MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 69: HOOBASTANK

It’s been quite some time since I started this blog series- February 2019 was the month that I decided to delve into the realms of music that at that time, was relatively unknown to me. Because apart from the CCM that I have enjoyed throughout my whole high school years and well into university, it wasn’t until 2019 where I realised that the mainstream music industry wasn’t as ‘evil’ as I once fleetingly thought it was. Dunno where I thought this thing that mainstream music = bad, CCM = good; but alas, I did think these things. And it wasn’t until 2019 where I realised that God being God can speak through anything- even mainstream music, and that mainstream music, can still impact and challenge, inspire and bring healing and hope, just as much as CCM. I delved into a myriad of different artists over the last year or so– from Backstreet Boys, Tina Arena, The Corrs, Rascal Flatts, Lady A and Shania Twain, to John Mayer, Goo Goo Dolls, Hanson, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, Adele, Jewel, John Farnham and Sara Bareilles, to name a few. And it was in me listening to these artists that wouldn’t necessarily wear the label ‘Christian’, that I’ve found a few things out- that artists like these, as nuanced, heartfelt, emotive and poignant as these artists and songs can be, what I’ve understood is that they themselves can also discuss and talk about things and issues prevalent and relevant to the heart of God too, even if they themselves don’t know it yet. For if God can use Balaam’s donkey to speak to Balaam in the Old Testament (Numbers 22:21 – 39), then God can surely use mainstream music to bring people closer to each other and closer to Himself in the process. And it is a reminder of how complex music really is- there’s literally genres for everyone. Pop, CCM, worship, rock, rap, hip-hop, gospel, country, musical theatre, jazz, folk, classical, blues, R&B, Soul, EDM, punk, reggae, ambient music…you get the picture right? And all these genres are valid, and all are necessary to relate to people. And in some way, all these genres are used by the Lord, to allow people to see inside themselves and make the changes necessary for them to come to terms with their own mortality, and realise their own need for God and all things eternal. But enough of my own musings…you’ve come to read my next blog, right, not some ramblings of someone realising that mainstream music is just as much needed in society as Christian music. So without further ado, my next artist I’m about to discuss for the length of this blog will be…those guys who wrote the song ‘The Reason’ a long time ago. What’s their name again…yeah, it’s those guys who wrote ‘The Reason’. No, seriously, isn’t their name, ‘The Reason’-guys? So enough of my own tongue-in-cheek introduction to the band Hoobastank, but seriously, and all gaffes aside. Let me be real for a second.

I don’t think anyone really at all, knows much, if anything about Hoobastank. Yes, I’m sure their diehard fans would know every single song and every single album they have ever recorded and done over the last 20 years or so. But I’m talking about the general man on the street. They may not know Hoobastank…but then if you probably mention the song ‘The Reason’, then I’m sure people would know and understand. Because in all seriousness, I reckon ‘The Reason’ the song, was in fact one of the most popular radio hits within the decade of the 2000s. Even I knew the song way before knowing about Hoobastank. I heard it on the radio heaps when I was a teenager, heard it being covered by Australian singer Anthony Callea during the second season of Australian Idol during one of his live performances on the show, as well as an official cover by boy-band/pop group Westlife in 2010. ‘The Reason’ has been the song that everybody knows but no one knows who sings it. And maybe it was by design that way, and Hoobastank didn’t really want to become super-famous from the accolades of ‘The Reason’, or maybe it’s just because the song itself became big to the point that maybe the band themselves didn’t envisage the song to be as popular as they themselves thought it was going to be…so which begs the question that I’m to pose right now- can a song be bigger than the band itself, and can a song propel a band to be influential to music, society and culture as a whole, all because of this one song that has reached the heights in the first place? Or to put it this way, can an artist, band or solo or otherwise, be influential in their own right, and it’s only because of one song and nothing else? Are Hoobastank more than just the one hit wonder everyone thinks they are with ‘The Reason’?

