Man, It’s a Hot One
June 6, 2019 1:53 AM   Subscribe

 
Songwriting can be so calculated.
posted by pracowity at 2:58 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


And the problem with that is when you manage to check all the boxes and yet still miss something. I mean I haven't polled my friends, but I never heard anyone talk about how much they loved this song. Like it is fine and all, but I don't know anyone who thinks it is the best song ever or anything.

(On the other hand, I am sure that I do love a lot of 'calculated' pop songs, so maybe this isn't the thread for me)
posted by Literaryhero at 3:47 AM on June 6


...Is it time to consider that we may have perhaps reached the bottom of the "oral history" barrel?

I kid. I remember mainly that this was the winner of a new award being given out by an MTV awards show that year - a popular-vote award called "Your Song Kicks Ass But Was Played Too Damn Much."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:09 AM on June 6 [20 favorites]


I am required by law to post this link, to supplement your brains with Good Wholesome Facts: https://www.gq.com/story/santana-rob-thomas-smooth-oral-history
posted by trotskytown at 4:16 AM on June 6 [20 favorites]


"Carlos brought the standard incense everybody uses."

That's a nice turn of phrase.
posted by deadwax at 4:17 AM on June 6 [29 favorites]


Due to several years of tap dance, I hear the opening notes and find that my feet attempt to start off on a warm up exercise. Very disconcerting.
posted by halcyonday at 4:22 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


I don't know anyone who thinks it is the best song ever or anything.
One of my favorite all time songs ever, oddly enough. Incredible energy, great vocal, great guitar, and makes me dance whenever I hear it.
posted by Peach at 4:58 AM on June 6 [18 favorites]


https://www.gq.com/story/santana-rob-thomas-smooth-oral-history
Thomas: “Room 17” was a great song. Maybe the best I’ve ever heard. It made me super horny. I loved it. But something was missing. So I changed the lyrics, the melody, and everything else about it. When I sat down to re-write my intention was not only to write a song that makes the listener want to bone another human being, but to write a song that could [here, Thomas closes his eyes] kill God.

Marisol Maldonado (wife of Rob Thomas): For as long as I’ve known Rob, he’s been torn between two passions. One is writing songs that you can kind of sing-along to on the radio; songs that made you feel neither good nor bad. The other is devising a way to capture and kill God. There’s nothing he fears more than the Great Cloud Troll, as he calls Him. It’s silly, but that’s just Rob! Rob is also very afraid of commitment and certain loud noises after 9 P.M.
posted by pracowity at 5:07 AM on June 6 [47 favorites]


Whether it was Dionne Warwick, Rod Stewart or the Grateful Dead, Clive always had a vision to say, “Fifty percent of having success with an artist is getting people to know who the artist is, and if you have already accomplished that, then you’re halfway to what you want to accomplish.” He always thought that if somebody was already a household name, all that we would need to do was double down on the A&R and the record making, to make sure that the record this artist was making was brilliant enough for the mainstream public to say, “Yeah, I remember.”

This is a quote from a president of A&R, and one of the simultaneously most obvious and stupidest things I've ever read.
posted by penduluum at 5:59 AM on June 6


One day, we'll get An Oral History of Oral Histories, either from Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair. At some point in the article, the interviewers who themselves are writing the article will begin answering the questions they themselves are asking, and the loop will be complete. Those reading that far in the "As told by" OF THE DAMNED will be forced to live in a seamless hellscape of oral history recounting, as they themselves begin to murmur to themselves, their quiet, ceaseless moans slowly appearing, word by word in the great record of the end times. The slow death will gradually spread, dragging us all into the story that is, after all, our story. We will evolve almost instantly from a society engaged in living and acting into a hive mind that is simply a global retelling of itself. The transition will be sudden and without hitch. When the transition is recounted, only one word will suffice:

smooth
posted by Ghidorah at 6:01 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


Smooth is a great song, but I was always partial to The Game of Love.
posted by signal at 6:03 AM on June 6 [9 favorites]


My kids were really young when “Smooth” came out, and I took them a year later to go apple picking in upstate New York. When you finish, you sit at a picnic table and drink apple cider and eat apple-cider donuts. There was a jug band playing, and when they broke into “Smooth,” I knew we had something.

Jug bands don't lie.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:15 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


"I never heard anyone talk about how much they loved this song"

Well, we at least know for certain that none of your friends work in radio programming.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:18 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I do have to ask, what's a 'Matchbox Twenty'?
posted by signal at 6:23 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


$20, same as in town.
posted by xedrik at 6:25 AM on June 6 [43 favorites]


It was some people who play instruments as a group, sometimes collectively referred to as "a band."

