It was 2001, and the creators of Shrek, an approaching animated film about a foul-tempered ogre, had slotted it in as a placeholder chase over the open sequence. It had the feel they wanted : fun, and edgy yet not excessively edgy. But the song, by the band Smash Mouth, had been wholly over radio receiver and television since its release two years prior. It besides had been featured in two late movies, Mystery Men and Inspector Gadget, and licensed for Rat Race, which would be out late in the year. surely, they should use something fresh .
so Matt Mahaffey, a young artist signed to DreamWorks ’ records division, was enlisted to come up with a replacement : a song that was like “ All Star, ” but not “ All Star. ” As Mahaffey saw it, it was his job to beat it. He was shown a rough cut of the movie, then wrote and demoed a song that day .
The Shrek team loved it. Mahaffey was flown from Los Angeles to meet the liveliness team in Palo Alto, and paired with “ All Star ” producer Eric Valentine to lay down the headmaster. The procedure took weeks. The cut of the movie kept changing, and the music had to be adjusted to fit. But Mahaffey was excited : His song was shaping up to be the lone original number in the movie. “ We worked so hard to make it perfect, ” Mahaffey said recently.
last, the day came to show the completed open sequence to Jeffrey Katzenberg, then the CEO of DreamWorks Animation. Katzenberg watched, and listened .
When it was all over, he had a suggestion. “ Why wear ’ t you just use ‘ All Star ’ ? ”
“ All Star ” —three minutes and 20 seconds, and four chords, more or less, of cheery pop with trace elements of knock, punk, and ska—was released on May 4, 1999. That August, it peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. In a revue of the song ’ south parent album, Astro Lounge, Rolling Stone singled out the track for its “ just-add-water radio jolt. ” The AV Club predicted that the set ’ south “ winning summer fluff ” would end up nostalgia fodder many years late, while critic Stephen Thompson wrote that the album “ may or may not spawn hits. ” It was nominated for Best Pop Performance at the Grammys, but lost out to Santana .
then it never quite went away. Twenty years former, the foreign and specific bequest of Smash Mouth ’ s “ All Star ” blazes blindingly on. A maddeningly irresistible earworm, a party appetizer, a karaoke classic, a soundtrack basic, a sporting hymn, a corporate jingle, a giant meme. A track that is guaranteed to elicit cheers ( or groans ), and feelings of nostalgia, whether it ’ s played at a honkytonk legal profession, a sports arena, or a child wish center. Smash Mouth has been closing concerts with it ever since, including for the troops in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, and at New York ’ s Irving Plaza, eight days after September 11. It has graced such compilations as now That ’ s What I Call music ! 3, Hockey Anthems, Skiing Workout Mix, and 101 Kids Songs. The sports compilation appearances were particularly amusing to Greg Camp, the Smash Mouth guitarist and writer of “ All Star, ” as that was far from his demographic in high school. “ There was a identical thick line draw between my friends and people who ended improving listening to the song … the sports people, ” Camp says. “ It was decidedly ironic the foremost clock time I heard that at an NFL football game, or that I was asked to perform the song [ at a ] big-time sports thing. ”
“ There was a very thick line draw between my friends and people who ended up listening to the song … the sports people. It was decidedly dry the first time I heard that at an NFL football game, or that I was asked to perform the song [ at a ] big-time sports thing. ” —Greg Camp
Along with appearances in Rat Race and Inspector Gadget, “ All Star ” has popped up on Family Guy and The Simpsons. Its placement in Shrek, Smash Mouth bassist Paul DeLisle would write in his 2015 memoir Walkin ’ on the Sun, was “ inarguably the single most profound event in [ Smash Mouth ] history. ”
There were besides video games—Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Donkey Konga 2—and promotions for Gatorade and Google, Sea World Australia and France Télécom, and, recently, Toyota ( “ Feel like an ‘ All Star ’ in the new 2018 Toyota Corolla ! ” ). It was played on the outer space shuttlecock Atlantis to celebrate the fiftieth quad walk in distance shuttle mission history. As Smash Mouth coach Robert Hayes proudly summarized to Metroactive, Silicon Valley ’ s weekly newspaper, in 2002 : “ Every nox, you ’ ra watching a express, then it ’ s, ‘ Jesus Christ, there ’ south that fucking Smash Mouth birdcall again. ’ ”
inevitably, that ubiquity became a punch course. In a 2010 Saturday Night Live sketch, Jennifer Lopez played a mother consoling her young daughter, who was terrorized nightly by Smash Mouth performing “ All Star. ”
In the YouTube era, the song became the topic of hundreds, probably thousands of musical reimaginings, ranging from the cockamamie to the dreamlike to the possibly in gap of the Geneva Conventions. There were the ironic embrace versions and amusing recontextualizations ( “ All Star ” but it ’ s a ennoble piano ballad, “ All Star ” but it ’ second spoken-word slam poetry, “ All Star ” but it ’ s a TED talk ) and then the sorts of Dadaist musical experiments ( “ All Star ” but every note is C, “ All Star ” but every parole with an “ e ” is skipped, “ All Star ” but the lyric “ And they don ’ metric ton end coming ” repeats for 10 hours ). In a similarly perverse vein, Jon Sudano ’ s partially devoted his YouTube channel to renditions of the vocal music depart of “ All Star ” over the music of other songs .