I’ve been listening to the band on Spotify this past week, and while I can admit that there’s no other song as catchy, meaningful, heartfelt and poignant as ‘The Reason’ (‘The First of Me’ from their 3rd album Every Man For Himself comes real close), I’ve been at a bit of a conundrum with this band. Sure, the band themselves aren’t as popular, even within the mainstream, then what I thought. it’s just love for ‘The Reason’ from critics and then…nothing else. Which brings me to this point- artists and bands create a discography, releasing songs and albums throughout their career. Some songs take off on a global scale- like ‘The Reason’. Other songs not as much. Does it make the band less poignant, less emotive, less influential, if songs don’t pick up to the same standard and steam as this one particular song? Not necessarily. For songs by these artists don’t necessarily change their meaning and impact, emphasis, and emotion, regardless of who listens to it or even how popular or ‘influential’ on a sales basis this song is. And for Hoobastank’s case, they’ve been at it since 2001, and now releasing their latest album in 2018, and having the success of ‘The Reason’ in between, I’d say that this band has been chugging along, even if people didn’t even realise it in the process. For a band or a solo artist to be influential, do they have to be recognised in a popularity sense, or can they still release songs and still be under-the-radar in the most mainstream sense of the word, with only the people really knowing the band/artist are the diehard fans of them? Can artists still impact and influence with their music, and still be relatively unassuming and anonymous (or lack of a better term!)? Hard to say, but what I have enjoyed throughout Hoobastank’s discography is how applicable, real, honest, and challenging these songs really are. Sure, the band aren’t as popular as other artists I’ve discussed before in my blog series. But their passion, enthusiasm, and heart, cannot be denied. Their ability to craft music that toys the line of being relevant to society in a rock-music sense, while still producing lyrical content and moments of reflection, tranquillity, contemplation, and compassion, is something of an art. One that Hoobastank has utilised very well.

Hoobastank, if you boil down to it, have one hit that everyone knows so well, and others that…well, everyone doesn’t know so well, some maybe not even knowing these songs at all, aside from ‘The Reason’. Released in 2003, and now in 2020 becoming something of a global phenomenon, this song is a pure example of a track superseding the artist in every single way imaginable. I guess the only other songs that I can remember that has grown so far and so much bigger than the artist themselves would have to be either Toto’s ‘Africa’ and Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. Not sure if that is a compliment to ‘The Reason’ and Hoobastank or not, but that is my genuine observation. And there’s nothing wrong with that. For ‘The Reason’ in and of itself is a very good song. And for me I was reminded through it, that such a song as this, though not ‘Christian’ in any way, can still evoke images, messages and themes of Christianity- ‘The Reason’ in and of itself is about a persona, singing to what is at face value, their lover, or their ex, or their current person they’re in a relationship with. They say they’re sorry for all the bad things they’ve done, the things they know now, that have hurt this person. They long to be someone better, to strive to be the person they know they can be, in the presence of this significant other. There is a sense of lament, a sense of being remorseful for all the things that have occurred that have broken trust and the relationship itself. ‘The Reason’ is a reminder for us all to see if there are relationships in our own lives that we need to mend, that we need to acknowledge that maybe, there’s something wrong with them, that we need to address, most probably sooner than later.

All in all, ‘The Reason’ can be seen as the persona singing to their significant other, but it can also be seen as a prayer to God, as we listeners are brought to the theme, that to be vulnerable before the Lord and admit that a covenant and trust between creator and created has been broken because of what we’ve done, is something so profound. We can rest in the fact that in the admission of our own part in the breaking of communion between God and man, He won’t strike us down, but rather, allow us to come to Him as we are- the broken, dishevelled, undeserving people as we are; as we become refined, renewed, reawakened and realigned to His unending grace and mercy. ‘The Reason’ for me is one of the most honest ‘Christian’ songs out there, even though the song initially wasn’t meant to be one. Nevertheless, ‘The Reason’ is the song that will be remembered by Hoobastank, and maybe in some cases for people, will be the only song remembered by them, from Hoobastank. And that’s ok. This is the perfect example of how a song can outlive the artist, and for all purposes that we know, people don’t necessarily have to know Hoobastank to enjoy ‘The Reason’- those two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

