Semi-Charmed Life

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"Semi-Charmed Life"
Single by Third Eye Blind
from the album Third Eye Blind
B-side "Tattoo of the Sun"
Released June 17, 1997 (1997-06-17)
Format CD single
Genre Alternative rock, power pop
Length 4:29 (Album Version)
4:00 (Video Edit)
3:40 (Radio Edit)
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Stephan Jenkins
Producer(s) Eric Valentine
Third Eye Blind singles chronology
"Semi-Charmed Life"
"How's It Going to Be"

"Semi-Charmed Life" is a song by American alternative rock band Third Eye Blind. It was released in June 1997 as the first single from their self-titled debut album, released in 1997. It was a major hit of the 1990s, reaching number four in the U.S.,[1] number one on the Modern Rock Tracks and the Top 40 in the UK. Furthermore, it has had a pervasive cultural impact, being featured in numerous movie soundtracks (most notably in the 1998 comedy Dirty Work). VH1 has named the song as the 34th best of the 1990s.[2]

Background and writing[edit]

According to lead singer Stephan Jenkins, the song was meant as a response to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" but from a San Francisco perspective.[3] The style of the song reflects changes that were occurring in the San Francisco music scene, particularly a growing interest in hip-hop.


Beneath a catchy, upbeat melody, with rapidly spoken lyrics and references to popular culture, the song contains dark lyrics about a drug user's descent into crystal meth addiction and his implied sexual activities while trying to "want something else."

Music video[edit]

The video features many scenes with motor scooters and a 1960 Chevrolet Impala filmed around San Francisco.[4]

Alternate versions[edit]


Several changes were made for the studio recording. In the demo version, Jenkins spoke during the verses as opposed to singing it. The chorus lyrics were originally "I want nothing else to get me through this..." as opposed to "I want something else to get me through this..." In the second verse, instead of "Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break," the demo version went, "Crystal methylene will lift you up until you break." Finally, the reprise of the beginning of the second verse at the end of the song is omitted in the demo version.

Radio edits[edit]

Released on the single were a "clean edit" and the "radio edit." Both edits cut from section 2:20 through 3:07 on the album version. The differences between the two edits is that the clean edit has the words "crystal meth" censored through backmasking. Radio stations that chose not to edit the drug reference played the radio edit. A third edit omits the entire second verse and second chorus, and is usually played on adult contemporary stations to avoid the drug and sexual references of the song.[citation needed]

The music video also shortened the song, but in a different section. The song was cut from 2:41 through 3:09, compared to the album version. The drug references were either intact or removed from the video, depending on which television channel the video aired.

In popular culture[edit]

In 1999, "Weird Al" Yankovic included the song in the polka medley "Polka Power!" from his album Running with Scissors. Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the album version of the song (with major lyric changes) as a bonus track for their 2007 video game Alvin and the Chipmunks. The song was prominently featured on a 2013 episode of "The Neighbors", where it was described as one of the two perfect things to ever come out of Earth, the other being "Free Willy". The song was used in the film American Pie, but did not appear on the soundtrack.[5] During the opening shot sequence of the film Contact (1997 US film), planet Earth is shown as if the viewer is a few hundred miles above the surface. A jumble of modern radio transmissions are heard, including a clear clip of Semi-Charmed Life, to establish the present day. As the camera shot pulls away from Earth, the audio clips of broadcasts and songs become recognizably and progressively older until they fade out completely in order to demonstrate to the viewer the bind between space and time.


Chart successions[edit]

Preceded by
"The Freshmen" by The Verve Pipe
Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number one single
May 24, 1997 – June 21, 1997 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Preceded by
"The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number one single
July 5, 1997 - July 19, 1997 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Push" by Matchbox Twenty


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 6th ed, Billboard Publications, Inc. 1996. ISBN 0-8230-7632-6
  2. ^ "Top 100 Songs of the '90s". VH1. December 13, 2007. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ Elfman, Doug (February 15, 2002). "Musical Diversity – Third Eye Blind's influences range from Lou Reed to Queen". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 
  4. ^ Semi-Charmed Life (music video). Elektra Entertainment. 1997. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "THIRD EYE BLIND - SEMI-CHARMED LIFE (SONG)". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  7. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 65, No. 22, August 04 1997". RPM. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  8. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 65, No. 17, June 30, 1997". RPM. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  9. ^ "Chart Stats: Semi-Charmed Life - Third Eye Blind". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Semi-Charmed Life - Third Eye Blind". Billboard. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  11. ^ "ARIA End of Year Singles Chart - 1997". Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  12. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 66, No. 15, December 15, 1997". RPM. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  13. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1997". Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  14. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1998". Retrieved 2010-08-28.