T.J. Miller doesn’t get The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow”
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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: T.J. Miller is a jack-of-all-trades. He frequently draws the ire of Doug Benson on Doug Loves Movies and hosts his own podcast, Cashing In With T.J. Miller. He’s starred in movies like Cloverfield, Our Idiot Brother, and Yogi Bear, and hosted his own Comedy Central series, Mash Up. He’s also recorded two albums of original music, The Extended Play E.P. and The Extended Play E.P. Illegal Art Remix Tape, which is available now on Illegal Art Records. He’s also not a shy or quiet guy, which is why The A.V. Club asked him to tell us about his least favorite song of all time.
The hated: The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” (2009)
T.J. Miller: The whole premise of the song “Boom Boom Pow” by The Black Eyed Peas is that you have to get this big, sort of ambiguous thing, you know? And you gotta get that. That’s the first eight lines of the song. [Sings.] “You gotta get that / You gotta get that / You gotta get that boom boom pow.” So it’s clear from the outset that this is a thing you need to get. You’ve gotta get it if you don’t have it. Clearly, the point of the song is that you’ve gotta get that boom boom pow, but they never explain what it is. So what the fuck is it? It’s terrifyingly vague what he’s talking about.
The A.V. Club: The music video for “Boom Boom Pow” is basically an advertisement for HP computers, so maybe that’s what “that” was. It could also be whatever other company paid them money to use the song.
TM: Exactly. The boom boom pow is whatever branded endorsement comes their way at that point. It’s just so clearly not about anything. At one point that fellow Will.I.Am or whatever his name is, he says, “Is it shittin’ on you”—I’m reading my notes—“shitting on you with that boom boom pow?” He says it several times; it’s not just once. By the end of the song he’s talking about shitting on you with a concept. How insane is that, and how rude, to shit on someone with a concept that they haven’t even been explained, or don’t understand?
AVC: How can you stop it if you can’t understand it?
TM: Exactly. You at least get what I’m talking about.
TM: It means something different to everyone in the group, too. Fergie is like, “If you wanna get down, put your hands up in the air.” What is she talking about? Make up your mind, Fergie! Is it Fergie or Ferguson, as you used to call yourself in your ’80s glam-rock Disney Kids Incorporated period? Don’t hide from that, first off.
And then Will.I.Am says, “The beat goes boom boom,” so what is he talking about? Is he talking about the beat? When says, “You gotta get that boom boom pow,” if he’s talking about the beat, we’ve got it. We’ve already got it. You’re listening to the song, you know? It’s almost too confusing for me to listen to.
For instance, at one point Fergie says “I’m so 2008. You’re so 2000 and late.” [She actually says “3008.” —ed.] Now 2008 is a long time ago. It’s four years old. She really should have said, “You’re so 2008. I’m so 2000 and late,” if she had the foresight to know that after 2008 her saying “I’m so 2008” is really so 2000 and late, you know? We’re doing better than she is now when we listen to the song because she’s so 2008. It’s like, well, yeah, we’re 2000 and late. We’re later on than 2008.
That really is the crux of why the song is so awful: that it’s so confusing. They never say anything. I feel strongly that sense is no better than nonsense. It’s not superior in any way to nonsense, because that’s all they’re singing. They’re just singing nonsense.
AVC: But it’s such a catchy beat, right?
TM: Or it’s such a catchy “boom boom pow.”
AVC: There were electro-influenced songs before this, but this one was such a big hit. It sold 6 million copies and the video has something like 134 million YouTube views. It has to make you wonder if “Boom Boom Pow” influenced this whole electronic pop music thing we’re seeing now.
TM: I think you’re so right. What’s crazy to me is that what you’re saying implies that 134 million people have been confused of their own volition.
AVC: But none of them have put as much thought into it as you have.
TM: No, of course not. Why would they? But yeah, it’s so popular. That’s the other thing: It really does signify that Americans would rather not think than think. There aren’t any lyrics anymore. No one’s listening to the lyrics. If they were, they’d be like, “You gotta get that WHAT? Gotta get the…WHAT are you talking about?” Stop telling me to get something that I don’t understand what it is.
