The Years Start Coming and They Do Not Stop Coming

"All Star: an anthem of life itself and the grand adventure of it all."

by Charles Hausfeld


The musical masterpiece, All Star, by Smash Mouth first “hit the ground running” into pop-punk, rock, and alternative-rock royalty on May 4, 1999, and has reigned in imperial glory ever since. No one is “making the shape of an ‘L’” on their foreheads anymore at this track, as with this song the band reached top ranks in Billboard’s following charts: #1 in “Adult Pop Songs”, #1 in “Radio Songs”, #2 in “Alternative Songs”, and #4 in “The Hot 100”, solidifying its seat in music history. Band members, Steve Harwell (vocals), Kevin Coleman (drums), Greg Camp (guitar), and Paul De Lisle (bass) truly capture the passion, struggle, and celebration of life with All Star, and forever “break the mold”.

The song opens with Steve Harwell’s resilient, slightly brassy, well-enunciated, and speech-focused voice heralding the line “Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me”, accompanied by Greg Camp’s bright Ska-reminiscent guitar plucks and Paul De Lisle’s simple bass groove to form an audible environment of crisp and vivacious energy that of before a great adventure . Kevin Coleman jumps into the scene with an explosive sound to immediately increase the temperature and space of the track, and the group truly gets their “game on” from here . From an optimistic syncopation-heavy pre-chorus highlighting how simplistic elements can lighten tone, protagonistic gold-lined chorus rocked by the Amen-style drum beat, to the three verses that form a comprehensive commentary and artistic representation of the human path to success––a universal trek all can relate to. Although articulated throughout the 3 minutes and 22 seconds of “shooting stars breaking the mold” and going “for the moon”, this track most notably conveys commentary on the rise to success through the chronological story-like lyrical organization, the increasingly positive connotation within verse couplets, and use of the F# Major key . The organization follows chronologic order, paralleling the progression of a story or one’s life. This is easily exemplified via the first line of the first grouping of verse, pre-chorus, and chorus:

Verse 1: “Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me”
Pre-Chorus 1: “Well, the years start coming and they don't stop coming”
Chorus 1: “Hey now you're an All Star get your game on, go play”
Smash Mouth, 1999

Smash Mouth performs at the Hard Rock Cafe in March 2013. Photo: Eva Rinaldi

“Somebody” can be inferred to reference former authority figure, particularly one present in the Harwell’s early life, “the years start coming” references the commonly perceived increase in the passage of time that comes at middle-age, and the chorus line “ you’re an All Star...” explicitly communicates achieving success. Furthermore, commentary on the rise to success is provided by the increasingly optimistic connotation of language used in verse couplets. Verse two, lines 5-6 read:

The ice we skate is getting pretty thin
The water's getting warm so you might as well swim

The first line connotes a negative tone and helpless mood by the imagery of ice melting beneath humanity, which is seconded by the serendipitous and opportunistic connotation of swimming in warm waters. This conversion of helplessness to positivity mimics the psyche of one achieving increasingly greater success throughout life. Lastly, the key of F# Major is commonly attributed to eliciting emotions of “triumph over difficulty” and a “free sigh of relief uttered when hurdles are surmounted”, clearly contributing to the communication of the rise to success throughout the track. Collectively, All Star accurately captures and comments on the emotional and professional progression of one ascends through the difficulties of life until final success is achieved, and “get the show on” .

As a college freshman, I connect with this piece deeply. The competitive nature of a large university like The Ohio State University with “so much to do, so much to see” before the four years of undergrad finish make one feel as if academic and professional success are too distant to conceptualize achieving . However, day by day, one must be optimistic, seize opportunity, and strive for greatness to overcome struggle, all of which is clearly communicated by Harwell’s inspiring lyrics.

Smash Mouth performs at the Hard Rock Cafe in March 2013. Photo: Eva Rinaldi

The All Star experience is heavily influenced by the method and environment of listening. I have been graced by All Star in both social and private settings, via car and auditorium audio systems, and high-quality headphones, respectively. In the social setting of a car or auditorium, the song elicits much more excitement and physical energy, with more focus on the rhythmic and melodic elements than lyrical. However, in the private experience of headphones, more of a motivational, “hit the ground running” and opportunistic feeling is evoked, and the focus is lyrically centered.

All Star: an anthem of life itself and the grand adventure of it all. Whether the “ice we skate on is getting pretty thin” or “all that glitters is gold”, Smash Mouth lead with confidence and bravado, inspiring whole generations to be opportunistic, resilient, and take time to relax, as for in the end, it’s “only shooting stars that break the mold”.

Charles Hausfeld is executive curator and Co-host to Late Night With Dave & Special Guest Jimmy.