I guess I won’t perform anymore because none of you want to see it” which may be true and may be what makes you happiest, but do you see why it’s also kind of pathetic?
You’re better than that, Pat Stump. You got your shit together and did something brave after you put out some record that people hated and apparently booed. You made a weird record that threw everyone for a curve. That’s ballsy. Now you’re sad because your weird album and transformation took people by surprise? What the fuck did you think would happen? Sounds like you’re giving up at the exactly wrong time. You’ve confounded everyone. Nowhere to go but wherever you want, man.
Call me. We’ll rap about this more in person.