Drive By

Drive By by krin.jpg

Date Aired
March 23rd, 2012
Running Time
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Todd plays "Drive By" on his piano.

A pop song review

Todd: Let me take you back a couple decades.

Video of The Wallflowers - "One Headlight"
Jakob Dylan: So long ago, I don't remember when...

Todd (VO): See, back in the 90s, we had a little genre of music we called "adult alternative." [Brief glimpse of Todd doing quote marks with fingers] [Clips of Hootie & the Blowfish - "Let Her Cry"...] It was a new genre driven by the grunge and alt-rock boom of the early 90s, but was intended more for people turned off by the [...Alice in Chains - "Man in the Box"...] sheer loudness and rough edges of many of those bands; [...Gin Blossoms - "Hey Jealousy"...] and instead of being inspired by metal or hard rock, it took inspiration from a variety of different genres like the jangly college rock of the 80s, [...Jewel - "You Were Meant for Me"...] folk singers from the indie scene, [...and Counting Crows - "Mr. Jones"] and the roots rock of the 70s.

Clip of Alanis Morissette - "Ironic"
Alanis: It's like rain

Todd (VO): Adult alternative gradually took a big chunk of the market share away from the more polished, less thoughtful [album cover of Celine Dion's Unison] easy-listening format, and a lot of its artists [REM - "Losing My Religion"] were among the most important and successful pop stars of the decade. [Clips of...] If you liked hearing "Under the Bridge" or "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" five times a day, you could turn on an adult alternative station and be satisfied.

Billie Joe Armstrong: I hope you had the time of your life

Todd: But I think that format may be dying.

Clips of Katy Perry - "Firework..."

Todd (VO): Easy-listening is starting to take back over, and nowadays, you're as likely to hear songs written by studio hacks like "Firework" or [...Bruno Mars's...] "Just the Way You Are," rather than ones written by actual, you know, artists. [...The Script - "For the First Time"...] And there are still adult alternative bands and artists that have hits, but they just seem less important now. I mean, is The Script ever going to matter as much as Oasis? [...Colbie Caillat - "Brighter Than the Sun"...] Is Colbie Caillat anything but the poor man's Sheryl Crow? I don't think so.

Todd: And I think a big reason why is that their lyrics just seem much blander.

Clip of Gavin DeGraw - "Not Over You"

Todd (VO): In this new breed of light rock hits, they're always love songs or breakup songs...

Gavin: I'm...not over you

Todd (VO): They just don't take any chances. You wanna see what I'm talking about, just compare the [Clips of Jason Mraz - "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)"...] not good but at least interesting white rap that Jason Mraz released ten years ago [...and "Lucky" with Colbie Caillat] to the lifeless crap he makes now. [Clip of "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" by...] It's enough to make me lament the commercial decline of Coldplay, a band I never even liked, but at least I respect they were trying harder than most of these guys.

Todd: So I guess I should be grateful that among the last remaining hitmakers of this genre, there's a band like Train around to keep things interesting.

Clip of Train - "Calling All Angels"
Pat Monahan: I need a sign

Todd (VO): Yeah, believe it or not, I just called Train interesting. Believe me, I never thought I'd say that about the band that gave us a song as boring as "Calling All Angels."

Pat: Calling all you angels...

Todd (VO): When they came out more than a decade ago, I definitely thought [Clip of "Drops of Jupiter"] they were a bunch of super-lame Counting Crows wannabes. [Cover of self-titled album] Even their name was dull.

Todd: I distinctly remember this VH1 show I watched where [Page of VH1's 100 Best Songs of the Past 25 Years] a bunch of people were listing their favorite songs of the past twenty years or so, [Picture of Goo Goo Dolls] and Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls listened to all this 80s college rock, [picture of Duran Duran] and someone from Duran Duran picked some underground techno shit; but Train lead singer Pat Monahan listed the most cliched, obvious choices, you know, like [clips of...] "Sweet Child o' Mine," "In Your Eyes," "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Clip from High Fidelity
Barry (Jack Black): Couldn't you be any more obvious than that, Rob? How about, I don't know, the Beatles? How about fucking...fucking Beethoven?