elsewhere, the song has spawned countless Reddit threads, been translated into Aramaic and back ( “ There was one who said unto me that the universe was going to cause me to tremble ” ), and rendered in Elizabethan verse. You can test your cognition of the “ All Star ” lyrics with a BuzzFeed quiz, or call a 24-hour “ All Star ” hotline on 830-476-5664 ( a handy total, it has been suggested, for women to give out to potential creeps ) .
If the song is a phenomenon, journalists trying to get a cover on the phenomenon is a phenomenon in and of itself ( GQ : “ The Internet ’ s Endless Obsession with Smash Mouth ’ s ‘ All Star, ’ ” The brink : “ Smash Mouth : We ‘ fully embrace the meme ’ ” ). In a segment on NPR in 2018, Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell sighed as Lulu Garcia-Navarro, one of the first base journalists to report on the arabian give in Libya, brought up the ceaseless surfeit of option takes on the birdcall .
“ Do you have a favored ? ” she asked .
“ The original, ” Harwell responded .
In belated 1998, Smash Mouth turned in what they thought was their complete second album. Astro Lounge was both a more focus and more expansive album than their first, as Smash Mouth drilled into the quasi-psychedelic pop-rock of their first stumble, “ Walkin ’ on the Sun. ” Camp ’ s evolving songcraft was on wide display .
But delivering a criticism made cliché by many tag white house before him, Tom Whalley, then steer of A & R at Interscope Records ( he would by and by become president and CEO of Warner Bros. Records ), didn ’ thyroxine hear a hit. The band needed one, if they were to avoid being labeled a one-hit wonder : “ Walkin ’ on the Sun, ” which had topped the Billboard Modern Rock and Adult Top 40 that January, was a distant memory. He told them to go away and come bet on with a couple of tracks that had a shoot at the charts .
Whalley knew broad well it was a tall order. “ It ’ s not something that ’ s easy to do, ” he told me. “ They ’ rhenium very rarely done on demand. ”
But Camp was quick to try. not normally one to listen to the radio, he picked up the latest topic of Billboard, bought some records, and noted tempo, keys, melodies, song structures. One track in finical stood out : Barenaked Ladies ’ “ One Week, ” with its hyper-verbose verses and abrupt mood shifts, and the fact that the vocals kicked in before the music did. ( The other group brazenly vocalizing good at top of songs that year was ’ NSync. Smash Mouth would tour with them in 2002. )
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possibly because he was thinking in terms of fan service, Camp ’ mho mind turned to Smash Mouth ’ s winnow mail, which he and DeLisle tended to read in the back of the enlistment bus topology or at the launderette. A distribute of the band ’ second young fans were having a boisterous time of it, being picked on by their siblings, teachers, parents—sometimes for the way they dressed, sometimes for liking Smash Mouth. Camp set out to write a pep lecture of a song, a “ daily affirmation, ” an “ I Will Survive ” for the not-so-cool kids. ultimately, there was the memory of an ex-girlfriend, who used to make the “ L for loser ” hand gesticulate at him when he left to play with his blanket ring in the evenings. “ She ’ five hundred be like, ‘ When are you going to grow up, dude ? ’ ” Camp told me, adding, “ I don ’ triiodothyronine know if I would namecheck her. Because, you never know. She may come after me for royalties. ”
In his basement studio apartment at home in Santa Cruz, California, Camp picked up a breakbeat criminal record. He laid down a bass line over an old rub-a-dub cringle, pressed criminal record, and picked up his Mosrite guitar. At some compass point during the writing process, he said years late, he probably noticed his sneakers, the ones he always wore : Converse All Stars .
