Today’s Song: Future Teens Break the Meme with Their “All Star” Cover

Future Teens © 2020
Future Teens take Smash Mouth’s silly “All Star” and explore the emotional depth with a teary smirk.
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Stream: “All Star”-Future Teens



 


It’s 2020, and to be honest, you’re probably entirely burnt out on Shrek and “All Star” memes. You rarely think of one without thinking of the other, even if the two aren’t mutually exclusive. While the song that has come to define a generation with the opening sequence for Shrek had something of second life as a meme, it got very tired, very quickly. It’s a great song that’s easy to rip on, because it’s also hilarious to pitch correct the phrase “and they don’t stop coming” over and over again. Still, if the overdone joke wasn’t enough for you, maybe Smash Mouth playing a concert at a motorcycle rally in the midst of a pandemic is enough to irk you not to stream it for a while. When Boston’s Future Teens announced that they’d include a cover of the Smash Mouth hit on their recent stripped down EP Sensitive Sessions, there was plenty of reason to suspect that it would be a forgettable gag, but by performing it sincerely, they’ve breathed new life into the track.

Sensitive Sessions - Future Teens

Sensitive Sessions – Future Teens

While it’s performed sincerely, there is a bit of a nod and wink to Future Teens’ take on “All Star.” It’s hard to make a song that is lighthearted and upbeat (and silly) so sad, without at least a smirk. This isn’t an attempt to recontextualize Greg Camp’s most well-known writing and shine a light on the poetics that lyrics like “Didn’t make sense not to live for fun/Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb.” A lot of these lines are a little goofy, but that’s not a bad thing. Lyrically, “All Star” is a lowest-common-denominator smash, with moments of brilliance. By slowing it down, there are moments to laugh at the dopey lines, but Future Teens do give weight to a middle school stoicism like “You’ll never shine if you don’t glow.”

This cover works so well, because the band gives it the same amount of seriousness that the rest of the EP has. Sensitive Sessions is comprised of stripped down takes on songs from last year’s Breakup Season, one of the best power-pop records that did a deep, honest examination of the end of relationships. “All Star” doesn’t fit quite as smoothly in their discography as some of the Carly Rae Jepsen songs the band played while opening for The Wonder Years on their Halloween tour, but they reimagined it the same way they did “Call Me Maybe,” taking the meme factor into account, but giving it the same amount of seriousness that their originals have.

Breaking down “All Star” to its core is an incredibly fun endeavor to enjoy with the band. If you haven’t caught on, it’s slower and nearly unrecognizable from Smash Mouth’s bouncy stadium rock. Vocalists Daniel Radin and Amy Hoffman trade off vocals on verses, harmonizing on the chorus. The song is almost an 80’s power ballad, complete with swelling guitar solos. If you ever wanted to throw a Shrek-themed wedding, Future Teens’ take on the song is easily the most tasteful and appropriate first dance song.

The song’s real show stopping moment comes in the final verse/bridge, which Hoffman sings with a wistful nostalgia:

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”

 As they start to get back into the song’s refrain, the instrumental begins chugging beneath their vocals, before Hoffman screams the last, “You’ll never shine if you don’t glow,” with the type of intensity you’d expect if the band began to write straight up hardcore songs.

Even if you’ve heard every Smash Mouth meme, and you’re tired of “All Star,” Future Teens breaking down the song to a barebones ballad is the most enjoyable twist on it in recent memory. Even if there’s a little bit of silliness in the track, it’s still given all the care that a proper reimagining has.

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James is a New York-based writer and comedian. Besides Atwood, he's also written for Sensations Press and his own blog Burgeraday.com. He hosts the comedy/music podcast James Crowley's Infinite Playlist. He also co-hosts the Burger-a-Day Podcast.