I remember cringing when the video for Weezer’s song “Pork and Beans” came out in 2008. Now, I look back on it with nostalgia for a simpler time on the internet.
Lead singer Rivers Cuomo wrote the tune after meeting with the band’s label, Geffen. According to Rolling Stone, the band was asked during the meeting to produce more “commercial-sounding tunes,” and as a result they created “Pork and Beans” as a defiant middle finger.
Weezer may have been trying not to conform to conventional stereotypes (“I’mma do the things that I wanna do, I ain’t got a thing to prove to you”), but the song actually turned out to be an extremely catchy commercial success.
If the song’s origins were any indication of the label’s need for a commercial success, the video for “Pork and Beans” seems to try equally as hard, tapping into the then-new concept of viral internet fame.
Back in 2008, YouTube was still in its infancy, and its viral video stars were among the first. The video features a slew of early internet icons, many of which are now long forgotten.
Chris Crocker, famous for “Leave Brittany Alone,” sings along to the chorus with mascara running down his cheeks. Gary Brolsma helps usher us through the song in the same seat where he lip-synced “Numa Numa” in 2006.
Tay Zonday, of “Chocolate Rain” fame, makes a cameo in front of the same yellow curtain that rocketed him to fame in 2007.
The video’s slew of memes-turned-props was a great attempt at appealing to a mass audience. Remember, this was long before internet celebrities like Damn Daniel would appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But, for me, the video felt forced in 2008. Weezer was mainstreaming memes, and it just didn’t feel right, as a young person on the internet.
But in January the video made a reappearance on Reddit. “The Original YouTube Rewind,” the incredibly accurate title reads. I had forgotten about the song entirely when I clicked, and was overcome with internet nostalgia for a better time.
I wasn’t alone.
‘This has aged surprisingly well.’
“Damn. In the long past I considered this video kind of lame but now I have a great respect for them for cooperating with all those meme stars of nearly ten years ago,” Redditor YachiyoTodoroki wrote. “And shit, I won’t lie I felt some nostalgia.”
“This has aged surprisingly well,” another Redditor commented.
In a 2008 interview with People, Mathew Cullen, who directed the video, said something interesting about his hopes and dreams for the video, which couldn’t be farther from the truth today:
“It’s Weezer’s mash-up of their favorite stuff, but I don’t see the video as done. It can be mashed up and changed and evolved. We want video to be a living thing on the Internet.”
But the video isn’t a living thing at all. It’s a time capsule. A slice of internet history we will never be able to recreate. And that’s OK. The “Pork and Beans” video should live in a museum of internet history, and it’s probably far more powerful and revered today than the band ever could have hoped.
Maybe it’s because memes today have so little staying power, and internet culture has become so intertwined in our everyday lives. Or maybe it’s because Weezer, a band that has been around for decades, invokes nostalgia on its own.
But watching the band perform in the midst of a Diet Coke Mentos experiment will forever deliver sentimental memories of a better time on the internet.