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All Star (song)

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"All Star"
All star.jpg
Single by Smash Mouth
from the album Astro Lounge and Mystery Men - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
B-side
ReleasedMay 4, 1999 (1999-05-04)
Recorded1999 (1999)
StudioH.O.S. (Redwood City, California)
Genre
Length3:21
LabelInterscope
Songwriter(s)Greg Camp
Producer(s)Eric Valentine
Smash Mouth singles chronology
"Can't Get Enough of You Baby"
(1998)
"All Star"
(1999)
"Then the Morning Comes"
(1999)
Music video
"All Star" on YouTube

"All Star" is a song by the American rock band Smash Mouth from their second studio album, Astro Lounge (1999). Written by Greg Camp and produced by Eric Valentine, the song was released on May 4, 1999, as the first single from Astro Lounge. The song was one of the last tracks to be written for Astro Lounge, after the band's record label Interscope requested for more songs that could be released as singles. In writing it, Camp drew musical influence from contemporary music by artists like Sugar Ray and Third Eye Blind, and sought out to create an "anthem" for outcasts. In contrast to the more ska punk style of Smash Mouth's debut album Fush Yu Mang (1997), the song features a more radio-friendly style.

The song received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised its musical progression from Fush Yu Mang as well as its catchy tone. It was nominated for the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 42nd Grammy Awards. Subsequent reviews from critics have regarded "All Star" favorably, with some ranking it as one of the best songs of 1999. The song charted around the world, ranking in the top 10 of the charts in Australia, Canada, and on the Billboard Hot 100, while topping the Billboard Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 charts. Its accompanying music video features characters from the superhero film Mystery Men, which itself prominently featured "All Star". The song became ubiquitous in popular culture, following multiple appearances in films, most notably in the DreamWorks Animation film Shrek (2001). It received renewed popularity in the 2010s as an internet meme and has ranked as one of the most-streamed rock songs from 2017 to 2020 in the United States.

Background and recording[edit]

Picture of Greg Camp playing guitar live in 2010.
Guitarist Greg Camp wrote "All Star", the last song to be recorded for Astro Lounge in 1999.

"All Star" was the last song recorded for Astro Lounge, Smash Mouth's second album.[1] Along with the rest of the album, the song was produced, mixed, and engineered at H.O.S. Recording in Redwood City, California.[2] Although the band's previous album Fush Yu Mang had sold over two million copies from the strength of its lead single "Walkin' on the Sun", none of the album's other tracks charted well, leading to some labeling the band a one-hit wonder.[3] Eric Valentine, Smash Mouth's producer, said the album had the "dubious distinction" of being very successful but also frequently returned by buyers, as the rest of it sounded very little like the single.[1] For the creation of Astro Lounge, the band decided to shift their musical style away from the ska punk sound that characterized Fush Yu Mang.[1] Greg Camp, Smash Mouth's guitarist, was tasked with writing all of the songs for Astro Lounge due to his pop sensibilities.[1]

After seemingly completing the album, Smash Mouth presented it to their record label Interscope, but the label declined a release because they felt they felt there was no viable first or second single.[1] Robert Hayes, Smash Mouth's manager, offered Camp advice in writing additional songs by pointing him to a copy of Billboard magazine. Hayes showed Camp the top 50 songs on the chart, which featured artists such as Sugar Ray and Third Eye Blind, and told him he wanted "a little piece of each one of these songs".[1] Over the next two days, Camp wrote "All Star" and "Then the Morning Comes", which would become the first two singles from Astro Lounge.[1]

For the writing of "All Star", Camp considered what he had read in the fan mail the band frequently received. Many of the fans that had written to Smash Mouth considered themselves outcasts and identified strongly with the band, and Camp "set out to write an anthem" for them.[1] He also incorporated more melancholy lyrics as well, which contrasted with the upbeat instrumentation.[4] Smash Mouth did not have much time to record the song and brought in Michael Urbano, a session drummer, for recording instead of their regular drummer. According to Valentine, additional drum loops from older songs were used on top of the main drum track. Bassist Paul De Lisle performed the whistling on the song.[1]

Composition[edit]

"All Star" is set in the key of F♯ major, with a tempo of 104 beats per minute.[5] Writers have described it musically as alternative rock[6] and power pop.[7] During a 2017 interview, Camp stated he was interested in exploring several layers of meaning with the stripped-down song; the social battle cry, the sports anthem, the fanbase affirmation, the poetic lyricism, the sweeping melody, the inclusion, the artistic music videos, and more.[8] Camp described the song as "a daily affirmation that life is, in general, good", something he called a "tradition" for Smash Mouth; according to him, the band frequently read fan mail they received from kids, parents, and teachers thanking them for making "fun and lighthearted" music.[9]

Critical reception and accolades[edit]