‘The Reason’ has carried the weight of the band through all these years. It is the song that they will be remembered for at the end of the day, period. But that doesn’t mean that there’s only one song great by the band, and that’s it. For as I’ve heard all things Hoobastank for the better part of 2 weeks, I have come to the conclusion, that a lot of their songs have some deeper meaning to them, compared to your typical showmanship rock songs on the radio that has been heard by people over the years. ‘Crawling in the Dark’, one of the earliest radio singles by the band, offers up a heartfelt prayer mixed in with all the rousing guitar solo moments, as the band present hauntingly confronting lyrics, declaring out to….God? Someone else? The universe? Anything? Calling out…to look for answers to why the persona is still crawling in the dark. And as I contemplate on these heartfelt lyrics, I can’t help it but be reminded, that a lot of these songs by Hoobastank are indeed ‘relgious’, ‘spiritual’, ‘seeking’, whatever you want to call it-
I will dedicate and sacrifice my every-thing for just a seconds worth of how my story’s ending
And I wish I could know if the directions that I take and all the choices that I make won’t end up all for nothing
Show me what it’s for, make me understand it
I’ve been crawling in the dark, looking for the answer
Is there something more than what I’ve been handed?
I’ve been crawling in the dark, looking for the answer

Excerpt of ‘Crawling in the Dark’

This song and its lyrics are just one of many examples of the thought-rock that Hoobastank invite us to partake in, all with the hints of a spiritual element to it all. ‘Out Of Control’, present with plenty of screamo (a la the Christian band RED), presents this overlooked theme that can be often missed in society- the dealings with unmet and unsaid expectations, placed upon teenagers and young adults, primarily by their parents, for whatever reason. This song showcases the frustration, anger and the overall out-of-control-ness people feel when placed under the pressure of someone in authority, and if it’s your own parents, and you’re feeling the pinch, then that in and of itself is a sad thing indeed. ‘Out of Control’ is a very honest look at how people placed under pressure can seem and look, and that more often than not, they place upon themselves a façade, to try and combat not living up to expectations, with a front saying everything’s ok. ‘Running Away’ shows us a longing and a lament of someone, wanting their significant other to stick by them, when in fact they’re running away from the difficult situation at hand, while ‘Remember Me’ is about having a ‘fake’ friend, someone who doesn’t necessarily want to know you or even be friends with you when you’re in high school, but when you suddenly become famous for whatever reason, this friend wants to know you again. ‘Same Direction’, from the chart-topping album The Reason, dabbles into the theme about religion, and showcases a persona who is unsure about this whole religion thing in general. The song itself allows us all to see a different viewpoint from someone who may not necessarily agree with what you believe, and nevertheless, still manages to hold a decent conversation with you, despite the differences in belief. ‘Same Direction’ allows us to see something from another side, and to maybe offer grace and love unconditionally to the other person who may not believe what you do, but is still travelling in the same direction as you- through life, trying to find meaning, purpose and fulfilment in whatever that is undertaken in life itself. ‘Disappear’, also from The Reason, speaks about a love between two people, and the persona declaring that when their significant other is right near them, that everything else of importance and worry seems to disappear, seems to fade into a lack of significance, because all that matters in that moment is the presence of the other person in said relationship. ‘Disappear’ also features some of the most unique and interesting guitar solos in the song, and by far is one of the most musically captivating tracks in the whole Hoobastank discovery.

The band also deliver some powerful emotive hits throughout the remainder of their career as well- ‘The First of Me’, from their 2006 album Every Man For Himself, wasn’t a radio single by any means for Hoobastank, but was nevertheless a song that shuffled continuously on Spotify this past week. The song itself is about how someone doesn’t want to become a copy of someone else in life- to lose your identity in the pursuit of materialistic things and the forsaking of your soul in the process is something that no one should do, and ‘The First of Me’ alludes to this, reminding us all to carve out our own paths, to try and succeed and become individuals in life, rather than trying to emulate our heroes and become carbon copies of people that maybe we really don’t necessarily want to really be. ‘Born to Lead’ is the ‘rebel’ song on their 2006 album, with the band giving guidance to young people, to lead their own lives, and to not follow things blindly to the point where you don’t even know what you believe or what you’re fighting for, all that you know is that you’re following _____; while ‘If I Were You’ sees Hoobastank try to place themselves inside the shoes of someone who complains on a regular basis, with the song being a way of saying ‘if I were you in this situation, I wouldn’t moan, complain or nag about this or that, I’d be thankful for life and all the rest of it’. ‘If Only’ sees the persona of said song, lamenting about decisions made in the past, about not pursuing a relationship out of a fear of rejection, and then looking back on it years later, and saying ‘if only I had this person by my side with me, I’d be able to walk through life’s difficulties with more ease than what is happening right now’. And while this song does place importance in people coming alongside us and walking with us on this journey of life, what we do need to know is that more often than not, you won’t necessarily get the relationship you want in your head, or it will look different than what you can imagine it to be. In those circumstances, it’s easy to say ‘if only’, but what needs to be done is to realise that even if your relationship doesn’t work out, you’ll still be ok, because of immediate family and close friends (and God Himself!). ‘More than A Memory’ rounds out the standout songs on Every Man For Himself; and is a 7 minute song about realising that breaking up from a relationship was a very big mistake, and said persona in the song understands that ‘…I’ve become tired of wasting my time, thinkin’ about choices that I’ve made, cause I can’t move forward while looking behind, the only thing I can think to do now is change the way that I used to be, cause now it seems crystal clear to me, you’re so much more than a memory…’ ‘More Than A Memory’ is an admission that you did the wrong thing in breaking up, and while things are done, and you can’t change the past, what can be done is to just press on, moving forward to better yourself to become the person you want to, and that when a next relationship comes along, you can be better prepared.