The birdcall begins with vocals, barging in before the music does : one kick-start syllable on the last unaccented beat of a nonexistent bar. It ’ s an impolite entrance, a jump of preamble and niceties .
person once told me the world was gon na roll me …
Both the record label and the radio stations hated it. “ [ Radio DJs ] like to talk over the get down of your song, ” Camp said. “ Which made me fight for that evening more. You know : ‘ Well, they should shut up when our sung plays. ’ ”
The chorus was all G and C chords on a guitar tuned down a half-step, with the monosyllabic conciseness of Dr. Seuss :
Hey now, you ’ re an all-star
Get your game on, go play
Hey now, you ’ re a rock star
Get the display on, get paid
While the lyrics urged “ go get ’ em, ” the chords weren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate uncomplicatedly felicitous. Camp borrowed the harmonize shape—F # -B-Cdim-B, with that fateful C diminished chord—from the ambush danger of the James Bond theme. Camp ’ s middle verses exuded anxiety about climate deepen, as if the band known for its sunbaked sound was questioning its whole modus operandi. And he wanted a whistle—a breezy implemental break, as if the song had slipped on its Oakleys. last, Camp took out a cold honest-to-god criminal record of NASA air-to-surface voice communications, and pulled out a snip that suggested a proverbial reach for the stars : “ Go for the moon. ”
part of Camp felt dirty and mercenary about having written a song at the bid of the record label. His original handwritten lyrics contained the line, “ Say adieu bye to your person ” ( former changed to “ All that glitters is gold ” ). “ This would be the beginning time that I had to do something that the commemorate company told me to do, ” Camp said. “ And I was kind of wish, ‘ Well, you know, I guess here we are. ’ ”
“ [ Radio DJs ] like to talk over the beginning of your sung. Which made me fight for that evening more. You know : ‘ Well, they should shut up when our song plays. ’ ” —Greg Camp
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Another share of him was worried that his bandmates would reject the song ’ second in-your-face poppiness and positivity. As keyboardist Michael Klooster told VoicesRiverCity.com in 2017, when Camp announced that he ’ five hundred written two modern tracks, he said, “ There ’ s one I in truth like. One I kinda hate ” — ( meaning “ All Star ” ) — “ but I think it ’ second gon na work. ” ( The other one was “ then the Morning Comes, ” a more personal account of the emptiness of touring life. “ It ’ s a distribute more my speed of a song, ” Camp told me. )
At about 1:30 ante meridiem on a Sunday night, in either late January or early February 1999, Camp arrived at the One Double Oh Seven Club in Santa Cruz—a regular finish for him, since it ignored the late statewide ban on barroom smoking—and ran by chance into DeLisle .
“ Come out to my truck right now ! ” Camp said, wrenching DeLisle from the pool table. In the park lot, Camp played his two just-finished demos. DeLisle preferred the other one .
