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From the KORD writers:

How Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’ became the holy text of meme culture

KORD is designed to help you engage with the history of a song’s creation, and yet the creation of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” — a song that has come to define the late-Nineties’ quagmire of commercially-successful alternative rock — might be the least interesting thing about it. After songwriter Greg Camp begrudgingly composed “All Star” at the behest of his record label, he and Smash Mouth spent two years fighting on their own for the song’s success. But savvy multimedia placement, most prominently in DreamWorks’ kingmaking animated feature Shrek, repositioned the band as family-friendly goofballs and made “All Star” a monolithic presence among America’s millennial generation. And when those millennials went on to spawn meme culture, a post-ironic confluence of familiar images and sounds lifted from their original contexts and repackaged with humorous new meaning, they made “All Star” one of their holy texts — a song beloved for its reviled elements, living on entirely outside the control of its creators.

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Bobby Brown does it his way on the classic ‘My Prerogative’

“My Prerogative” is a radical act of defiance broadcast across the nation’s commercial airwaves from the summit of the Billboard pop chart. Bobby Brown’s swaggering, galvanizing declaration of independence — from his former group New Edition, but also from the shackles of public opinion — remains one of the most consequential R&B hits of the late 1980s, crystallizing the new jack swing attitude and aesthetic that dominated radio for years to follow.

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Katrina and the Waves bask in the afterglow of ‘Walking on Sunshine’

The world could solve its energy crisis if science could somehow harness the boundless optimism of Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine.” It’s the rictus grin stretched across the face of Eighties pop, the perpetual positivity machine that continues its inexorable march across the cultural landscape — a song flexible enough to integrate seamlessly into everything from antihistamine commercials to Hollywood cult classics, and durable enough to withstand the test of time despite the intense dislike many feel for it. To that point, what’s unique about “Walking on Sunshine” is that it’s beloved most by creative executives — the music supervisors and marketers responsible for recycling the song in campaign after campaign, making it one of the most lucrative copyrights in publishing history.

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How weird-hit wonder Marcy Playground’s ‘Sex and Candy’ skulked into the Top 10

“Sex and Candy” is a cipher wrapped in an enigma, smothered in secret sauce. It’s Marcy Playground’s first, last and only Billboard Hot 100 hit, spending a record-setting 15 weeks atop the industry trade publication’s Modern Rock Songs chart, yet despite the 1997 single’s cultural ubiquity, it is so opaque — so maddeningly inscrutable — that no one has any earthly idea what it’s about, including the song’s writer.

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‘Sorry’ makes amends, and makes a man of Justin Bieber

Toward whom is “Sorry” an apology? According to Justin Bieber, the song is a post-mortem plea for reconciliation with his former girlfriend, Selena Gomez. But there is plenty of reason to believe it was directed toward the world at large. The pop phenom and OG YouTube superstar spent his transition into adulthood mired in bizarre, boorish behavior that earned him felony charges and threatened to puncture his clean, teen-dream image, and by the time “Sorry” dropped in October 2015, that image badly needed rehabilitation. Luckily for Bieber, the track proved an enormous success, not just because of its aesthetic trendiness but because of its universally relatable message — a message that recast the singer as a man willing to acknowledge the many mistakes of his past.

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.38 Special shoots for pop immortality with ‘Hold On Loosely’ and ‘Caught Up in You’

Jim Peterik owned rock radio in the summer of 1982. At the same time the Survivor founder co-wrote the group’s worldwide number one “Eye of the Tiger,” the theme song from the blockbuster Rocky III, he also teamed with .38 Special guitarists Don Barnes and Jeff Carlisi to author a series of hits including “Hold On Loosely” and the Southern rock stalwarts’ first-ever Top Ten entry, “Caught Up in You.”

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Rare Earth’s ‘I Just Want to Celebrate’ remains a feel-good hit for all time

“I Just Want to Celebrate” is the Motown Records hit you never thought would echo across the decades. Its seismic funk-rock groove is an enduring signifier of the song’s moment of creation — of all the chart singles recorded in 1971, it might be the ‘71-iest — but its lust for life crackles with renewed energy and urgency in a post-COVID America reeling from gun violence, mental health crises, opioid addiction and environmental catastrophe. “I Just Want to Celebrate” remains resonant because it was right all along: survival is nothing to sneeze at, and in a world as chaotic and uncaring as this one, simply making it through another day deserves an anthem all its own.

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The Jonas Brothers grow up and blow up with the chart-topping ‘Sucker’

The Jonas Brothers want you to know they fuck now. The libidinous “Sucker,” the sibling trio’s first single and music video after a six-year creative hiatus, commemorates their passage from purity rings to wedding bands, from Disney-branded teen heartthrobs to mature, stylish pop stars in command of their own lives and careers — in short, from boy band to men. And though their audience also came of age during the years the Jonas Brothers stopped making music together, affection for the group never dimmed; if anything, absence only made fans’ hearts grow fonder, and the reception that greeted “Sucker” was so rapturous, the song debuted atop the Billboard pop chart, handing the JoBros their first-ever number one hit.

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