Smash Mouth’s “All Star” remains one of the most popular songs of the late 1990s. It became emblematic of the bright, happy pop music that dominated the charts at the time. In addition, it gained greater popularity due to its use in the film Shrek.
Eric Camp, the writer of the song, has been open about the process behind the track’s creation. This raises an interesting question: Why did he write the song?
The mail that inspired Smash Mouth’s most famous song
Songwriters often take inspiration from personal experience. Camp, interestingly, took influence from the lives of his band’s fans. Specifically, what he learned about Smash Mouth fans from reading fan mail gave him the idea to write “All Star.”
Camp told Songfacts “When we were on tour for the first record, it was still when people were writing fan mail in the form of paper and pencils and typewriters and stuff. We would get these big bags of fan mail and we would take them to the Laundromat and do our laundry and read all this mail while we were sitting around waiting for our clothes to get dry. And about 85-90 percent of the mail was from these kids who were being bullied or their brothers or older siblings were giving them shit for liking Smash Mouth or liking whatever they’re doing or the way they dressed and stuff. So we were like, ‘We should write a song for fans.’”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Camp noted how Smash Mouth was a band that incorporated elements of pop and punk rock into their music at the time. Because of this, fans of Smash Mouth were often kids without a scene of their own. Camp wanted “All Star” to be able to speak to those kids.
Camp added “It was sort of like a daily affirmation. It was designed to be an uplifting, self-confidence building song. The melody was very simple and very much in the scale.” The song certainly fit with Shrek, which is a movie about loving yourself the way you are — even if you’re a giant green ogre.
How ‘All Star’ resonated with fans
“All Star” was written for outcasts. Camp told The Ringer that the song ended up resonating with sports fans. He found this development ironic, as he was not into sports when he was in high school.
However, as time went on, “All Star” became the subject of numerous internet memes. Fans of the Shrek franchise and 1990s popular culture found numerous comic ways to re-contextualize the track. Many fans associate the song more with internet jokes than with sports of any kind. Regardless, the song still resonates to this day. That’s a big accomplishment for a song that’s over twenty years old.