Smash Mouth named their band after a term coined by football coach Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears as a means to describe their hard, straightforward style of playing rock-and-roll. The band has come out with several popular hits so far including All Star, a popular song released in 1999. Although the band might have named themselves after a term meaning hard and straightforward, their hit song All Star is anything but and contains many hidden meanings. All Star by Smash Mouth is a song containing an extremely diverse array of poetic devices including alliteration, allusion, and ambiguity.
All Star definitely contains an abundance of alliteration as can be seen throughout the song. In the third line of the first verse the segment “dumb with her finger and her thumb” is a dual example of this poetic device. First of all, “dumb” and “thumb” are examples of consonance, in which the consonant sound “umb” is repeated. The middle piece of the segment “her finger and her” is also an example of consonance, this time repeating the “er” sound. In the third line of the fourth verse the words “meteor men” is an example of assonance, a type of alliteration in which the vowel sound is repeated, in this case it is the “m” vowel sound. A similar example can be found in the chorus in the line “all that glitters is gold.” In this case it is the “g” vowel sound which is repeated.
The line “all that glitters is gold” is also an allusion to Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. Stairway to Heaven is a song about a “lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold” but in the end comes to find that under the moonlight “everything…turns to gold.” In All Star, this line has a sarcastic meaning if taken literally and a symbolic meaning if analyzed as an allusion. Essentially it aims to say that it is the simple things in life, not the expensive things, that are the most precious.
All Star also contains its fair share of ambiguity, which also reinforces the message behind the song. In the last verse the songwriter says “somebody once asked could I spare some change for gas.” Then, two lines down, “I could use a little fuel myself and we could all use a little change,” is a play on the word change. When taken in context with the song, “change” in the second line could mean both physical change as in coins and mental change as in changing the way we live and/or think.
Although most songs may sound catchy and stick in your head, that is not all there is to the art of songwriting. Some songs such as All Star can also teach valuable life lessons that have the ability to create change. If everyone took the lessons in this song to heart, for example, we would live in a much less materialistic world and would probably lead better lives. It is important not to view music as just an assortment of rhyming phrases but as a piece of literature that can be as intricate as the most complex of novels.