What is a Monkee, anyway?
posted by wierdo at 6:26 AM on June 6


Hearing “Rob Thomas” always reminds me of the Onion’s “near-def experience” line.
NEWTON, MA—Matthew Denny, a 17-year-old suburban Caucasian, is recuperating following a harrowing near-def experience Monday at Newton's NorthTowne Mall. "He came out of Bradlee's wearing a Starter jacket and Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt, and suddenly he fell down and went into convulsions," witness Irene Wheeler said. "Writhing on the floor in those baggy pants, he looked like he was on the verge of def." Denny was rushed to a local hospital, where doctors administered emergency doses of Matchbox 20's Yourself Or Someone Like You.
posted by mhoye at 6:29 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


Regarding Monkees, they're the young generation and they've got something to say (Head was, in fact, something).

As calculated as it might have been, it's still unmistakably Santana playing the guitar, and that's cool.
posted by wellred at 6:31 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


162 less than a Blink 182?
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:32 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


I unabashedly love this song and I cracked up so hard at the line about how Rob is the best songwriter and now he's just home with his Playstation smoking pot right now, so....
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:35 AM on June 6 [7 favorites]


I called Evan and said, “The chorus works, the melody is really good, but those first couple of lines … what is this, ‘Born to Be Wild?’” Rob’s like, “Well, I wanted Itaal to have a couple of lines on here. You know, it’s his song. He’s the one who started it.” I’m like, “Rob, did you have any ideas for those two lines?” He’s like, “Yeah. Mine were, ‘Just like the ocean, under the moon, that’s the same as the emotion that I get from you.'” I said, “Rob, do you want to tell Itaal, or should I?”

I feel a bit sorry for Itaal!
posted by Omnomnom at 6:38 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


Smooth is really only one part of the whole.

This being the whole. THIS kills God.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:08 AM on June 6 [6 favorites]


“Fifty percent of having success with an artist is getting people to know who the artist is, and if you have already accomplished that, then you’re halfway to what you want to accomplish.”

And, for the artist, it's getting to know somebody like Clive Davis. Once, in a capacity unrelated to music, I worked with the head of A&R for a label with a big Nashville presence. He told me that at any given moment he thought there were 6,000 musicians visiting the city with the express purpose of meeting him (and, presumably, others with similar industry might). He arrived at this estimate by calculating that six days a week the mail brought 2000 CDs from musicians aspiring to be signed and that half of them mentioned being in town in case he wanted to get together.

Talent will out, but the odds of success are still astounding.
posted by carmicha at 7:30 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


The first time I heard this on the radio in college I said, “Those motherfuckers sampled Santana. How dare they.” It was worse than that though. Much worse.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 7:44 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Now I'm waiting for the release of Certain Loud Noises After 9pm by The Cloud Trolls.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:59 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


THIS kills God.

And this is the God that it killed. Just so we all remember what it was that went missing.
posted by flabdablet at 8:14 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Okay, what is the Kill God joke about?
posted by Naberius at 8:20 AM on June 6


It's not just unintelligible screaming about the eldritch void?
posted by praemunire at 8:25 AM on June 6


Part of me can't wait for this song to stop being a meme. Another part of me is worried about the song that would replace it.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:34 AM on June 6


Another part of me is worried about the song that would replace it.

it'll be a hot one
posted by dismas at 8:35 AM on June 6 [15 favorites]


Okay, what is the Kill God joke about?

It's from the GQ article, which is a middling-to-mediocre attempt at a Clickhole Oral History article.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:51 AM on June 6


This is tangential, but a few people have talked about the art and artifice of songwriting in this thread. If you, like me, are someone who's fascinated by what makes Hit Songs, well, what they are, there's an amazing series on YouTube (yes, I know) called "What Makes This Song Great" by Rick Beato. He goes through various Big Songs and breaks down the individual tracks with the production choices made for each, as well as the music theory behind why a given riff or section "works".
posted by scrump at 8:54 AM on June 6 [10 favorites]


So is this also the thread where I can say that the Santana/Nickelback song isn't that bad either?
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:55 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


As calculated as it might have been, it's still unmistakably Santana playing the guitar, and that's cool.

