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: Demi Adejuyigbe is on his way up in the world. He worked as a digital producer on @midnight before launching Gilmore Guys, a wildly popular podcast about Gilmore Girls. Since then, he’s picked up a gig as a writer on this fall’s best new show, The Good Place. Adejuyigbe also spends a good amount of time on his own material, a lot of which he posts on his hilarious Twitter account. There he constantly churns out witty bon mots as well as off-kilter videos and audio mashups.
The hated: Hot Chelle Rae, “Tonight Tonight” (2011)
Demi Adejuyigbe: This song in general just feels like it was made in a boy band pop song generator, but then they went one step further and dumbed it down to the point that the lyrics don’t make sense, the music doesn’t make sense, the music video doesn’t make sense. There’s not a single part of it that is coherent or works. And dumb pop songs are awesome. I love them. But this one, there’s something about it that as soon as I hear the lyrics, I pause, because there are some sentences that don’t even work. I don’t understand how this was released and no one went, “This is a bad song.”
The A.V. Club: They’re from Nashville, but the song is about being on a Hollywood rooftop. What do these guys know about life on a Hollywood rooftop?
DA: They mention California, like, three different times, and they say, “We’re going to run this town,” and I don’t know which town they’re talking about.
AVC: Maybe they live in California now. Still, it’s just cliché.
DA: It’s super cliché. And there’s already a good song called “Tonight Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins, so that just makes me unreasonably mad.
This song is the same over and over for the whole four minutes, and the guitarist is playing one note the entire time. It blew my mind when I noticed that, because it just means there are maybe six notes being played in this entire song over and over. It’s nuts. It kills me. I hate it so much.
AVC: It’s definitely one of those songs that’s so generic in so many ways. It feels like it’s made in a lab. There’s a bunch of songs like that, and they’re all featured on ESPN. It’s like they’re written just to be in commercials and before baseball games.
DA: I just don’t understand who this song is for. The funniest thing to me is they go through this entire song, and they’re like, “Come on now, everybody,” and then one of the last lines is, “Even the white kids.” Who’s listening to this song if not the white kids already? I don’t know. I can’t imagine black people popping off to Hot Chelle Rae.
What does “Hot Chelle Rae” even mean? I googled it! There’s nothing! I don’t know what it means! This song drives me up the wall. Did you see the music video for it?
AVC: I did, unfortunately.
DA: It’s nuts. It really does feel like they just turned on the TV one day and were watching music videos and someone just said, “Got it,” and went to direct a video. They didn’t write anything. They didn’t try to make a cohesive story or idea or shot list. It’s just, “Now you’re in a park and children are chasing you, don’t know why, you have a tattoo of Zach Galifianakis, again, you don’t know why…”
AVC: Which is a terrible line in the song. It’s just the worst.
DA: It’s such a bad line. It makes no sense. It seems like they just figured out how to pronounce Galifianakis, and they were like, “Let’s show this off.”
The video starts off with the band in its boring office job, which is like every 1999 music video. And then they break out and they party and they’re like, “Fuck working, this is what life’s all about.” The only thing missing is an old guy looking down a fisheye lens, and he’s the boss, and he’s saying, “You’re not doing your job right” or some shit.
AVC: Or a building security manager chasing them around the roof.
DA: Right. Exactly. And then when they leave their job, you can tell it’s coming, that something’s going to happen. The walls all disappear, and then they’re in the park at a children’s birthday party. And it makes no sense. There’s nothing in the song that suggests they should be at a children’s birthday party. Nothing to suggest that the clown that is there should be there. No reason for them to be on ukuleles… Ukuleles are not in the song! I don’t understand it. I watched this video, like, three times in preparation for this, just trying to make sense of what’s happening, and first of all, my mind turned to mush, but also I just don’t understand the choices made in this video.
AVC: There’s also a guy from Glee that’s in this video, because his brother is in the band. He’s the one doing all the pointless onscreen making out with the girl. They show it so much. Why do they keep showing this? What does this have to do with the video?
DA: There’s a part where he just starts vigorously humping the copier they’re on, too, and it’s super gross. I hope that guy got paid a lot of money. He’s on Glee. He shouldn’t have to do this stuff.
AVC: His name is Chord Overstreet.
DA: That’s not a real person’s name, I’m sorry to say.
The woman he’s making out with on top of the copier is the same woman that’s shown later on sitting on the drummer’s lap and flirting, and then he pushes her off like, “Sorry, lady, I gotta play the drums now. This is my part of the song.” But then he goes into the part of the song where the drums cut out, and it’s just hand claps. I don’t know why they have this woman playing two different parts or why they have the drummer decide that’s he’s got to push her off like, “I can’t flirt. I’m all about the music,” in a song that is clearly not about the music. I’m also pretty sure she has a nip slip when he pushes her off, too. This poor woman has the world’s worst casting agent.
AVC: She was cast to be a hot babe who gets passed around.
AVC: What else don’t you like about the song? Is it just the video?
DA: I hadn’t seen the video until I agreed to do this, which is crazy, because it’s way worse than I could’ve ever expected.
But the song itself has lyrics that, I swear to god, feel like they were pulled out of a hat. If the band came out and said, “Yeah, that song we made in 2011 was purposefully a parody of the music industry,” I would go, “Thank god,” because it’s so incoherent, and they switch gears as to what the song is about literally every verse.
