“All Star”—three minutes and 20 seconds, and four chords, more or less, of sunny pop with trace elements of rap, punk, and ska—was released on May 4, 1999. That August, it peaked at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. In a review of the song’s parent album, Astro Lounge, Rolling Stone singled out the track for its “just-add-water radio jolt.” The AV Club predicted that the band’s “winning summer fluff” would end up nostalgia fodder many years later, while critic Stephen Thompson wrote that the album “may or may not spawn hits.” It was nominated for Best Pop Performance at the Grammys, but lost out to Santana.
Then it never quite went away. Twenty years later, the strange and specific legacy of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” blazes blindingly on. A maddeningly irresistible earworm, a party starter, a karaoke classic, a soundtrack staple, a sporting anthem, a corporate jingle, a monster meme. A track that is guaranteed to elicit cheers (or groans), and feelings of nostalgia, whether it’s played at a dive bar, a sports arena, or a child care center.
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