But when Harwell hear “ All Star, ” he knew immediately it was a life-changer. “ We were going, Gatorade, football, baseball, basketball, ” he told The Baltimore Sun in 2005. “ This song ’ second going to be everywhere. ”
“ This song will do precisely what the record company wants it to do, ” their producer, Eric Valentine, warned them. “ But it is going to sail this band straight into the sun. Like, there ’ s no turning back. You can not put that toothpaste back in the tube. ”
“ Pretty much everyone was concerned, ” said Camp. “ We decidedly had to take a vote and go, are we going to do this ? ” not that there was that much debate. “ cipher said, ‘ Let ’ s fair be break and make certain our friends think we ’ ra cool. ’ ”
Like the stay of us, Camp can not escape “ All Star. ” He encounters it “ sometimes once a day ” around Los Angeles, where he nowadays lives. It can be a drag ; friends will sometimes excitedly puff attention if and when the song plays in public. “ They ’ ll say, ‘ Hey ! This ridicule wrote this song ! ’ ” Camp said. “ Yeah, that ’ s annoying. ”
It can besides be touching, like the prison term he overheard a random child singing it, to himself, in a public resort area. And there ’ s that one temp lyric that he never got around to changing, which bothers him a bit—the vaguely koan-resembling but obviously pleonastic, “ You ’ ll never shine if you don ’ t glow. ”
“ I needed something to rhyme, ” said Camp, “ and that ’ s all I had at the fourth dimension. And all of a sudden it was on a record and I didn ’ t variety it. ”
Though Harwell is the familiar face of Smash Mouth, Camp was its obscure creative leader, and its sole songwriter in its glory days. He enjoys his anonymity, and feels bad for Harwell, for whom that type of inconspicuousness is impossible. “ Steve can ’ t truly walk out his door without person saying something to him. ” Camp was besides arguably Smash Mouth ’ second voice of reason, initially concerned about the band maintaining its all-holy aesthetic credibility. He voted against the band appearing in an ad for Pepsi, and very wasn ’ thyroxine a fan of the theme of licensing it to Shrek, either. finally, though, his pleas either dissipated or were drowned out by a flood of money .
today, licensing requests come up a few times a workweek. “ I mean, evening this good morning I was getting asked by our publication ship’s company if it was OK to use it in two different things, ” Camp said. He approves most requests, unless they want to modify the lyrics to be blatantly advertorial. “ Like, you know, ‘ Hey now, you ’ re a hamburger guy. ’ ”
He wouldn ’ triiodothyronine deny that the royalties have been decent. The song helps “ pay our bills, ” he said. ( DeLisle has said the sung bought him a house. ) “ It precisely doesn ’ thymine stop, you know, ” Camp added. “ It ’ s an Energizer Bunny of a song. It equitable does not stop. ”
“ I don ’ t think it ’ s like the coolest thing in the global to like Smash Mouth, or that song. … It ’ s equitable like, hey, here ’ south something from our childhood. ” —Greg Camp
In holocene years, Camp has marveled over the continue life sentence of “ All Star. ” He has besides fielded endless questions about whether he ’ sulfur seen this or that version, and he has witnessed his birdcall being subjected to some reasonably strange stuff. Camp is hush trying to figure out what the hell is going on .
“ Well, I don ’ thyroxine think it ’ s like the coolest thing in the world to like Smash Mouth, or that song, ” he says after a long pause. “ You ’ re not going to be scoring any points by liking it. … It ’ s just like, hey, here ’ s something from our childhood. You know, it ’ s like if I were to like walk around and sing the composition to like The Partridge Family or The Smurfs or something like that. It ’ s not because I truly love that material. It ’ south precisely well, and it ’ s playfulness, and it ’ s something from my memories. ”
In truth, Smash Mouth has battled for deference closely all along. even a glowing review of Astro Lounge in Spin referred to the band as the “ slenderly lumpier cousins of No Doubt and Sugar Ray. ”
There have been times when the band has invited ridicule. At some point, the band ’ sulfur Twitter explanation began picking fiddling fights with anyone who dared to suggest that they owed their success to a computer-animated monster .
@ mwoods941 Already had a # 1 Hit sung ( Walkin ) and All Star was already Top10 on it ‘s way to # 1 before Shrek was even released. # IfFactsMatter— Smash Mouth (@smashmouth) July 17, 2015
But the truth—which Smash Mouth seems to recognize themselves—is that becoming a punch line has played a large part in their longevity and achiever. Without the “ All Star ” jokes, the band might not be such a family name. Sophie Dickinson, associate degree editor program at KnowYourMeme.com, believes the “ All Star ” meme phenomenon comes from a place of “ hate-turned-ironic love. ” “ The era-specific quality of the song set itself up for a revival of some type but, by and large, the song owes its permanent achiever to Shrek, ” she says. Timing was an crucial factor : nowadays ’ s most fecund meme creators came of age at the bill of the film franchise ’ second popularity .