By the way, if your name is William and you make somebody stop in the middle of your name to over pronounce it, that’s a serious problem for me.
AVC: Since your name is T.J., you’re making your name shorter. You’re helping people out.
TM: Yeah, but I don’t go, “It’s not T.J. It’s T-period-I-Am-J.” If I’m trying to make it shorter, he’s making his name longer. Maybe that’s really where he broke it down. Here I am, a guy trying to make it really easy for people to say my name, to talk to me, in conversation to use my name, to say awful things about me, and he turns and says, “Uh, it’s not William. It’s Will.I.Am.” And I think that’s a little bit selfish. Call me crazy, and I’m serious, please do. Call me crazy.
That’s sort of why I went into the music industry and stopped the acting for a while and slowed down with the comedy and really focused on the music. It’s because I want to say something. And actually when you do refer to me as a music artist, it’s “T. [clears throat] ‘It’s me!’ J. Miller.”
AVC: Some people could call you crazy for picking this song and not the other big Black Eyed Peas single of 2009, “I Got A Feeling.”
TM: [Yells.] Because “tonight’s gonna be a good night” makes sense! They’re telling you, “I got a feeling.” What’s the feeling? That tonight’s gonna be a good night? Okay, great. Me too. In fact, everybody does that went out tonight. No one goes out and is like, “I’ve got a feeling that tonight is gonna be the worst.” Right?
AVC: You could feel that way, but then you’re just being defeatist.
TM: Right, and those people don’t end up going out. They just stay at home and watch The Mindy Project. Really though, Black Eyed Peas, I actually applaud you for saying I’ve got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night. That’s a great theme of a song. But to say, you gotta get that boom boom pow, it’s just nonsense. It might as well be called, “You Really Really Need To Cacaraca Hooch.” And if you need to spell that, it’s c-a-c-a-r-a-c-a and then space, and then h-o-o-c-h, which is one half of Hootie from Hootie And The Blowfish.
AVC: Or Turner And Hooch.
TM: Ooh, I like your Turner And Hooch reference.
AVC: But in all seriousness, this song is just a commercial.
TM: Right, and The Black Eyed Peas used to be in underground hip-hop. I remember when I was in college in 1974, and The Black Eyed Peas were a young, homosexual boy band called One Direction that was known for their underground hip-hop music. And then it’s almost like they just made a conscious decision. They were like, “You know what? Why are we doing this? Don’t we want to be rich and commercially successful?” So then they decided to get that boom boom pow, and maybe that’s what the boom boom pow is. It’s being commercial, allowing yourself to be mainstream and accessible and advertisement-driven. Maybe that’s what the boom boom pow is. It means you’ve got to get advertisement-driven, but that doesn’t sound as good. [Sings to the tune of “Boom Boom Pow.”] “You gotta get advertisement-driven! You gotta get advertisement-driven!” It doesn’t quite flow.
AVC: A lot of people in L.A. are going for that boom boom pow, you could say.
TM: I mean, I certainly am. Do you know about my line of fragrances? Can you be the first to publish it? I’m doing a line of fragrances that I’m really excited about. The first one we’re rolling out is called “Wet Garbage,” and it’s that thing you get in New York when you fall in love but you’re distracted for a second. We’re doing that one, and then we’ve got “Blueberry Panda Muffin,” which just smells like everything you want all at once. I think that’s what it’s called. Maybe it’s “Blueberry Muffin,” but it’s one of those. It’s on my podcast. I also have a podcast on the Nerdist Channel called Cashing In With T.J. Miller. As of right now, there are links on the podcast to buy the remix of my original music album, The Extended Play EP—which is available on iTunes and from Comedy Central—but the remix is now available through Illegal Art Records, and it’s called The Extended Play EP: The Illegal Art Remix Tape. That’s available also on iTunes. I really do have that boom boom pow.