It’s So | “Say It Ain’t So” by Japanese Breakfast


Aidan Walsh, Writer/Volunteer

Acoustic covers — particularly ones not done by the original artist — can always be a little dicey. Some songs are so beloved, so quintessential to a band’s discography that messing with the track seems a little sacrosanct. Even if it’s Weezer.

Jokes and memes about the band aside, Weezer’s early releases are pretty landmark in the alt rock genre, particularly Pinkerton and their self titled debut album, better known as the Blue Album. Off the latter album, “Say It Ain’t So” is one of their most famous singles, universally recognized as one of the most iconic songs of its era and boasting over 270 million plays on Spotify. 

So admittedly, I didn’t think I would care much for anyone’s rendition of “Say Ain’t So,” much less an orchestral live version from Japanese Breakfast. It sounds like a really off-key Mad Lib. No hate towards the band by the way, it just seems like such an out of element combination for the cover, at least on the surface.

Of course, I came around on the song pretty quick after the first listen. The first word that comes to mind? Pleasant. Leading lady Michelle Zauner’s voice is the sonic focus for the track, a gentle and songbird-esque take on a classically emo tune. What’s best is it’s one of those live recordings which is hard to tell that it’s live: Her voice is that crisp on this track.

She’s backed solely by a strings-only composition, which at first I thought was questionable. Taking the guitar out of “Say It Ain’t So” seems like a kind of cardinal sin but the orchestra composition just works so well, creating a whole new sound for the song. Funny enough, it emulates one of Weezer’s more recent efforts, OK Human, through which an orchestra compliments the band for the entire album.

The cover is an instant recommendation for anyone’s acoustic cover playlist — I highly recommend making one if you haven’t. It lands itself up there with Foo Fighters’ acoustic version of “Everlong” and Run River North’s take on “Mr. Brightside,” in how the sound of the original song is completely changed, yet the band does it justice. 

Japanese Breakfast absolutely crushes a unique sound on an established classic, while most definitely keeping it weezy.