Jesse Jarnow

“the reason” – hoobastank

#5 this week, #8 last week, 11 weeks on the chart

There’s definitely something afoot here. Well, maybe not definitely, but I do find it a mite interesting that the #5 slot, both this week and last, has been occupied by an honest-to-“Bob” guitar-driven band playing a song with fairly normal/innocuous verse/chorus/verse songs. Last week, it was Maroon5, who slipped down to #7 this week. This time, it’s Hoobastank (whose name I remembered from a walk with my friend Paul around lower Manhattan, repeatedly reading their name on construction site wall posters, and collapsing into hysterics at our exaggerated elongated pronunciation of “Whooooooo-bah”).

When I was driving around Los Angeles last month, I was flipping through the radio stations on my aunt’s car, and found some station playing one of the cuts from The Postal Service album. The station announcements informed me breathlessly that I was listening to “The Indie” (or some variation thereof) the same way Z1000 in New York used to brag about being “the alternative station” (or some variation thereof). The Indie, as I read later, was just another ClearChannel station. The intro to Hoobastank’s “The Reason” kind of reminds me of that feeling — a half-second rush of excitement that maybe something cool has triumphed, followed by a muted acceptance that the reality is actually very different.

“The Reason” begins with a repeated piano note. It is joined, at three seconds in, by a cool modern sounding beat. At six seconds, an icily spider-like guitar figure is uncoiled. Both very cool. At 12 seconds come a sorta cheesy bassline. It doesn’t feel wrong, exactly, ’cause it still seems like a cool song could be made out of those elements. Then, at 14 seconds, things veer off horribly. The vocal melody comes in and, like The Indie, “The Reason” turns out to be just another mid-tempo love ballad. In fact, it hit a peak that is uncannily similar to Clay Aiken’s “Solitaire” (and achieved with a power metal-sorta build) when they get to the first, dramatic “and the reason is yoooooooooooooooou” (after that, it’s more like metal).

By the end of the song, when all of the elements have been cycled into the ground, it’s almost embarrassing for me to admit that I was even fooled by them during the song’s intro. All the pop trappings are added – synthesizer, strings, even giant “Disarm”-style bells – and it loses whatever it was that was interesting about it during its opening seconds.