Eugene Mirman on why The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” is just the worst
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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: Though he’s been doing stand-up for years now, Eugene Mirman’s most prominent gig is as the voice of Gene Belcher on Bob’s Burgers. When he’s not wearing a burger costume as his animated alter ego, though, Mirman’s hustling: He’s released three solo comedy albums (2004’s The Absurd Nightclub Comedy Of Eugene Mirman, 2006’s En Garde, Society!, and 2009’s God Is A Twelve-Year-Old Boy With Aspergers), a book (2009’s The Will To Whatevs), and Comedy Central has just released a DVD of his latest special for the network, Eugene Mirman: An Evening Of Comedy In A Fake Underground Laboratory. Given his predilection for brainy, absurdist humor, The A.V. Club thought Mirman might make a completely left-field pick for his HateSong, and while he didn’t, really, the reasons for his pure, unadulterated abhorrence are plenty smart.
The hated: The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling” (2009)
Eugene Mirman: When I first heard about this story, I vaguely thought of this song and then I thought about how we’re no longer in a position where we often hear something that we truly hate. You don’t really hear that much stuff, except a handful of pop songs, of which this happens to be, by far, the worst. And others are even good.
So there was literally a two-year period where anywhere I went in the world, this song would be playing somewhere. Normally, a song would just go away after five or six months. But this song, for literally years, would just be in every bodega in New York or every cab. You’d think it was done and then you’d find yourself somewhere in England, or I went to France with my girlfriend and we’d be having a lovely time in a café, and that song would come on. This song would just follow me, and it haunted me. It was inescapable and slightly infuriating.
AVC: Since you live in New York City, it’s not as if you ever have to listen to the radio.
EM: I have unlimited access to iTunes. But when you go to buy a sandwich or you go to take a car or a cab, it would just be there. I’ve done things where you get out of a thing and go into another thing and it would be playing on another station. It was like a conspiracy.
AVC: It was also in every commercial and TV show there for a while.
EM: Yeah, it was just sort of maddening. I mean, the idea of having a fun night is a good idea, but executed in a way that I found, for whatever reason, infuriating.
AVC: Why do you think that is?
EM: I think to a degree because of its omnipresence. There are probably TV shows I don’t like, and if everywhere I went, they were playing for years… It’s more saturation than anything.
I think there’s something super-dumb about it. Not to say that pop music in any way shouldn’t do that. There’s nothing wrong with having fun or wanting to be trashy. It’s just poorly trashy. It’s like a 9-year-old’s dream of what fun or promiscuity is.
I also did once see Will.i.am speak at a tech thing at the Democratic National Convention, and you know how there’s the phrase “viral videos”? Like, that’s a thing? Well instead of talking about that, he’d make up terms for things that already had terms. He talked about how when he made that video for Obama it was “baton-able,” like it was a baton that you passed on to people. And he just kept talking about how it was a “baton-able,” but there’s already a word for it—it’s “viral video.” He did that for a lot of tech terms that already exist. It’s like instead of calling something a webpage or a website, you’d call it a “word picture” or a “picture page.”
AVC: In a way, that sounds like what The Black Eyed Peas were trying to do with their music. Like, they claim it’s this revolutionary new kind of pop, but the songs are really just longer versions of commercial jingles, which have existed forever. They’re not reinventing the wheel.
EM: The truth is, I would normally not bother to be so annoyed by something, mostly because I could avoid it. I do think there is something pointless to me saying, “I hate New Kids On The Block.” It’s ridiculous. There’s no real reason for me to like it. It’s not for me.
AVC: The New Kids are probably nice guys.
EM: Sure, they’re probably nice guys. Even The Black Eyed Peas—I’m sure the one that floats in the video is very nice. And even Will.i.am, I’m sure, is kind and helpful.
But lots of stuff isn’t for me. I’m not mad at the movie Alvin And The Chipmunks. I don’t have kids, I’ve never seen it. But the difference is, everywhere I went, this thing followed me for years across nations.
AVC: It’s one of the most successful songs in the history of popular music.
EM: Exactly. And there were songs that were that popular that were just good songs. Like “Empire State Of Mind” also spent years in every bodega, but it was a good song so it was okay. So it’s fine to do that. I just wished the world had picked a different song to like.
AVC: The song feels so blandly likeable, too. It popped up everywhere. Will.i.am and Jessie J sang a duet of it for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. There’s a flash mob of 21,000 people to the track for an episode of Oprah. It was in a Happy Meal commercial.
EM: Whatever makes “Hey Ya” good, it is the evil side of that. It is the anti-matter to the matter of “Hey Ya.”
AVC: When we talked to T.J. Miller for this feature, he picked another Black Eyed Peas song, “Boom Boom Pow,” as his song. When asked why he didn’t pick “I Gotta Feeling,” he said it’s because it was positive and upbeat and there’s nothing wrong with having a good time.
EM: But they really mean ladies are going to make out in the corner of a weird party. Which is totally fine. But, yeah, it is positive and yes, it feels bad being so mad at a song that’s saying, “We’re going to have a nice evening.” The difference is that it feels insidious. I guess it’s not even false. I’m sure they’re going to have fun. I bet they’re having fun when they sing it, but I don’t know.
AVC: It’s just not the kind of fun you want to have.
EM: I think it would be fun to be at a party where you yell “L’Chaim!” and are cheers-ing and dancing around. I don’t know how you can corrupt fun. I’m for everything in the song except for the actual song. Maybe part of it is that they’ve co-opted fun in a way that drives me crazy. It’s like they stole from me a thing that I enjoy.
AVC: They stole a bunch of your time by making you listen to it over and over, too.
EM: It’s not, in a sense, their faults. It’s the fault of the world, as a whole, coming together to like this catchy monster. Actually, I don’t know who to blame here. The Black Eyed Peas should try to make a song that is as popular as “I Gotta Feeling” was. I’m just not happy that they succeeded.