In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in anticipation of the Sochi Olympics, we’re celebrating jock jams—or songs we think should be jock jams.
“Sweetness” was going to break Jimmy Eat World. The song had been a live staple for a couple of years before it was released on Bleed American, and it had become such a fan favorite that the band even had an FAQ about it on its old website. An early version turned up on the Japanese version of the band’s B-sides compilation, and hearing it, I was convinced “Sweetness” would make Jimmy Eat World one of the biggest bands in the universe. “That song’s so catchy, it’s going to cause rioting in the streets,” I’d tell people.
When Bleed American finally came out in the summer of 2001, there was little doubt Jimmy Eat World would be huge; it just didn’t happen via the song I thought. Peaking at No. 75 on Billboard’s Hot 100, “Sweetness” barely qualified as a minor hit, not the city-leveling hook monster I’d built it up to be. But once “The Middle” transformed Jimmy Eat World from an also-ran emo band to a platinum-seller, its songs started popping up everywhere.
I was watching the playoffs or World Series in 2002 on TV when I heard a snippet of guitarist-vocalist Jim Adkins sing “Are you listening?” over the PA at whatever stadium was hosting the game. It made so much sense: The way Adkins repeatedly sings “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh” was perfect for a stadium—it was far less random than the “Day-o!” that was starting to pop up during games. I could picture the person in charge of those musical snippets playing the part where Adkins goes, “If you’re listening / Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh / Sing it back,” then cutting the music so the crowd would repeat “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh!” Then maybe “Go Sox!” or something.
But this too was a blip. “Sweetness” didn’t catch on as a fun crowd sing-along at sporting events. That’s for the best. I love the song so much that it would’ve bummed me out to hear it repeated into oblivion during timeouts at basketball or football games. Even if it had caught on like that, overexposure wouldn’t dissipate its maddeningly catchiness. There’s still time to riot.