Well, yes, whatever one thinks of Mr. Santana, he is in the elite group of players who can be immediately recognized by their sound, like from hearing one note, and that is not so common.
posted by thelonius at 9:01 AM on June 6 [9 favorites]


I was always partial to The Game of Love

Fun fact: That song was written by Gregg Alexander of the awesome but short-lived pop band New Radicals. You can definitely hear the similarities.
posted by Clustercuss at 9:15 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


I seem to remember that at one point VH1 (omg, remember them?) did a list of the top pop songs of all time, and Smooth got the top spot. I'm not sure I'm in agreement that it's the best ever, but it really does embody a certain type of pop hit. I don't think I've ever really caught a bit of it and thought "I'm not in the mood to hear this song".

Definitely seems like they managed to catch lightning in a bottle - just the right synergy to be something far greater than anyone could have expected.
posted by evilangela at 9:36 AM on June 6


It’s not the best song I’ve ever written and it’s not the best song Carlos has ever done.

I agree about Carlos...
posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:40 AM on June 6


> So is this also the thread where I can say that the Santana/Nickelback song isn't that bad either?

The beef people have with Nickleback wasn't so much whether they were competent musicians, but that they've managed to record nine albums of the same song.
posted by ardgedee at 9:42 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


My wife and daughter and I were waiting for a ride service at San Francisco airport one time. A black SUV that looked like the car that had dropped us off pulled up, so we started getting our bags together.

Then Carlos Santana walked out of the airport, got in the SUV, and drove off. He was dressed exactly like you'd expect.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:45 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Anyways I've always loved this song due to Carlos Santana and the awesome guitar part. The less I think about Rob Thomas in it the more I like it, so I like hearing the song more than I like watching the video.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:47 AM on June 6


I was always partial to The Game of Love

Fun fact: That song was written by Gregg Alexander of the awesome but short-lived pop band New Radicals. You can definitely hear the similarities.


There's a demo of it out there done by him. I'll see if I can find it again.

I can! I can!

posted by Naberius at 9:48 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Grumpybearbride and I are going to see a Bush/Live double header tomorrow and this thread is a great pre-game.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:54 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


"I never heard anyone talk about how much they loved this song"

I see you’ve never met my stepfather. Find any bar named after a Jimmy Buffett song. Look for the table of dudes reminiscing about seeing Hendrix live in between trying to sell each other condos or boats, or possibly a condo with a boatslip.
posted by thivaia at 10:17 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]


I wish the fake history of this song from this tweet were real.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:20 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I was actually surprised at how much original thought went into it on Rob Thomas' end. I'd always assumed it was extruded from a focus group.

Another single from that album, Maria Maria, recently found new life as being the basis for the Rihanna song Wild Thoughts.
posted by codacorolla at 10:53 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I have to say, this is a good sausage making story. It reminds me of Fleetwood Mack recording stories, where the 'by comity' approach really does make something extra good out of spare parts.
posted by es_de_bah at 10:58 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


So is this also the thread where I can say that the Santana/Nickelback song isn't that bad either?

I actually liked the song he did with Everlast too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


For a while, Rob Thomas was living in Westchester County. I would run into him and his fiance/wife at restaurants almost once a month. It was as if he was out on the weekend trying to be recognized. I talked to him for about 5 minutes once. He was actually a really nice guy. The prelude to that story is that I had no idea who Rob Thomas was. I am a Deadhead. I love old Santana (and this Smooth song! and New Santana too). I was with my teenage children at the time. My daughter, right after she told me who it was, begged me not to say anything because I would just "Dad embarass" her. So, natch, I went up to them and started talking to them. I started the conversation with sorry to bother you and I do not really have anything to say to you, but my daughter begged me not to embarass her... My daughter was dying. But, at the end of their meal, Rob walked over to our table and handed my kids a signed menu.

I love how John Mayer and Rob Thomas have talked about being played at every wedding every weekend. I saw an interview with a musician I am forgetting their name, but they said that people would come up to them all the time and say that they conceived their child with the music on or they lost their virginity to their music. The musician never quite got comfortable with how to respond. Somehow, they thought, "Thank you" was not quite the right thing to response.
posted by AugustWest at 12:24 PM on June 6 [7 favorites]


I once had a friend who was preternaturally good at ending random sentences with "....or else forget about it" perfectly inflected as in this song and it was hilarious and that's always made me fond of the song so try it out today, I guess..... or else forget about it
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:32 PM on June 6 [13 favorites]


It's funny that the backstory of the song is exactly as cheesy and calculated as one would expect.

The fact that Rob Thomas is still married to Marisol Maldonado feels like it puts one redeeming touch on his (otherwise embarrassing) lyrics for this song.