Hoobastank has been an artist that has challenged my own way of viewing rock music; and viewing inspirational rock music at that as well. For while I don’t know the faith of the band members- I do know this. Their songs present to the surface, themes about relationships, about yearning to find the self, about long-lasting relationships that don’t end in hurt, betrayal and destruction, about becoming yourself and not following the crowd, and about finding a reason in life to fight for and to know what you believe and why you believe it. Those themes about life in general are all evident in Hoobastank’s music…it’s almost as if the music is God-breathed at times, reminding us of our own faults and failings, of our own nature that is inherently ugly and wrong, and reminding us of our desperate need of there being a reason outside of ourselves, to keep going in this life, a reason to believe, so as to not heavily focus upon our own selves, when we know deep down that what we do and say can often seem wicked and come across as self-serving. Many songs from the band’s later career speak on issues like these. ‘My Turn’ off of the underrated For(N)ever album speaks about the transientness of life, and the fragility of tomorrow and how we aren’t necessarily promised that. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow hasn’t come yet, and so all we can do is to take our chance with our turn at living today to the full. ‘So Close, So Far’ and ‘You Need To Be Here’ are both similar in terms of style and musicianship, as the band present themes relevant to society right now- ‘So Close, So Far’ speaks of this separation someone can feel from other who travels for their occupation- either as a celebrity or as a war veteran, and this feeling of disconnect when these two people aren’t together, while ‘You Need to Be Here’ looks at the shortness of life in general, and in order to enjoy life to the full, you need to be with your loved ones, sharing experiences, good and bad, with people that are going to love and accept you regardless, who can tell you things that you need, not necessarily what you want to hear, people who can call you out when they know what you’re doing is detrimental to yourself and the immediate people around you. ‘The Letter’ rounds out songs standouts from For(N)ever– a collaboration with Australian artist Vanessa Amorosi, and speaks of a detrimental relationship from the start, a story of how someone starts cheating on their spouse with another, and that the only way this oblivious person finds out about the break in relationship and trust, is from a letter written by the new lover. Sad, twisted, all too familiar in a lot of situations nowadays, ‘The Letter’ encourages us all to cultivate our own relationships, with our spouses, family and people we care about- because when trust is broken, it can be very hard to get it back, even if there is remorse and feelings of regret involved, from both people.

Fight or Flight and Push Pull are the latest 2 albums from Hoobastank, released in 2012 and 2018 respectively, and while these albums as a whole (for me at least) don’t have much of a hold and impact as the band’s first four albums, Hoobastank themselves have presented a set of songs, 11 songs on each, that present more towards the traditional rock sound (and the pop-rock when it comes to the 2018 release), rather than the grunge they have undertaken in their career to that point. And maybe that’s ok, changing their musical style a little bit. We have seen plenty a band that have altered their musical sound over the years, and I guess a likening of what Hoobastank is doing, is similar to that of Goo Goo Dolls (of which I wrote about them, here). Hoobastank have indeed altered their sound when you listen to their 2018 album v their 2001 album, and even if some die-hard fans of theirs don’t fully understand why the changes in genres happened in the first place, you can’t deny the importance of the band full stop, regardless of genre, in society at the moment. Yes, it was ‘The Reason’ that propelled people into hearing the band on a regular basis, but it was much more than ‘The Reason’ that can keep a lot of people in to hearing Hoobastank again. It has always been about the lyrics and the message of these songs, and while a lot of these melodies on their latest 2 albums can seem to be a little bit lost in the musical direction, Hoobastank’s passion and longing to produce music that cuts deep to the soul, really challenges us to look beyond this one song and really remind ourselves of how songs can still be impactful and mean something, even if the song isn’t as well-received as others (or in this particular case, as well as this one song- ‘The Reason’).

