"Semi-Charmed Life" is Third Eye Blind's first single off their self-titled debut album, released in 1997. It was a major hit of the 1990s, reaching number four in the U.S., number one on the Modern Rock Tracks and the Top 40 in the UK. Furthermore, it has had a pervasive cultural impact, being featured in numerous movie soundtracks. Vh1 has named the song as the 34th best song of the 90s.
Beneath a catchy, upbeat melody, with extremely fastly spoken lyrics with references to popular culture, the song contains dark lyrics about a drug user's descent into crystal meth addiction and his implied sexual activities while trying to "want something else."
According to lead singer Stephan Jenkins, the song was meant as a response to Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side", but from a San Francisco perspective. The style of the song reflects changes that were occurring in the San Francisco music scene, particularly a growing interest in hip-hop.
Alternate Versions Edit
Several changes were made for the studio recording. In the demo version, Jenkins spoke during the verses oppose to singing it. The chorus lyrics were originally "I want nothing else to get me through this…" oppose to "I want something else to get me through this…". In the second verse, instead of "Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break", the demo version went "Crystal methylene will lift you up until you break". Finally, the reprise of the beginning of the second verse at the end of the song is omitted in the demo version.
Radio Edits Edit
Released on the single was a "clean edit" and the "radio edit". Both edits cut from 2:20 to 3:07 on the album version. The differences between the two edits is that the clean edit has the words "crystal meth" censored through backmasking. Radio stations that chose not to edit the drug reference played the radio edit.
The music video also shortened the song, but in a different section. The song was cut from 2:41 to 3:09. The drug references were either intact or edited out of the video, depending on which television channel aired the video.
In other popular cultureEdit
- "Weird Al" Yankovic included the song's chorus in the song "Polka Power!" on his album Running with Scissors.
- "Semi-Charmed Life" was featured in the 1998 film Dirty Work starring Norm Macdonald and Artie Lang.
- The song was featured in the 1999 teen comedy American Pie, most notably in the final scene.
- The song was featured in the initial scene of the 2006 film A Lot Like Love.
- The song was used in select previews for The Tigger Movie.
- The TV series Bill Nye the Science Guy did a parody of the song called Atoms in My Life.
- The song was on an episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
- The song was used in the U.S. trailer and commercials for the release of the New Line Cinema altered version of the Jackie Chan film Mr. Nice Guy
- The song was used in the 1998 film "Wild Things".
- An excerpt of the song can be heard among the many sound samples used in the opening shot of the 1997 film Contact.
- The song will be featured in Guitar Hero: Van Halen. Because of the ESRB rating, the song will be in its edited form.
"I think people are initially drawn to that song because of the sound of it. And then they come to realize that there's a deeper meaning to the story. But I don't think it's really like they identify with it because not that many people have had any dealings with speed addicts. And I hope that you don't, because they're really fucking lame. I think it's a song about always wanting something. It's about never being satisfied, and reaching backwards to things that you've lost and towards things that you can never get. I think everybody has some identification with that. The story line between the people, the demise of this relationship, is just an extreme example of that condition. I think that's what makes people really relate to 'Semi-Charmed Life.' Also we ripped off Lou Reed--[singing] doot doot doot doot doot... " - Brad Hargreaves
Chart performances Edit
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||4|
|U.S. Mainstream Rock||26|
|U.S. Modern Rock||1|
|UK Singles Chart||34|
|MusicMaximum Hot 100||1|
|MusicMaximum Rockin' 40||7|