Pete Gofton, a musician and music lector at Goldsmiths University in London, argues that “ All Star ” is barely a handy “ vessel of transmission ” —making a affirmation on the song itself is not the indicate. “ The most successful memes, shitposts, and Vines have little if anything to do with the actual content itself, ” he said. Memes are their own art or linguistic process, “ with their own internal logic and rules and references. The contented they use is pushed beyond the point of being fishy or making any kind of sense in and of itself. ” There ’ s no deep meaning or even obvious drollery in, for model, a version of “ All Star ” in which the vocals are five beats-per-minute slower than the instruments. “ But it functions within the parameters of communication of understanding what a meme should do. ”
Both Dickinson and Gofton observed that the song ’ second built-in attention-seizing qualities are region of what makes it such an appealing plaything for internet mischief-makers. “ I think the room it announces itself straight in with the vocal makes it perfect substantial, ” Gofton says. “ Internet memes need to reduce something we recognize to a series of associations we can get within one double, or a irregular or two .
“ My personal theory is that it ’ s a combination of its ease, immediacy, and being in the right locate at the right time, as a weirdly contextless but memorable song by a one-hit wonder. … You don ’ triiodothyronine seem to get a set of memes made out of songs that are well-known classics, or from artists with lots of hits or big back catalogs, I think because memes need to exist in no other context than itself. ”
It ’ s not all memes for memes ’ sake. There are batch of recontextualizations of “ All Star ” that seem to stem from a place of genuine affection for the beginning material. “ The most stimulate thing about this song is that it ’ s deceptively simple, ” said Allison Frasca, creator of All Star : The Musical, the as-yet-unstaged Broadway melodious comprised wholly of rearrangements of the song—as a love song, a tango, a sprinkle birdcall, a nightmare ballet. “ It may be only four chords, but those four chords are for everybody. They can be aspirant, triumphant, mysterious, or baleful. ”
“ We lash out, we mock Smash Mouth, we reassure ourselves that this is a severe song. But secretly we know that none of that will ever get it out of our heads. ” —Tim Richardson, cohost of the podcast Why I Hate This album
All star : The Musical centers on the story of a “ game little town girl with a dream a big as the flip, ” Frasca told me. The concept, she explained, spring from musical theater performers riffing on the “ ‘ All Star ’ but it ’ second … ” concept while backstage. The idea of “ ‘ All Star, ’ But It ’ s a Really Dramatic Musical Theater Number ” good stuck .
“ To me, it ’ s a song about taking chances and aiming high no matter what, ” she said. “ In writing the show, and listening to the song hundreds of times, I ’ ve come to have a abstruse appreciation for the birdcall to the point of tearing up. ”
Whatever it is that ’ south going on, possibly the greatest testament to the irrevocably magnetic pull of “ All Star ” is this : even those who claim to abhor the song have a begrudge awe for its powers .
“ We lash out, we mock Smash Mouth, we reassure ourselves that this is a atrocious song, ” Tim Richardson, one of the hosts of the podcast Why I Hate This Album, said in an e-mail. “ But secretly we know that none of that will ever get it out of our heads. ”
After “ All Star, ” everyone—the raw fans, the commemorate label, the stay of the band, cowriters over the years—wanted and expected another world-conquering shoot from Camp. “ Once you have something like that under your belt, they want you to continue to do that over and complete and over again, ” said Camp. “ And they make it sound comfortable. Like, just do that again. ” Camp likens it to colossus packing : “ You can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate keep doing that kind of stuff over and over. ”
Camp left Smash Mouth in 2008, came back for a sting, then left again in 2011. nowadays, he works and plays with versatile musician friends, gigging and doing session sour around Los Angeles. His main focus is working in his secret studio apartment where he ’ sulfur made music for A Dog ’ s Purpose, the approaching indie thriller Diery, and both Netflix ’ s The Kissing Booth and its future sequels .
In recent years, with its rotate personnel, Smash Mouth has been “ about like a cover dance band ” of itself, Camp says. They continue to play his songs on the road, with Harwell openly admitting to concert audiences that, yes, he knows that most of them are there to hear three songs, but they should “ sample to have fun until we get there. ” And then, as promised, every night, the close sung sends the audience out on a fantastic high :
All that glitters is aureate
only shooting stars break the cast.
That last line happens to be a desegregate metaphor, but who cares .
Darryn King is a writer in New York .