Semi-Charmed Life

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"Semi-Charmed Life"
Semi-Charmed Life.jpg
Single by Third Eye Blind
from the album Third Eye Blind
B-side "Tattoo of the Sun"
Released June 17, 1997
Format CD single
Recorded 1996
Genre Alternative rock, power pop, post-grunge
Length 4:29 (Album Version)
4:00 (Video Edit)
3:40 (Radio Edit)
Label Elektra
Songwriter(s) Stephan Jenkins
Producer(s) Eric Valentine
Third Eye Blind singles chronology
"Semi-Charmed Life"
"Semi-Charmed Life"

"Semi-Charmed Life" is a song by American alternative rock band Third Eye Blind. It was released in June 1997 as the lead single from their self-titled debut album. It was a major hit of the 1990s, reaching number 4 in the U.S.,[1] number 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks, number 2 in Canada, and making the Top 40 in the UK. VH1 has named the song as the 34th best of the 1990s.[2]


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.


"Semi-Charmed Life", which sounds like easygoing pop, contains lyrics about a drug user's descent into crystal meth addiction. According to Jenkins, "It's a dirty, filthy song about snorting speed and getting blow jobs."[4] He later explained that, "It's about a time in my life when it seemed like all of my friends just sort of tapped out on speed." He added that the song is "bright and shiny on the surface, and then it just pulls you down in this lockjawed mess ... The music that I wrote for it is not intended to be bright and shiny for bright and shiny's sake. It's intended to be what the seductiveness of speed is like, represented in music."[5] The title, Jenkins said, "refers to a life that's all propped up. You know, the beautiful people who lead bright and shiny lives that on the inside are all fucked up."[4]

Music video[edit]

The video features many scenes with motor scooters and a 1960 Chevrolet Impala filmed around San Francisco.[6]

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]

A clear clip of "Semi-Charmed Life" is heard during the opening shot sequence of the film Contact (1997) as part of a jumble of modern radio transmissions used to establish the setting as present day. The song is also featured in the film Dirty Work (1998). The song was used in the film American Pie (1999), but did not appear on the soundtrack.[7] 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 video game Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007). 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.

Charts and certifications[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. ^ a b Bambarger, Bradley. "The Modern Age". Billboard. April 26, 1997. p. 79.
  5. ^ Knopper, Steve. "Third Eye Blind Sees Promise In Elektra". Billboard. March 15, 1997. p. 24.
  6. ^ Semi-Charmed Life (music video). Elektra Entertainment. 1997. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "THIRD EYE BLIND – SEMI-CHARMED LIFE (SONG)". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  9. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 65, No. 22, August 04 1997". RPM. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  10. ^ "Rock/Alternative – Volume 65, No. 17, June 30, 1997". RPM. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  11. ^ "Chart Stats: Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind". Billboard. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  13. ^ "ARIA End of Year Singles Chart – 1997". Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  14. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 66, No. 15, December 15, 1997". RPM. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  15. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1997". Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  16. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1998". Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  17. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1997 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. 
  18. ^ "American single certifications – Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Life". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  19. ^ "Best-Selling Records of 1997". Billboard. BPI Communications Inc. 110 (5): 76. January 31, 1998. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 31, 2015.