Todd: That's just kind of the band Train are.

Clip of "Meet Virginia"

Todd (VO): They never seem to mean much to anybody. Train was no one's life in high school, no one doodled a Train logo on their notebooks or put up posters in their locker. Who cares, right?

Todd: So what changed about them in their late period work that I suddenly find so interesting? Well...I think the lead singer might've gone insane.

Clip of "Hey, Soul Sister"
Pat: Hey

Todd (VO): Let me explain. After their fourth album flopped and produced no hits, Train went on a hiatus for several years, and when they reunited, they said they stopped trying to just write hits and rediscovered their love of the music. And, apparently, it paid off.

Todd: Whereas I could usually count on hearing one or less singles from each Train album, this one produced a decent handful of hits, the biggest of which, of course, was "Hey, Soul Sister."

Pat: Hey, soul sister...

Todd (VO): Now I gave that song a harsh review, but, as mean as I was...

Todd: ...I think I actually underplayed the crazy badness of the lyrics.

Pat: Watching you is the only drug I need
So gangster, I'm so thug

Todd: Why?

Clip of "Drops of Jupiter"

Todd (VO): Looking back, the weird lyrical choices were always there.

Pat: Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken

Todd:, Monahan just let loose with it on that last album.

Clip of "Save Me, San Francisco"

Todd (VO): I legitimately don't understand how his mind works. Inside this man's head is a mess of awful word choices, terrible forced rhymes and bizarre pop culture references.

Clip of "If It's Love"
Pat: My feet have been on the floor
Flat like an Idol singer
Remember Winger, I digress

Todd: You see, good lyricists use words like a [picture of...] jeweler carefully carving a diamond, using just the right words to achieve the precise effect they're going for. Monahan is like a [clip from The Shining] lunatic axe murderer swinging wildly at helpless victims. And that's also true of their latest song...

Video for...

Todd (VO): "Drive By," which was a song that, very early on, I heard rumblings about being an unfathomably bad disaster.

Todd: A Train wreck, if you will. And when I finally heard it...yeah. Yeah. I thought [clip of...] "Hey, Soul Sister"'s sudden name drop of Mr. Mister right in the second line of the chorus was a terrible move. I thought it was terrible they rhymed "radio" with "stereo." But as far as awful hooks go, I had no idea how bad it could get.

Pat: Oh I swear to you
I'll be there for you
This is not a drive by-y-y-y-y
Just a shy guy looking for a two-ply
Hefty bag to hold my-y-y-y-y-y-y love

Todd: [agog] What the what?!

Todd (VO): "Hefty bag"?! "Hefty bag," of all the...

Todd: What?!

Todd (VO): I could not possibly have heard that right.

Pat: ...looking for a two-ply
Hefty bag

Todd (VO): Nope, "Hefty bag." He's looking for a [picture of toilet paper], two-ply [picture of...] Hefty bag (...Improvement?) to put his love in.

Todd: [walking back in with...] Which, funny he should mention, because here's a garbage bag full of all my disgust for that line! [Opens bag and looks inside] Oh, no, wait, this isn't disgust, it's garbage...which is what you put in a garbage bag, you freak of nature!

Todd (VO): There's other parts to this song and I'll get to them, but for the most part, the verdict on this song is all gonna come down to this one line. It''s going to haunt me, and it's right in the chorus, which means you hear it several times.

Pat: Hefty bag to hold...

Todd (VO): Why would you compare your love to [picture of...] garbage? I mean, I was already shocked that [picture of police at crime scene] "Drive By" was the most romantic imagery you could think of, but...boy, he topped that pretty quickly, didn't he? What kind of person would be turned on by that? [Clip from Trash Humpers] Eccchhh!

I guess when you've already written the words, "two-ply," there's nowhere else to take that, but that's when you erase and start over. Why would he even need a garbage bag? What does it matter what you carry your love in? Were you planning on presenting your love to this girl in a garbage bag slung over your shoulder like Santa's bag of toys?

