A Smashing Single

My first college paper! Rhetorically analyzing and explaining the song "All Star" by Smash Mouth.

ASmashing Single

When one thinks of modern pop music, one normally envisions scenes of Britney Spears’ Catholic schoolgirl in “...Baby One More Time” or Katy Perry’s cotton candy cloud in Candyfornia in her number one single “California Gurls.” However, one almost never thinks about the rock/pop band that call themselves Smash Mouth, whose second album shot them to stardom. The albumAstro Lounge, released in 1999, featured fifteen full length tracks, including a number four Billboard Hot 100 hit entitled “All Star.” Featured in movie soundtracks and several television episodes, “All Star” quickly became a hit of the new century. The song became an immediate recognizable tune worldwide, insinuating a “live for fun” attitude, with its self-esteem boosting lyrics and many rhetorically based appeals.

To start with, “All Star” is a song of many proportions. It begins the first verse with the lyric, “Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me/ I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.” This line suggests that the artist, or rhetor: one who presents a rhetorical situation,  may not be the smartest person, and the world will “roll” him because of his lack of intelligence. The song continues with the lines: “She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb/ In the shape of an “L” on her forehead.” This lyric creates the image of a female figure performing a particularly popular gesture of the 90’s, signifying “loser.” Much of the first verse presents the rhetor in a negative light, however, it shapes the argument for the rest of the song.

The bridge is then introduced with the lines, “Well, the years start coming and they don’t stop coming/ Fed to the rules, and I hit the ground runnin’.” The rhetor states that as life happens, it goes on.  He then says he was “fed to the rules,” insinuating that he was weary of the limitations the world had put upon him, which he later reinforces in the second verse. The lyric is concluded with the common phrase, “Hit the ground runnin’,” to explain the concept of starting off at a steady pace – in this case, he means life, in general. The bridge continues with the same hedonistic view on life: “Didn’t make sense not to live for fun/ Your brain gets smart, but your head gets dumb.” The second line signifies that even if one is learning on an intellectual level, they are losing out on learning street smarts. The bridge closes with two thought-evoking lines: “So much to do, so much to see/ so what’s wrong with taking the backstreets?/ You’ll never know if you don’t go;/ you’ll never shine if you don’t glow.” This is the rhetor’s first direct statement to the intended audience. In this case, it is anyone listening to this song, whether in a movie theater audience or as a devoted fan. As his first message, the rhetor is saying to live life to its fullest and to take risks, despite the cost.

Centrally, the song then presents its anthem of a chorus: “Hey now, you’re an all-star/ Get your game on, go play/ Hey now, you’re a rockstar/ Get the show on, get paid.” As the second message comes to light, it is given confidence enhancing qualities. The rhetor is verbalizing not to worry about the negatives in life and do what you want to do. The final lines of the chorus represent a look into the different types of pathos and logos appeal the song holds: “All that glitters is gold/ Only shooting stars break the mold.” The first sentence displays a dual meaning.Isall that glitters gold? Or is it just for looks? One interpretation is looks can be deceiving: one could display signs of confidence, which is an emotional quality, while actually having none. Yet, in the process, one could generate confidence. Continuing, the last line states that “only shooting stars break the mold.” Logos appeal is portrayed in this line by stating that if one is not a “shooting star” then they must live a boring life. Risking failure, however, is what leads to a productive, exciting life.

Then, the song continues into its second verse contrasting hot and cold. “It’s a cool place/ and they say it gets colder/ You’re bundled up now, wait till you get older/ But the meteor man beg to differ/ judging by the hole in the satellite picture.” Much of this line dictates that as one gets older, life gets tougher, so live it out while it’s still positive. The verse ends with “The ice we skate is gettin’ pretty thin/ the water’s gettin’ warm so you might as well swim/ My world’s on fire, how ‘bout yours?/ That’s the way I like it, I never get bored/” The contrasting temperatures signify the different attitudes on life between the rhetor and the audience. The rhetor likes his world “on fire,” or in chaos, while rhetorically asking his audience which they prefer.

After two repetitions of the chorus and an instrumental break, the song continues on to its third and final verse. Consisting of only two lines, the verse also has two meanings: “Somebody once asked could I spare some change for gas/ ‘I need to get myself away from this place/’ I said, ‘Yep, what a concept/ I could use a little fuel myself/ and we could all use a little change.’” Both literal and figurative aspects are to be seen in this statement. Literally, both figures want the same thing -- something more. Figuratively, the “somebody” is looking for change as in money, while the rhetor is searching for change or reform. Essentially, he’s stating that everyone could benefit from a changed world.

In conclusion, “All Star” signifies the debauched lifestyle of the 90’s, a mixture of pop phenomenon, a self-esteem uplifter, all encompassed within a rhetorical situation; with the singer as the rhetor, anyone listening to the song as the intended audience, messages throughout, all included within the context of the lyrics.

Word Count: 1,001

The End

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