Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
|"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"|
|Single by Crash Test Dummies|
|from the album God Shuffled His Feet|
|Released||October 1, 1993|
|Studio||Music Head Recording (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin)|
|Crash Test Dummies singles chronology|
"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" is a song by Canadian rock band Crash Test Dummies, and written by its singer Brad Roberts. It was released in October 1993 as the lead single from their second album, God Shuffled His Feet. Despite receiving mostly negative reviews from critics, it was very successful around the world, peaking at number one in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also became a top-five hit on both the UK Singles Chart and the all-genre US Billboard Hot 100, but in the band's native Canada, it stalled at number 14 on the RPM Top Singles chart.
Each verse describes the isolation and suffering of a child, two of whom have a physical abnormality. In the first verse, a boy is injured in a car accident and misses school for an extended period; when he returns to class, his hair has changed color from black to bright white. In the second verse, a girl refuses to change clothes in the presence of other girls due to the birthmarks that cover her body. The third child is a boy whose parents require that he come directly home after school; during services at their church, they "shake and lurch" across the floor. During a 2010 live performance for the Dutch radio station Kink FM, Brad Roberts whispered "Pentecostal" during the third verse, suggesting this is the denomination of the church.
Most of the lyrics are based on childhood experiences of Brad Roberts. For example, he was in a few serious car crashes as a child, which inspired the first verse; he has a birthmark at the base of his spine which made him a bullying target as a child, inspiring the second verse; and he knew a girl who went to a Pentecostal church, where members were known to speak in tongues, inspiring the third. He got the idea of a boy's hair turning from black into bright white from stories he'd heard about this phenomenon happening to survivors of perilous experiences, including a man who almost went over the Niagara Falls, and his great uncle who fought in Japan in World War II and heard Japanese soldiers yelling threats in broken English.
An alternative version sometimes performed at live concerts replaced the third verse with one concerning a boy whose mother disposed of his tonsils after a tonsillectomy, thus depriving him of the possibility of bringing them to show and tell.
Larry Flick from Billboard called the song a "shimmering acoustic/rock jewel". He added that it "marries a worldwise vocal with a textured arrangement that is chock full of aural goodies. Given justice (and promotional tender loving care), this one will soon blossom into the across-the-board smash it should be." Robert Hilburn from Los Angeles Times wrote, "The exaggerated vocal narration makes this sound like a novelty, but it is a deceptively original work about how kids are often tormented for falling outside the norm." Music writer James Masterton noted in his weekly UK chart commentary, "The unusual song probably holds the record for the longest song title not to include a vowel in the title." Pan-European magazine Music & Media commented, "It takes one weirdo to dig another, so Dummy Brad Roberts and "Talking Head" Harrison make an ideal pair. This ballad is deceivingly ACE until you listen to the lyrics." Alex Kadis from Smash Hits said it is "a truly beautiful masterpiece".
The track received a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, which it lost to "I Swear" by All-4-One.
Although highly successful when it was released, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" has since been frequently included on lists of bad songs. The song was number 15 on VH1's 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever, named by Rolling Stone as the "15th Most Annoying Song", and ranked at number 31 on Blender's list of the "50 Worst Songs Ever". The Huffington Post Canada ranked this song at number 29 on its list of "50 Worst Canadian Songs Ever". Contrasting, VH1 named "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" as the 31st greatest one-hit wonder of the 1990s in 2011.
In a 1994 essay in which he makes the case that modern life is better than life in the past, humorist P.J. O'Rourke writes, "Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Bad music, for instance, has gotten much briefer. Wagner's Ring Cycle takes four days to perform while 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm' by the Crash Test Dummies lasts little more than three minutes."
In 1994, "Weird Al" Yankovic parodied the song as the lead-off single for his compilation box set Permanent Record: Al in the Box after his record label insisted he record a new song to promote it. The parody, titled "Headline News", combined the music of the original song with new lyrics about three popular news stories from the preceding months. He also produced and starred in a nearly frame-for-frame parody of the original song's music video, featuring several celebrities playing the parts of those referred to in the lyrics.
Outside their home country of Canada, the single became the band's most successful song, reaching number four in the United States and number two in the United Kingdom—the group's biggest hit in both countries. It also reached number one on the Modern Rock Chart in the United States and in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
While the Crash Test Dummies had six singles reach the Canadian top ten, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was not one of them, instead stalling at number 14.
The music video was directed by Dale Heslip and premiered in October 1993. It sets the song's lyrics as the script for a series of one-act plays performed by schoolchildren. Throughout, the scenes of the performance are intercut with scenes of the Crash Test Dummies performing the song at stage side.
All three one-act plays included nicknames for their lead characters, to provide Heslip with easy references:
- The first featured a kid nicknamed "Whitey"
- The second pitted "Blotchy" against "Bratty Kids", who Heslip thought lived up to their nickname; Blotchy's marks are covered with a long cape she wears throughout, whereas the "Bratty Kids" wear deerstalker hats and carry magnifying glasses
- The third had, as its focus, a "Reluctant Boy"
These nicknames were all revealed in an installment of Pop-Up Video.[episode needed] The same installment also revealed that Brad Roberts had decided to hum, rather than actually sing, the refrain of "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" because humming the refrain sounded more resigned to him and that he never wrote lyrics for it.
- "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" – 3:53
- "Here I Stand Before Me" – 3:07
- "Superman's Song" (live from the US public radio program Mountain Stage)
- "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" – 3:53
- "Here I Stand Before Me" – 3:07
- "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" – 3:53
- "Superman's Song" (album version) – 4:31
- "How Does a Duck Know?" – 3:42
Cassette single Features cardboard picture liner
- "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
- "Here I Stand Before Me"
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Platinum||10,000*|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||Platinum|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||700,000|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 1, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "The band did not receive much international recognition until the 1993 release of their second album, God Shuffled His Feet. Particularly instrumental in increasing the band's exposure in the American market was the appearance of a new type of radio format, adult album-oriented alternative rock (AAA). These stations put the first single "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" in high rotation and the song peaked at No. 4 in the US Hot 100."
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