Todd: Yeah, that'll go over well. Here, honey. Flop!

Todd (VO): Or the garbage bag is a metaphor for... [Images: garbage bag = pretty girl ??] the girl you're putting your love into? God, that's even worse. What the living hell?!

Todd: There's also, I should point out, another possibility. Remember the [clip of...] "Give Me Everything" review and those awful opening lines?

Pitbull: Me not working hard?
Yeah, right! Picture that with a Kodak

Todd (VO): Yeah, remember when I joked that Kodak must've paid Pitbull for product placement? Turns out...

Todd: ...yeah, that's exactly what happened. [Picture of Kodak ad with Pitbull above New York Marriott] They paid to be mentioned in Pitbull's song, and it worked so well, [chart showed Kodak's performance up to declaring bankruptcy] Kodak promptly went bankrupt.

[Clip of T-Pain - "5 O'Clock"]

Todd (VO): But advertisers helping to write songs is just a thing in mainstream pop music now. So maybe Hefty also paid for product placement here. But even if that is the case, would the song really help your product? I know I'm committed to buying my trash can liners from [picture of...] Glad now.

Todd: I hope Hefty didn't really waste their money on this. This song has to be the worst commercial for Hefty bags ever!

Commercial with jumping Hefty bags
Voice 1: Stinky
Voice 2: Hefty!
Voice 1: Stinky
Voice 2: Hefty!
Voice 1: Stinky, stinky
Voice 2: Hefty, Hefty, Hefty!

Todd: This song has to be the second-worst commercial for Hefty bags ever!

Todd (VO): But I'm being too harsh. I mean, it's just one line. I can forgive that, right?

Pat: When you move me, everything is groovy
They don't like it, sue me

Todd: Well, screw you too, buddy! [Gives finger]

Pat: They don't like it, sue me

Todd (VO): Okay, I thought this guy was insane, but maybe he's just a lazy asshole. I certainly can't interpret that line as anything but a middle finger to those who expect more work than this. Better hope I don't sue him—I'm pretty sure rhyming "move me" with "groovy" is a civil offense. "Groovy." No one even says that anymore, that cliche was dead decades ago. You're old, but you're not that old, guy from Train.

Todd: And it's not just the chorus that's lazy, it's in the first verse too.

Pat: On the other side of a street I knew
Stood a girl that looked like you
I guess that's déjà vu
But I thought this can't be true
'Cause you moved to West LA

Todd: Like, this isn't hilarious bad, it's just sloppy.

Pat: On the other side of a street I knew

Todd: I mean, what does it matter that you knew the street? Is the street your ex-girlfriend? Who cares?

Pat: Stood a girl that looked like you
I guess that's déjà vu

Todd: No, that's not what déjà vu all. Use a dictionary!

Pat: Stood a girl that looked like you
I guess that's déjà vu
But I thought this can't be true

Todd: What can't be true? That you saw a girl that looks like another girl? Do you even edit these things?

Todd (VO): Like, my god, these are such simple things to fix!

Pat: Stood a girl that looked like you ("that looked like you" crossed out and replaced with "I thought was you")

Todd (VO): You can't just turn in your first draft and expect a passing grade, jerk!

Todd: Okay, I could just nitpick this a line at a time, but there's the big picture to be considered, too.

Brief clip of "Hey, Soul Sister"

Todd (VO): "Hey, Soul Sister" didn't express a theme any stronger or more complex than "I heart you," but there's more going on in "Drive By." Apparently this one-night-stand left such an impression on him that he wants a relationship now, surely because of her wonderful personality.

Pat: Oh, but that one night
Was more than just right
I didn't leave you 'cause I was all through

Todd is speechless. Siren goes on with "TMI Alert Alert Alert Alert" flashing over Pat's face

Todd (VO): Don't make me think of your "Oh!" face, dude. So she's a good lay.

