Any die-hard Fall Out Boy fan can attest that the sharp-witted lyricism Pete Wentz provides is the soul of the band’s illustrious emo aesthetic. His poetic fluency has won the hearts of hopeless romantics, earned its spot on Myspace profiles and roused critics with his thought-provoking interpretation of the world before his eyes.
Since Take This To Your Grave, the Chicago pop-punkers have captured their finest moments with piercing one-liners and metaphors, setting the perfect backdrop for their bitter, angst-ridden music. From Under The Cork Tree delved deeper into personal issues with a plethora of memorable songwriting, whereas Infinity On High and Folie Á Deux retained the same level of introspection while exploring the corruptive world of fame and stardom. Post-hiatus FOB broadened their scope with their sound, tackling a variety of themes in considerable depth with social and political commentary.
We all have our favorite lines that are iconic and evocative of that one time your crush tore your teenage heart apart. But here are 10 outspoken and underrated Wentz lyrics that you might learn a lesson or two from.
1. “The person that you’d take a bullet for is behind the trigger”
Wentz is an odd breed of hopeless romantics. He commits to idealistic notions of love yet indulges in fatalistic cynicism. In this particular line, he expresses that the people “you’d take a bullet for” are the ones who will or can hurt you the most. In other words, you need to be cautious of who you trust and love—not doing so can result unfavorably, whether it’s ill-intentioned or not.
2. “May the bridges I have burned light my way back home”
Peak-emo FOB lyrics were all about spitting gin and kerosene on bridges and driving off them, but it seems like they’ve matured over the years. In “Fourth Of July,” Wentz yearns for a past lost love and regrets cutting ties with his lover. This lyric teaches us that sometimes it’s best to forgive and forget to move on without holding on to past grudges while also owning up to your mistakes.
3. “The best part of ‘believe’ is the ‘lie’”
This song deals with growing up and the uncertainty of the band’s future success. In the context of the song, the witty wordplay suggests that growing up doesn’t always feel like making progress. In fact, adulthood can fall short of expectations and make us feel empty, much like believing in a lie. Although there are several interpretations pertaining to the band selling out, the big picture is that things aren’t always what they seem, so be mindful of what you believe in.
Read more: Panic! At The Disco recruit Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy) for hilarious “I Write Sins” TikTok
4. “You are what you love, not who loves you”
Inspired by a quote from the 2002 film Adaptation, this lyric is extremely simple yet so moving. Wentz urges listeners to embrace their character instead of being defined by what others think of their qualities and values. As a band who have changed drastically over the years, this could also be a sentiment expressing their new musical direction as opposed to confining themselves to a single genre. It’s not your typical Pete Wentz LiveJournal post, but it’s an invaluable maxim to live by.
5. “The best way to make it through/With hearts and wrists intact/Is to realize two out of three ain’t bad”
“I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)” is a sentimental rock ballad, but this passage from the bridge shines a sliver of hope, delivering an inspirational message to the audience. It’s easy to let yourself become consumed by your shortcomings, but it’s harder to acknowledge the lessons you’ve learned from them. Although it’s straightforward, Wentz wants people to see positivity in failure and how everything isn’t always in black and white.
6. “My mind is a safe, and if I keep it, then we all get rich”
“27” deals with the fast lives of famed musicians and celebrities, referencing the 27 Club that Wentz thought he’d become a part of, as the list comprises artists who died at the age of 27 due to their reckless lifestyles. Because he’s battled drug misuse in the past, this metaphorical line conveys that if he can just keep his sanity in check, he can continue to make a living from music. The main message is to keep yourself alive—prioritize your health and mental well-being before anything else.
7. “Penny for your thoughts but a dollar for your insights/Or a fortune for your disaster”
This one’s a social commentary on the entertainment industry, especially on the companies that prey on artists and thrive on sensationalism. Corporate companies couldn’t care less about artists’ feelings or intellect but are eager to profit off their pain and struggle, much like the case with FOB’s music. Wentz reveals the truth about the business world and its predatory nature, warning us against the dangers of the industry.
8. “And I want to be known for my hits, not just my misses/I took a shot and didn’t even come close”
“I’ve Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)” recounts Wentz’s suicide attempt in 2005. The song revolves around his bipolar disorder, drug misuse, love and the constant pressure of being in the public eye. The first half contains a paradoxical double entendre. He implies that he feels like he’s only known for his personal failures, not for his achievements. However, his “misses” are what ironically make his songs a “hit,” in which Wentz feels ashamed and conflicted. The second line pities himself for not being able to meet his goals, but in this case, it alludes to his attempted suicide.
9. “I became such a strange shape/Such as strange shape from trying to fit in”
Even if FOB abandoned their pop-punk sound a long time ago, their lyrics have remained the same, if not improved in their later works. This line from “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” sums up how easy it can be to lose yourself, especially when facing an identity crisis as a celebrity. Wentz emphasizes that trying to fit in and forcing yourself to change to please others isn’t worthwhile. It’s an “expensive mistake,” if anything.
10. “My head’s in heaven/My soles are in hell/Let’s meet in the purgatory of my hips and get well”
“W.A.M.S.” is a tongue-in-cheek take on the stereotype of people who travel to Hollywood in hopes of making it big. “My head’s in heaven” refers to the larger-than-life feeling of chasing your aspirations and contrasts with “My soles are in hell,” the harsh reality of trying to break through. Wentz makes his final point with a sexual innuendo, concluding that those who try this usually end up stuck in “purgatory” by falling into a rut of hedonistic pleasures instead of fulfilling their dreams. The acronym of the song title (waiter, actress, model, singer) puts this message into perspective.
What is your favorite Pete Wentz lyric to land in a Fall Out Boy song? Let us know in the comments below.