Derek Waters in Drunk History

In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.

The hater: When Drunk History’s Derek Waters specifically requested to do another HateSong interview, we couldn’t deny him. His last one, on Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” was delightful, and Drunk History—which returns for its fourth season Tuesday, September 27—is one of the best shows Comedy Central currently offers. This time around, Waters went for slightly higher-hanging fruit, though his takedowns are just as fierce.

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The hated: American Authors, “Go Big Or Go Home” (2016)

Derek Waters: Thanks so much for having me back.

The A.V. Club: Of course. We don’t get a lot of requests for this one, so I’m glad you asked.

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DW: Really? I don’t get it. There are so many songs that I hate.

AVC: The one you picked this time is certainly very hateable.

DW: Had you heard it before?

AVC: I hadn’t, but I have heard American Authors’ other big single, “Best Day Of My Life.”

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DW: [Sings.] “It’s gonna be the best day of my life.” That one?

AVC: That’s the one. But enough about that dumb song. How did you pick “Go Big Or Go Home”?

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DW: Well, I don’t want to say it, but nothing’s going to beat “Soul Sister.” This is just another area at the garbage dump. But it’s still a big garbage dump.

I like to put shitty music on my Pandora when I’m rushing to work, so I want to get out of the car. [“Go Big Or Go Home”] was on one of my shitty Pandora stations, and it was like, “Wait, I paid for Pandora so I don’t have to hear advertising”—I thought it was a hot wings commercial or something.

First of all, when the song kicks in—and when I say “kicks in,” I mean “unfortunately continues”—it sounds like “Cotton Eye Joe.” I don’t want to date myself, but you remember that Rednex band that did “Cotton Eye Joe”? It’s got the same sound. It’s also promoting being passed out on the floor.

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I just always thought “Go Big Or Go Home” was a commercial campaign for something. I don’t know why there would be a need to say “Go Big Or Go Home,” especially in a song. It’s just a great waste of time. But I was trying to look at it, like, with an open mind. Maybe he’s talking about heaven. Maybe he’s saying, “Maybe you’ve just got to go big before you go home.” I don’t know how deep they thought about it, though.

It’s just an example of why I get upset when people say Americans are stupid. What do you think we’re going to be like if we hear this song over and over again? I haven’t been to a bar in a while, but I’m going to assume college bars have this playing every night.

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AVC: This is one of those situations where you feel like the song was written specifically so it could be featured in commercials. There’s no way American Authors feels like this is a message they just had to get out in the world.

DW: “When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was to be a musician. I lost everything I had, but I just knew that someday I’d be able to tell the world to ‘go big or go home.’ The world needs to know.”

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You know, “Let It Be,” then “Imagine,” then “Go Big Or Go Home.” I think that’s the order of importance.

Anyway, let’s analyze these lyrics. “Don’t feel like going home / But all my cash is gone”—okay, relatable. “I got nothing to do tonight / I’m passed out on the floor”—well, clearly you did something. He’s “up at the hotel bar” and then it doesn’t matter because “I’m feeling fine.” So he’s “passed out on the floor… up in the hotel bar,” but then he says, “I think life’s too short / it’s passing by”? Go home!

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I don’t mean that like I’m singing the song. I mean, if life is too short, get off the floor at the hotel bar. How can you go big if you’re on the floor? I don’t understand it. It’s mixed messages. “I gave the dice a roll…”

Oh, by the way, one thing that blew my mind, is that seven people wrote this song. Seven people. Coincidence? I mean, I’m not going to say it, but I’ll just set it up. How many deadly sins are there? Seven.

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“Then we lost control.” So now there’s more than one person. “You know we’re lucky that we’ve survived.” Survived what? Growing up with mom and dad’s money?

AVC: Drinking on the floor of a hotel bar.

DW: I’m sure it’s the W.

AVC: They won’t let you get too crazy there.

DW: Oh, they don’t? That’s the only hotel I’ve ever heard of.

AVC: Honestly, I’m just guessing. Anyway, then it goes, “Oh man, that boat, it flipped.”

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DW: “’Cause we jumped the ship / Oh man, that boat, it flipped / But we should do it all again tonight.” Then he sings “life’s too short,” but life’s a lot shorter if you listen to this song. My life is definitely shorter now, listening to this song.

I picture a bunch of red Solo cups and people who are basically animals dancing to this. Listen to this third verse: “Giving my body all the things I need / Rescue me with a little whiskey / Staying out, don’t need no sleep / I’ll sleep when I’m dead, you can bury me.” That’s sweet. We’re allowed to bury him. This is where I think it’s about heaven: “I guess I’m going home / ’Cause all my cash is gone.” So we go to heaven when we lose all our money? “I spent it all trying to feel alive.” This shit is deep.

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The last verse, “It’s getting crazy / We’re going to do some things we won’t forget / Go big or go home / I’m going crazy / I’m going to live my life, I got no regrets.” Why don’t you listen to what you just sang?

So yeah, my anger isn’t as strong as “Soul Sister,” but what really frustrates me about this song is that it’s one of those algebraic tracks that can get stuck in your head within two seconds. Also, knowing that people are having this filtered into their brains.

Let’s be honest: People need to be happy, and if this song makes them happy, that’s cool. I’m just confused. I feel like we all have a voice, but it’s like, “You’re taking your chance to use your voice to say ‘go big or go home’?” I don’t get it. It seems like it’s advertising for the bar that you’re in. Bars must have paid these guys to write this song. “Blow your money or leave. Give us all your money or leave. Stay here until you’re gone.”

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So many times, it says, “Because all my cash is gone.” I feel like they’re in with Wells Fargo or something. What would be the goal of this song? What do you think?

