Why’s It Remembered?: “All-Star”-Smash Mouth
JefftheWildman wonders why we still can’t get Smash Mouth’s “All Star” out of our heads.
“She was lookin’ kinda dumb with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an L on her forehead”.
Smash Mouth was one group that many people, including yours truly, thought were likely to go down as one-hit wonders. However, they ended up having more than one hit. But today, most of their output is largely forgotten except for one song. And it wasn’t the song that I thought was going to be their only hit.
Smash Mouth’s first album, Fush Yu Mang, was released on July 8 1997. The album spawned a pretty big hit with “Walking On The Sun”.
Aside from that single, most of the album consisted of Ska punk numbers that were pretty forgettable. The album was released at a time when the Ska punk boom of the late 90s was reaching its peak yet didn’t do much to really distinguish itself. So, not surprisingly, none of the other songs from it hit the way “Walking On The Sun” did.
As 1997 ended, many music pundits were already writing Smash Mouth off as that year’s one-hit wonders (along with Marcy Playground and Sugar Ray, the former would meet that fate, the latter would avert it). I sensed that they realized this was a make-or-break moment so they set out to follow what had made them successful. They ditched the Ska punk sound of their first album and went for the slightly edgy pop of that hit single. This became apparent on their follow-up album, 1999’s Astro-Lounge.
Astro-Lounge actually spun off a few hits.
But “All-Star” was the song from the album that would prove to have staying power. It peaked at 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, 2 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and 1 on both the Mainstream Top 40 and the Adult Top 40.
In addition to this high peak, it also became ubiquitous in other media. It was featured heavily in the summer of 1999 cult hit Mystery Men as well as in the 2001 comedy Rat Race (in which Smash Mouth had a cameo as themselves to perform the song). The most notable use of it though is in the Shrek series. It plays over the opening credits of the original Shrek and is closely associated with the franchise.
Smash Mouth would have other hits (most notably a cover of the Monkees “I’m A Believer”, also featured prominently in the aforementioned Shrek) and continue to make music to this day. But by the mid 2000’s, they were starting to fade.
Like I noted at the beginning, many people thought back in 1997 that “Walking On The Sun” was going to be Smash Mouth’s only hit. They managed to beat that one-hit wonder tag. However, nowadays, “All-Star” is the only song of theirs that has managed to remain relevant. It’s still a staple of pop and adult contemporary radio and of background music in stores and restaurants.
Why did it turn out this way? I think there were two reasons. First off, Smash Mouths music on the whole was a little too lightweight to really have lasting popularity. A lot of it is very obviously of its time.
“All-Star” though gained a certain level of immortality due to its media ubiquity. A lot of the thanks does have to go to Shrek because it brought the song back to life 2 years after its release, just as it was starting to fade from the national consciousness.
So that’s why although Smash Mouth managed to not end up as true one-hit wonders, their moment in the spotlight was relatively short and only one song ended up having any lasting prominence.