"All Star" was met with generally favorable reviews from music critics, and several critics noted it as an example of Smash Mouth's musical progression from Fush Yu Mang. Todd Norden of the Calgary Herald praised the track as being "a lot better" than the songs on Fush Yu Mang, and the staff of the Associated Press praised it as an example of the "loose and light fare" the band had embraced on Astro Lounge.[10][11] The Morning Call writer John Terlesky favorably mentioned the song as an example of their "new and improved" sound.[12]

The song was also praised for its catchy tone. Stephen Thompson of The A.V. Club lauded it as being "unstoppably infectious", and Rolling Stone writer David Wild felt that the song had potential to be a hit.[13][14] Doug Hamilton of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called it the "peak" of the album and "the perfect summer anthem".[15] Sandra Sperounes from Edmonton Journal praised "All Star" as an example of Smash Mouth's intelligent songwriting, specifically noting its "veiled references to stupidity".[16] Jay DeFoore of the Austin American-Statesman was more critical, calling the song a "fluffy, made-for-MTV anthem that evaporates into thin air" and "a classic example of hit-by-numbers".[17]

At the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2000, "All Star" was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, ultimately losing to Santana's "Maria Maria".[18] Retrospective reviews from the editorial staff of both Billboard and Paste ranked it as one of the best songs of 1999,[19][20] as did Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield[21] and Spin writer Taylor Berman.[22] Billboard staff writer Gab Ginsburg noted the song's lasting cultural impact following its appearance in Shrek and the "hundreds" of popular meme videos; Berman felt the song had "a life of its own" and became a "cultural artifact".[19][22] Geoffery Himes of Paste called the song "the best reason to listen to top-40 radio in 1999".[20] In a glowing review, Leor Galil of the Chicago Reader lauded the song for having "transcended genre" to become "permanently stuck in America’s hippocampus".[23] Conversely, the staff of Noisey listed it as one of the worst songs of the 1990s, with writer Annalise Domenighini calling the song "the only argument we need for why ska-pop should have never existed in the first place".[24]

Release and commercial performance[edit]

"All Star" was released on May 4, 1999,[25][26] as the first single from Astro Lounge.[27][28] Also, it was the first single for the soundtrack album for the superhero film Mystery Men (1999).[9] It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 75 on the week of May 22, 1999, and reached its peak position of number 4 on August 14.[29][30] The song peaked at number one on the component Radio Songs chart, as well as on the Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 charts.[31][32][33] "All Star" peaked at number two and five on the Alternative Songs and Adult Alternative Songs charts, respectively.[34][35] It was later certified triple platinum in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling 3,000,000 certified units in the United States.[36] The song achieved further success internationally. In Canada, "All Star" peaked at number two on the RPM Top Singles chart and number four and six on the Adult Contemporary and Rock/Alternative charts, respectively.[37][38][39] It charted within the top ten on the Australian Singles Chart and peaked within the top 20 in Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Spain.[40][41][42][43]

The song ranked at number 17 on the year-end Hot 100 chart and in the top ten of the year-end US Adult Top 40, Alternative Songs, Mainstream Top 40, and Radio Songs charts for 1999.[44][45][46] It additionally appeared on the year-end charts for Australia and Canada, ranking at number 31 and 4, respectively.[47][48] The song has since been certified platinum in Australia, Italy, and the United Kingdom.[49][50][51]

"All Star" appeared on the Billboard Rock Streaming Songs chart, spending over 100 weeks on the chart and reaching a peak position of number three on the edition of September 21, 2019.[52] The track ranked as one of the most-streamed rock songs of 2017 and 2018, and it ranked at number six on the year-end US Rock Streaming Songs chart in 2019.[53][54][55]

Music video[edit]

Directed by McG, the accompanying music video features cameos by William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Paul Reubens, Kel Mitchell, Janeane Garofalo, Doug Jones, and Dane Cook as their characters from the superhero film Mystery Men, which prominently features the song. Their appearances in the video are primarily based on stock footage from the film; in all other scenes, the characters were portrayed by body doubles and depicted exclusively from behind.[56] The visual opens with the characters from Mystery Men seeking recruits, with the group rejecting several applicants before expressing interest in Steve Harwell.[56] The remainder of the video focuses on him performing several feats (rescuing a dog from a burning building and flipping over a toppled school bus) in addition to scenes from Mystery Men.[56]

In June 2019, the music video was remastered in HD and received subtitles in commemoration of its 20th anniversary.[57] By that point, it had received over 219 million views on YouTube.[58]

Live performances[edit]

Smash Mouth performed "All Star" at the 1999 Home Run Derby in July at Fenway Park. After the band finished playing, Camp said "Save Fenway Park", referencing plans to demolish the stadium and replace it with a new facility; this elicited boos from the crowd.[59] Smash Mouth performed it on September 9, 1999 in pouring rain, as the opening act of the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.[60]

A June 14, 2015, performance of the song at Taste of Fort Collins event in Fort Collins, Colorado went awry after members of the audience started throwing loaves of bread onto the stage. While the rest of the band repeated the opening riff of "All Star", Harwell began a three-minute profanity-filled verbal tirade against the crowd, with him threatening to beat up anyone who threw things onto the stage. Security restrained Harwell after he tried to enter the crowd; the band continued playing while the crowd sang the song in place of him.[61] Smash Mouth performed the song at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival on August 28, 2016; Harwell passed out in the middle of the set and was taken to a nearby hospital, but the band continued their set and performed the song without him.[62]