AVC: I’m not sure. Knowing the title, it doesn’t seem like it should be about blowing money drinking and then being sad about it. It seems like he should be singing about how life is more than this or some other bullshit metaphor. He says he has no regrets, but it seems like he has some.

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DW: Right. “I spent it all trying to feel alive.” I do partake in a couple of drinks now and again, but I’ve never drank to feel alive. “I woke up on the floor! God, I feel alive. I don’t have any money, but man, this bruise on my forehead is really cool.”

AVC: That sounds like a young-person thing. It’s cool if you’re 16, but when you’re 35, and you wake up on the floor, you think, “I don’t feel great about what just happened.”

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DW: Right. But also, if you’re younger, you shouldn’t be spending all your cash at a bar.

But you’re right. This is the same kind of music that’s in commercials. It could be about an iPod or something. It sounds like it was made in hopes to get a commercial or get a company behind it.

AVC: When I was prepping for this interview, I read that American Authors opened the Wal-Mart shareholders conference this year.

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DW: Jackpot. There you go. There’s your culprit. “We’re kind of a homegrown band. We do little shows for Wal-Mart.” Oh, that’s so sweet of you. If they’re opening for Wal-Mart, I think that speaks for itself. I mean, I’m sure they’re all very sweet guys.

AVC: They live in Brooklyn now, apparently. They seem like a weird band to live in Brooklyn, but sure, why not?

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DW: Exactly. This band has taught us that it’s going to be the best day of our lives, but also that we have to go big or go home. So that’s a mixed message.

AVC: What do you think American Authors means?

DW: I don’t know, but it’s probably not what it sounds like. It’s very pretentious. I think maybe they’re trying to say they’re Americans?

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When people say Americans are dumb, this music isn’t helping. This isn’t helping anybody. I don’t understand what the positives are. Maybe they’ll get a 7-Eleven deal with Big Gulps.

AVC: That would be a good tie-in for them.

DW: Am I wrong that 7-Eleven or some places like that say, “You gotta go big,” because you’ve got to get a three-gallon Slurpee? You don’t want to just have a small Slurpee. You’ve got to go big.

AVC: They could put this song in a commercial for a Carl’s Jr. burger that has three patties and pulled pork on top or something dumb.

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DW: “Go big or go home!” This is the most I’ve ever said “go big or go home.”

Oh! It could be Dave & Busters, too. Something like that. It feels like chicken wings and college basketball playing in the background.

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AVC: Right, like you’re going to order the appetizer plate you split with the table, because why not? Go big or go home.

DW: “You guys want regular seating, good seating, or do you want to go big? Because if you don’t go big, you’ve got to go home.” I can definitely picture a bunch of shots being taken during this.

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We have to try and find something positive about this song.

AVC: Did you watch the video?

DW: The video, I was impressed by. I thought it was a really cool animation. They made a very cool video.

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AVC: There we go. It looks nice.

DW: Great video. Just turn off the volume. Great video, if you don’t have sound.

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Can you ask me maybe one more question?

AVC: Let’s see, what other questions do I have here…

DW: Have I ever gone big? Have I ever not been able to go big, and had to go home?

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AVC: Have you ever told anyone on Drunk History to go big or go home?

DW: I can humbly say I’ve never done that. “Hey, man, if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to go big or go home.” I’m proud of myself that I’ve never told someone to do that. It’s very aggressive. “Hey, man, I can’t go big. I don’t have any money. Now I have to leave, because I don’t have any money.”

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Come on, guys. Not everyone is wealthy like you. You don’t need money to go big.

AVC: You can make your own alcohol and end up on a hotel floor.

DW: Did you like how he sings, “with a little bit of a whiskey,” and then they use the tuner thing where their voice goes up?

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AVC: Yep. Auto-Tune.

DW: It actually made me want to quit drinking. This is what it’s come to.

AVC: That would be a funny genesis for your sobriety.

DW: This actually might be a great time to get kids not to drink. “Hey, son, I want you to listen to this song. This is what happens when you drink. You like this kind of music.”

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That being said, you and I both know that we could hear this song in a bar and if we were having a really good time, it would be cheating music, like those anthems that are easy to sing along to, and there’s nobody that doesn’t want to sing with somebody else. This song is going to bring people together. It’s where “We Are The World” left off.

Remember last year when you found out that “Hey Soul Sister” was about Burning Man? Would you do a quick search?

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AVC: I did, but there wasn’t a ton of information out there about this song. The internet was woefully thin this time around.

DW: Is it bad that I’m doing an obscure one?

AVC: No, it’s fine. Here’s something: American Authors’ band name used to be The Blue Pages, and they’re from Boston. There are four guys in the band, and this is off their second album.

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DW: Blue Pages? Is that a reference to Yellow Pages?

AVC: I guess they stuck with the book theme when they went with the new band name.

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DW: They love books. They’re American authors. This is what an American author is.

AVC: What American authors do you think they are? Salinger?

DW: Probably Salinger. Probably Poe.

Imagine someone who’s 13 and in their English class. They have to Google, because they need to find an American author to write a book report on, and they come across these guys. They’re like, “These are my favorite American authors.”

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I just like imagining. Did you see there were seven writers?

AVC: I wonder if all four guys in the band are included in that seven.

DW: Like you said, it’s an organized band, so I bet it’s the people that formed the group.

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AVC: Yeah, it’s four of the guys in the band, and then three other randos, all of whom have probably made so much money off American Authors’ success.

DW: Oh my god, I’m sure. Like you said, the commercials.

AVC: “Best Day Of My Life” has been played over 115 million times on YouTube, which is nuts. Who’s choosing to listen to that song not as part of the ad campaign that they are already watching?

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DW: I would say it’s a lot of people that don’t think they’re going to have a good day, so they need to crank that to be like, “This is going to be the best day of my life.”

I’m sure they’re great guys. I’m just not into the song.

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