Wave bye bye to your soul
We’ve always been interested by things outside of our immediate musical interests, for example, how has Smash Mouth’s “All Star” generated over 123,111,454 YouTube views?
Not logistically, I mean on some level that does make sense. It has well-recognised pop song structures that makes it fairly irresistible. For one thing, Steve Harwell does that kind of fast singing (not rapping) where you can’t really tell what he’s saying but you can mouth along and insert your own indecipherable lyrics. Greg Camp (guitar player and writer), when interviewed on the song’s original release, said that the song was “composed in the key of F-sharp major with a tempo of 104 beats per minute…” This was designed to make the song as anthemic as possible. It also featured prominently in the film “Mystery Men” (as did the cast in the video) which did the rounds heavily across the music TV network mid-1999, one of the most successful time periods in any of the MTV networks’ lifetime. Coverage was broad and consistent. But what I am getting at more broadly, is why? Even now, the video has had over 8 million views in 2019. Why are people going to the browser and re-watching Smash Mouth’s “All Star” again, and again, and again.. it’s really not THAT good. It spent a week at the top of the USA Billboard charts and thanks to Julia Jacklin in some small part did make it to number 4 in Australia, but at its highest point only made 24 in the UK.
It’s just another vacuous faux-aspirational jock-rock song about getting rich, or drunk or whatever… “Hey now! You’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid”... or is it?
Back at the start of last year, as Spin, Esquire, Vice and countless others point out, the band posted on their official Twitter feed a photograph of the original handwritten lyrics, and as you can see at the end of the first chorus, there’s a line crossed out. You can just make out amongst the scribbles, “Wave bye bye to your soul”. It flips the context of the song entirely, whereas it had been seemingly leading towards the point where you hit the stars and achieve your destiny, it’s actually a much darker indictment on dreams of riches and celebrity. At the top of the page you’ll also notice a subtle perspective shift in the first verse, whereas the song opened with an unnamed person shaping an “L” with their finger and thumb (gesturing ‘Loser’), the change leaves the song’s narrator “looking kind of dumb with MY finger and MY thumb”. It’s a cautionary tale about identity, following the pack, society and ultimately the darker side to living out your dreams of riches and celebrity. The biggest irony of course is that in writing this pop banger, they have ultimately achieved 18 years’ worth of royalties (the good ones, the ones you can buy shit with, not those humiliating Spotify sort of streaming royalties) and indeed become the “All Star”.
Oh, and the UK number one single on the week Smash Mouth peaked at number 24? Ricky Martin’s “Livin' La Vida Loca”… they didn’t stand a chance… 168 million views and counting.
“Woke up in New York City, in a funky cheap hotel. She took my heart, and she took my money… She must've slipped me a sleepin' pill”.... Hold the fuck on!