Cultural impact[edit]

Film and popular culture[edit]

"All Star" was frequently used in films in the years following its release.[25] The song featured in 1999's Inspector Gadget and Mystery Men, the latter of which was the basis for the song's music video.[26] It features heavily in the 2001 movie Rat Race, in which the band performs it at a live concert, over the closing credits.[63][64] It regained popularity after being featured in the 2001 DreamWorks animated movie Shrek, where it was played over the opening credits.[1][22] Although Smash Mouth was initially apprehensive about being involved with what was considered a family film, DreamWorks was insistent on including the band's music in the film. After being granted an early screening of Shrek, the band members were impressed and ultimately agreed to perform a new rendition of the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" for the ending; additionally, they licensed "All Star" to appear in the film.[1] The filmmakers for Shrek had originally used the song as a placeholder for the opening credits and intended to replace it with an original composition by Matt Mahaffey that would mimic the feel of "All Star". However, DreamWorks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg suggested for them to use "All Star" over the sequence instead.[26] Vicky Jenson, the co-director of the film, explained that "All Star" perfectly fits the tone and personality of its titular ogre, who is "happy in his solitary existence and has no clue that he has a lot to learn about it".[1]

"All Star" has been commonly played at sporting events;[1][25][65] it became so popular among sports fans that they were led to play it at Major League Baseball's 1999 Home Run Derby, and have performed it at dozens of sporting events since.[65] An unstaged musical theatre adaption of the song, All Star: The Best Broadway Musical, has been written and officially sanctioned by the band. "All Star" is the only song in the musical, being adapted into various genres and styles.[26][66] Siddhant Adlakha of Polygon, who attended a reading of the play, described it as a "jukebox musical, but the jukebox is broken". Regarding the play's concept, Adlakha said it "sounds like the dumbest idea on planet, but I’ll be damned if every single member of its cast wasn’t committed to the gimmick".[66]

Parodies and memes[edit]

"All Star" has become widely used as an internet meme and is frequently parodied.[25] Remixes and memes have often focused on its connection to Shrek, which has a large online fandom and meme community.[67][68] The song's basic structure lends itself easily towards being used for mashups or remixes;[4] NPR said that the song "seems like it was made to be remixed, mashed-up and squeezed through the meme machine".[69] Both the song's chorus as well as its opening "somebody" line are frequently used as punchlines due to their widespread recognition.[70]

"Mario, You're a Plumber", uploaded to YouTube in 2009 by the channel Richalvarez, has been identified as the earliest parody of "All Star" on the platform.[1][25][67][71] The video, themed around the Nintendo character Mario, has received over 1.5 million views as of November 2017.[67] Neil Cicierega released a series of four mashup albums - Mouth Sounds, Mouth Silence, Mouth Moods, and Mouth Dreams - which prominently remixed "All Star" as well as other popular songs from the 1990s.[72] The popularity of 2014's Mouth Sounds, in particular, has been cited as a point where the song received renewed popularity and interest.[71] The track received additional exposure in 2016 from YouTuber Jon Sudano, who reached over 900,000 subscribers by exclusively posting videos of himself singing its lyrics over the instrumentals of other songs.[25] The accompanying music video also experienced a large increase in views on YouTube towards the end of 2016. According to ABC News Radio, it increased from an average of 21,000 views per day to 155,000 a day in December 2016 and reached a peak of 478,000 views per day in 2017.[73] By this point, "All Star" had become so popular on the internet that Austin Powell of The Daily Dot described it as "almost as inescapable now as it once was on commercial radio".[74]

Smash Mouth has embraced the song's status as a meme.[67][74][75] The band was initially hesitant of its newfound popularity, but gradually warmed up to the concept.[67] In an interview with The Daily Dot, Harwell said they consider themselves to have "invented the meme" due to having released 10 remixes of the song through Interscope.[74] According to Harwell, Smash Mouth has "fully accepted" the song as their legacy and consider the "obsession" with it as a "a level of love [they are] more than appreciative of".[67] Although the band has received requests to feature on remixes or covers, Smash Mouth has declined to be involved in any because "we feel if other people do it, it adds to the beauty, but if we did it, we feel it would cheapen it".[67] Camp, who is no longer with Smash Mouth, said that he was "flattered" at the continued popularity of "All Star" and has befriended Sudano.[4] Camp was particularly appreciative of "The Sound of Smash Mouth", a "sad" mashup with Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" that emphasizes the melancholy lyrics Camp included in "All Star".[4]

Track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits from the liner notes of Astro Lounge[2]

Smash Mouth

Production

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for "All Star"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[49] Platinum 70,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[95] Platinum 90,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[50] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[36] 3× Platinum 3,000,000double-dagger

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]