Joe West runs the sword of satire through this enduringly popular single.
Summer is here, and in the UK that means the weather lurches from hot sun to heavy downpours without warning. Compared to other countries, this is pretty benign. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying. And so what better time to revisit the sweaty, sexy king of summer songs? Smooth by Carlos Santana and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas (who looks like a cross between Jamie Oliver and King Joffrey in the video) was released in June of 1999, its infectious riff managing to mask the fact that the lyrics are both generic and contradictory of the title. So let’s take a look at it without the distraction of its fine musicianship to get in the way.
Man, it's a hot one
Writing tip: don’t start with inane small talk about the weather. Although admittedly it’s a rule I’ve broken in this very article.
Like seven inches from the midday sun
For those who don’t work in imperial measurements, this is equivalent to about 17.78 centimetres. In either case, it’s effective hyperbole.
Well, I hear you whispering in the words, to melt everyone
“You are getting sleepy. You now believe you are an ice cream” whispers the sexy hypnotherapist.
But you stay so cool
Scientists believe this is because her body has adapted a row of plate-like protuberances along her spine which allow the blood to flow close to the surface of the skin, where it is cooled by the air. Like a stegosaurus.
My muñequita, my Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa
Apparently muñequita is Spanish for ‘little doll’. And Mona Lisa is the Italian equivalent of the name Muffy Lancaster.
You're my reason for reason
Does this mean that she gives you purpose in life, or that she gives you cause to deploy logic? This line is too ambiguous, Thomas.
The step in my groove
This is the worst line in the song, and yet unfortunately also one of the few which attempts to inject a bit of metaphoric imagery. It fails because it sounds so clumsy, which is ironic given that ‘groove’ implies some coordination.
And if you said this life ain't good enough
I would give you the number for the Samaritans.
I would give my world to lift you up
Why is self-sacrifice so romanticised? It reinforces the idea that relationships can be fundamentally imbalanced, when they shouldn’t. That’s right; sometimes the analysis takes a serious philosophical turn.
I could change my life to better suit your mood
Someone as purportedly cool as the subject of this song would surely be far too relaxed to insist on a potential mate having to dramatically alter their circumstances. If this was the case then surely this song should be called ‘Cruel Megalomaniac’.
Because you're so smooth
You know what’s the opposite of smooth? Promising to completely change your life and sell all of your possessions to try and win someone’s affections.
And it's just like the ocean under the moon
Inky-black and intimidating?
Oh, it's the same as the emotion that I get from you
She makes you feel poorly lit and splashy?
You got the kind of lovin' that can be so smooth, yeah
Can be, but isn’t always? Sometimes it goes a bit knobbly I guess.
Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it
The sudden and unexpected introduction of an all-or-nothing ultimatum at this point in the song is one of the most jarring tonal shifts in pop history.
But I'll tell you one thing
How generous of you.
If you would leave it would be a crying shame
Even sung in the nasal, 90s style of Rob Thomas, this line is drenched in desperation.
In every breath and every word
I hear your name, calling me out
This is reminiscent of Sting at his creepiest. Not a song writing ethos worth emulating, really.
Out from the barrio
‘Barrio’ is Spanish for neighbourhood. I wish this was funny, but it's just accurate.
You hear my rhythm on your radio
Today this line might include a reference to Spotify. And planking, maybe.
You feel the turning of the world, so soft and slow
The world spins at about 900mph in the US.
It's turning you round and round