Original Handwritten Lyrics Show Smash Mouth’s “All Star” Was Almost a Much Darker Song
Smash Mouth’s “All Star” is a motivational speech wrapped in a pop song. “Hey now! You’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid,” and so on. There doesn’t seem to be much ambiguity in its message: being an all star is cool, being a rock star is cool, getting paid is definitely cool, and hey, you never know–if you give yourself a shot and aim for the skies, you might break the mold and become an all star, too. Cool!
But according to an original draft of the lyrics, penned by original Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp and tweeted out from the band’s account this afternoon, there might be a darker side to living out your dreams of riches and celebrity.
At the end of the chorus, there’s a line crossed out, with the lyric that made the final cut–“And only shooting stars [will] break the mold”–shoved into the margin. Look closely, and you can read the original draft underneath the scribbles: “Wave bye bye to your soul.”
That single line puts a darkly ironic twist on a song that otherwise seems pretty naive: sure, you can live only for fun, hit the ground running, take the backstreets, and set your world on fire–you’ll shine, you’ll glow, but you might lose the very thing that makes you human in the process. Being a rock star is fun and all, but sooner or later, you end up alone on the tour bus, surrounded by empty bottles, staring into a tiny handheld mirror, wondering where your high school sweetheart is and what things would have been like if you’d taken a different path. (Or maybe I’m just projecting.)
Look at the top of the lyrics sheet (which the band has tweeted out at least once before), and you’ll also notice a subtle perspective shift in the first verse. “All Star” originally opened not with an unnamed somebody looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an “L” on her forehead, but with the song’s narrator, Mr. All Star himself, as the dumb one. What does it all mean?
With the “bye bye to your soul” thing in mind, all sorts of other hidden depths of “All Star” start to reveal themselves. There’s that glancing reference to climate change in the second verse, for one thing. And isn’t the assertion in the chorus that all that glitters is in fact gold just a little to peppy and on-the-nose to be taken at face value? The darkness and mystery implied in “All Star” inspired one incredibly devoted Smash Mouth fan to compile a Reddit post two years ago, explaining in detail why “Smash Mouth’s song “All Star” is about the exact opposite everyone thinks it is.“
We may never know the band’s reason for cutting the “soul” line and replacing it with much more saccharine lyrics about shooting stars. But if “All Star” really is about the ultimate hollowness of contemporary life, I guess there’s a lot more going on in the opening sequence of Shrek than we gave it credit for, too.