As far as songwriting craft, Serlectic is right that the guitar/vocal duet aspect makes it. When I think about this song the two things that come into my head are "and it's just like the ocean..." and Santana's opening lick.
posted by atoxyl at 12:34 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


It does also really endear Rob Thomas that he's able to roll with "man it's a hot one" and find it funny. Lots of writers would be mad that people dunked on their lyrics so badly.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:37 PM on June 6


There are certain songs that even when I heard it for the first time felt like they were always a part of my listening.

Smooth is one. The others I can think of right now are Seven Nation Army, Weapon of Choice, Uptown Funk, Call Me Maybe, etc. .

I just feel that about certain songs and I will be hard pressed to articulate why. I am sure there is a Music Theory explanation for this; but as a guy with a Tin Ear I cannot possibly comprehend that.
posted by indianbadger1 at 1:41 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Y'all, I'm going to make a confession: I love this song. Mostly because, to me, that girl from 20 years ago was just like the ocean under the moon. Think of her every time I hear it.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:46 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


with a nod to Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”

I've heard "Smooth" as many times as you'd imagine and I sang "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" to my kids every night when they were babies and I never made this connection. It still doesn't exactly make sense to me, but it makes slightly more sense I suppose.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 2:07 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


It does also really endear Rob Thomas that he's able to roll with "man it's a hot one"

20 years of being abraded by the incessant repetition of that joke. I wonder if he always had that big sense of humor or had to grow into it.
posted by otherchaz at 5:28 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


There are certain songs that even when I heard it for the first time felt like they were always a part of my listening.

That happens for me in two different ways. The bad way is when I absolutely would not be able to pick the song or even the artist concerned out of a lineup of thousands of others just like them, which is how I feel about most of little ms. flabdablet's Spotify playlist.

The good way is when a particular song does not sound like anything but itself but somehow manages to sound necessary, which is the distinguishing mark of essential Pink Floyd tracks over meh ones.
posted by flabdablet at 7:01 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


Mostly because, to me, that girl from 20 years ago was just like the ocean under the moon. Think of her every time I hear it.

A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:24 PM on June 6 [9 favorites]


There aren’t very many songs that will cause me to dive for the remote yelling “Aaaaaaaah make it stop make it stop make it stop!” but there are a few: 1) anything at all by Billy Joel; 2) “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes; and 3) Smooth.
posted by holborne at 9:33 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


Billy Joel, "We Didn't Start the Fire"
4 Non Blondes, "What's Up"
"Smooth"
posted by kirkaracha at 9:52 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


hey holborne
posted by flabdablet at 10:36 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


"I never heard anyone talk about how much they loved this song"

Somebody has watched it 155 million times on YouTube; he? she? they? must be out there.

He’s like, “Yeah. Mine were, ‘Just like the ocean, under the moon’...”

I haven't heard the song enough times to dislike it yet. But if Thomas was a real songwriter, he would have put June, spoon, and croon in the lyrics somewhere.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:08 AM on June 7




You cannot make me click on those.
posted by holborne at 8:20 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


What about this one?
posted by flabdablet at 8:39 AM on June 7


Seriously though: speaking as a fellow sufferer who would need to think very hard if given a choice between having to hear Piano Man one more time and experiencing explosive diarrhoea, you have my word that the Happy Song is fit for human consumption.
posted by flabdablet at 8:44 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Billy Joel, " Piano Man"
posted by kirkaracha at 2:27 PM on June 7


Well why didn’t you say it was Flanders and Swann, flabdablet! Then I wouldn’t have been afraid to click. I’ve loved them since around 1973.
posted by holborne at 4:24 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I thought the 4 Non Blonz was “What’s Going On”. Anyway it was dreadful.
posted by thelonius at 5:59 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


When my band covered it in Bishkek, it was just a cool song I liked that had horns, so it fit our lineup’s needs. It is only now that I am hearing “best / most overplayed” song ever.

Apologies, I was completely oblivious.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:52 AM on June 8


I do have to ask, what's a 'Matchbox Twenty'?

when they came out, my answer was "those guys who are trying to sound like the tragically hip and failing"

and i'm not even canadian

by the way, whatever happened to rob and his band?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:49 AM on June 9


Late to the party but this just came out this morning:

Pushing Joke to Its Limit, STL Musicians Will Play 'Smooth' 20 Damn Times
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:31 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I wonder if they’ll write down the track list in advance
posted by Pronoiac at 1:31 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Failure to break into Never Gonna Give You Up at the end of the second encore would be a massive lost opportunity.
posted by flabdablet at 9:43 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


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