It starts off by going, “It’s been a really, really messed up week,” and I can tell that the song was written for teenagers. Maybe One Direction or 5 Seconds To Summer said no, because they read the lyrics. And then these guys out of Nashville come forth like, “We’ll take whatever song you’ve got.”
The bridge to the chorus is “La la la, whatever / La la la, it doesn’t matter.” They didn’t fucking write anything! They didn’t write a goddamn bridge. They just started improvising. It’s nuts! I feel like I’m getting a bit heated about this, and if people don’t usually get this heated, please let me know.
AVC: Get heated. My least favorite line is “She’s a California dime but it’s time for me to quit her.”
DA: I don’t know what that means. I think it’s supposed to be something like, “In a city of hot people she is also a hot person,” but also, fuck this guy. Also, he’s not from California. What is he doing? Why does he keep mentioning California?
I think my least favorite line… All of the chorus is pretty bad, but there’s one line that goes, “Tonight, tonight, there’s a party on the rooftop top of the world.” That’s not a thing. You either need more words or less words than “rooftop top of the world.” I don’t know what a “rooftop top of the world” is. You’re not partying on top of the world. You could say there’s a party on the rooftop happening tonight or something? I don’t know. It’s a jumble of words. It seems like they wanted to get some key phrases in there that sound good in pop songs, like “top of the world” and “rooftop,” and they didn’t have a place to put them both in, so they just stuffed them together, and it’s incoherent.
After that they say, “We’re dancing on the edge of the Hollywood sign,” which is the same thing. You can’t dance on the edge of the Hollywood sign. You’re not in Hollywood. It doesn’t even rhyme. I don’t know why they chose this line.
AVC: Maybe it’s metaphorical Hollywood. Or they like it because people can identify with it. Everyone knows what the Hollywood sign is.
DA: They don’t even have to mention a city. Just say, “We’re dancing on the edge of the world tonight” or something. The Hollywood sign is so specific and weirdly cloying, like they’re trying for some sort of imagery that is not working because none of their sentences are right. It seems like they put lyrics through Google translate and then translated it back to English.
The next line is “I don’t know if I’ll make it but watch how good I fake it,” which means nothing because they haven’t set up a goal to make or fake. They just wanted a rhyme and “make it” was the next phrase that came out of the hat.
AVC: That whole stanza is problematic.
DA: In every sense of the word. It’s offensive to music lovers, and it’s offensive to people who like pop songs. I’m a big defender of generic pop songs that are just like, “Dance, dance, dance your ass off,” and then this one comes out, and I sort of get where people are coming from when they say pop music is awful. This is what they think of, and this is the kind of song that is clearly a cash grab or an attempt to trick people into thinking they’re hearing a good song when it’s just not. They had the melody first, and then they said, “Fuck it, let’s get to the studio now.”
AVC: There are tons of pop songs that have confusing lyrics or lyrics that just say, “Let’s go out and get crazy,” and some of them are great. This song fails in its execution.
DA: Even when bands have trouble writing that kind of material, what really sets a song apart and makes it good is that the music itself, even without the lyrics, works. There’s something so annoying about this song just being the same rhythm literally over and over like a loop in Garage Band for three and a half minutes that just drives me nuts.
AVC: Is this the song Hot Chelle Rae knew in their souls they needed to write? Is this why they got into music?
DA: It does kind of feel like they didn’t intend to get into music or to ever write. You know how Toto is a band made up of session players from other bands that got together to form their own group? This seems like the pop version of that. These are guys that toured with Miley Cyrus and Kesha and liked playing music, so they wanted to see if they could write music. They did this, and it’s clear that they shouldn’t have.
I don’t know what their history is. I’m sure they probably have a true love for music and love to play guitar or whatever, but it upsets me that anyone who would think of music as their destiny or what they were meant to do in life would write this song.
AVC: It’s like they got into music to be famous, not necessarily to play guitar. That’s why they got the haircuts, and that’s why they’re dancing on the Hollywood sign.
DA: That’s why they’re all wearing Billy Idol leather jackets. Every single one of them at one time is wearing a different variation of a Billy Idol over-zippered, obnoxious-collared jacket.
AVC: It’s all just the gears of the machine. You can see what happened here, and you see it rewarded. It’s triple platinum and has 45 million views on YouTube.
DA: Why would you write anything else?
AVC: Exactly. Why wouldn’t you just go into it for the money?
DA: We should all go into music writing for the money.
AVC: How did you pick this song? You’ve clearly put some thought into it.
DA: It’s funny, actually. I really love this feature, and every time I hear a song I don’t like I think, “Is this the song I hate so much?” There was a time where my pick used to be Black Eyed Peas, “There’s No Getting Over You,” I think it’s called? I don’t remember what it’s called but the lyrics are, “There’s no getting over you,” but it’s off-rhythm, and then the chorus is just “party and party and party,” but then I heard this song in an airport when I was, I think, flying to Boston one time, and it just clicked in my head that there’s no song on earth that I want to hear less than this song, ever again.
I’ll dance to pretty much anything. And I think if I heard that Black Eyed Peas song at a bar or a club and I was having fun, I’d dance to it. If I heard this song, I really think I would not. I can’t imagine liking this song or being in a good enough mood to think that it’s time to dance to Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight Tonight.” And that’s why I hate it so much. And then analyzing it on any level makes me even angrier.