Train: Ooh, the way you do me

Todd (VO): Yeah, gross, dude. But yeah, now he wants to be with her forever, I guess. Usually, though, in a song like this, there's the unspoken assumption that these feelings are, you know,...


Pat: I thought this can't be true
'Cause you moved to West LA
Or New York or Santa Fe
Or wherever to get away from me

Todd (VO): She seems to really not like him. Hell, it's not even as bad as her not returning your calls; she skipped town. I don't think she wants seconds.

Pat: Oh but that one night
Is still the highlight

Todd (VO): Apparently it wasn't the highlight for her, she's running as fast as she can.

Pat: And I loved you every mile you drove away.

Todd (VO): Wow, dude, your love really is garbage.

Todd: Yeah, this doesn't seem like it's gonna be a love for the ages. And take a hint, pal—she doesn't want to be with you or even near you or even in the same town with you. You should look at the clues and leave this girl alone. [Pulls out wallet] Isn't that right, wallet photos of Lupa? I love you too. [Kisses photo and puts back in pocket] Anyway...

Todd (VO): Yeah, this song blows just on a conceptual level as well as the details. I mean, "this is not a drive by"? I mean, that's just not a very strong sentiment to build a song around. It's a dumb slang phrase, it's not clever, it's not punchy, and the cliches surrounding it don't improve things.

Pat: But now here you are again
So let's skip the "how you been"
And get down to the "more than friends"

Todd (VO): Or to the restraining order. Whatever. Encroaching much, dude? "Just a shy guy," my ass.

Todd: Never has the phrase "this is not a drive by" seemed more like a threat.

Todd (VO): I mean, no, it's not a drive by, it's more like military invasion really. But other than the Hefty bag thing, I guess there's nothing else that bad.

Pat: On the upside of a downward spiral
My love for you went viral
Todd is blown back and falls backwards from his chair
My love for you went viral

Todd (VO): What?! No! No!

Todd: I swear to God, Pat Monahan hears buzzwords and uses them without finding out what they mean. "My love for you is a killer app. Stop Kony with my love." What is your problem?!

Todd (VO): I'm not sure I can even try for an explanation here. His love for you went viral.

Todd: H...His love for you is like [pictures of...] a virus...that he puts in a garbage bag. [pause] Does this man loathe himself?!

Todd (VO): I've seen bad soft rock songs.

Clip of Daniel Powter - "Bad Day"
Daniel Powter: You had a bad day

Todd (VO): This song right here, for example, that''s terrible, but "Drive By" is, like, in a whole other league. This is [clip from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] Vogon poetry level bad.

Pat: On the other side of a street I knew

Todd (VO): [sighs] This song is so bad, I almost feel bad for reviewing it. It's too early to know if "Drive By" will be as big as "Hey, Soul Sister," and we'll check back eight months from now, I guess, but...

Todd: it worse than "Hey, Soul Sister"? Um...well, "Hey, Soul Sister" was more...

Clip of "Hey, Soul Sister"

Todd (VO): ...annoying and his voice was less tolerable. Then again, he didn't do that elongated syllable thing.

Pat: By-y-y-y-y
Clip from Maroon 5 - "Moves Like Jagger"
Adam Levine: Moooooooooves like Jagger

Todd (VO): There's a trend that needs to die. Most of all, I'm just confused. This isn't just bad, it's strange. If this was all deliberate, that'd be one thing, but this lame, stiff, acoustic ska? I mean, it just doesn't sound like they were trying to be self-consciously weird. It's like they tried to be boring and failed.

Todd: So, big picture—what does this song's marginal success say about pop music as a whole? My basic conclusion is this—pop songs today have way too many bag metaphors.

Pat: ...for a two-ply
Hefty bag...
Clip of "Firework"
Katy Perry: Do you ever feel like a plastic bag...
Clip of Young Money - "BedRock"
Gudda Gudda: And I got bag

Todd: Seriously, that's the new trend now? Someone get me a bag to vomit in.

Gets up and leaves

Closing tag song: James Brown - "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"

"Drive By" is owned by Sony Music Entertainment
This video is owned by me

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