‘You Before Me’, from Fight or Flight, really hits home for people who are parents, as lead singer Doug Robb speaks about what this song is about- ‘…that song was written when my wife was pregnant. It sounds more romantic in its final form, but the emotional tone was set with the original theme in mind. It’s an overall statement of how important your significant other is in your life, in the sense of, ‘I’ll put myself on the backburner to make sure everything’s OK with you.’ But it applies to all kinds of relationships, and being a parent, it hits home…’; while ‘Can You Save Me’ is a simple song- a prayer, crying out to…God? A lover? Another person? A significant other? Anyway, crying out to ____, longing for saving and to be pulled out of the past, the holes and darkness you can find yourself in along the way. ‘The Fallen’ speaks to the heart of celebrity, and how it can be a dangerous game to chase after your career, at the detriment of your relationship and who you are as a person. As Doug Robb also relays to us, ‘…that song is based on certain emotions that myself and other members of the band have gone through in terms of dealing with the ups and downs we’ve experienced. It’s about being obsessed with your career and the jeopardy that puts on your personal life – relationships lost and opportunities missed. The song taps into all of those feelings. It’s not about a specific situation as much as part of an ongoing struggle: does this career define me? The answer is that, although music and my career are a huge part of who I am, they’re not everything I am. And this song falls right before that realization. As it happened, I wrote the lyric while Charlie Sheen was losing it in public – not that it’s specifically about him by any means, but we didn’t have to look too far outside of our own lives to see it happening to other people. So in that sense it reinforced the theme as I was writing it….’

‘Incomplete’, another standout song from Fight or Flight, speaks of this notion and understanding that we are inherently incomplete people, we try to fill this void in our lives that often we chase after things that we think can fill it, but ultimately are just things that can’t satisfy in the end, that’ll be just ok for a short time, but will ultimately show people that all we’re just doing is getting a quick remedy for a heart problem. ‘Incomplete’ shows us how longing we are of something outside of ourselves that will complete us in a way that we won’t be searching ever again, and in my own mind, this song alludes to the understanding that there is one person that can make us complete- and no, it’s not a spouse or even an earthly relationship. It’s Christ, and this revelation of this fact, is what makes such a song as this, so emotive, powerful and heartfelt. Push Pull came along in 2018, and while it is a total departure from the sound that made Hoobastank famous in the beginning (who wants to really listen to generic pop-rock, which unfortunately, a lot of Push Pull is!), there are still some standout tracks, albeit only a couple- ‘More Beautiful’, having a generic catchy hook, unpacks this theme of beauty, and how people can’t see the beauty within themselves (and often hate themselves for it) that others can. We tend to be harder on ourselves than we even realise, and maybe, such a song as this can challenge our own notions and understandings that how we see ourselves is more based on what we do rather than our own intrinsic self-worth and value. ‘Push Pull’, the title track, reminds us all that often in life, the harder  you chase something and the harder you go after it in your own strength, the more difficult it can be to attain, be it a relationship, a job, whatever it may be. ‘Push Pull’ allows the pressure to be taken off of us, as we ‘gonna do my thing, sit back and let all the cards fall where they may’, as I’m reminded that such a song as this is a surrender to maybe even God Himself, we are also challenged by yet another song on Push Pull– ‘We Don’t Need The World’ is a reassuring of a relationship that is slowly coming undone. It is when we recall the past and see all the times we have been with this other person and have been a team of two for such a long time, we can hopefully challenge ourselves to be better, and pursue this relationship that we know we want to fight for.

Hoobastank have had quite a rollercoaster ride up until now in terms of music. And that, all the paragraphs above in a nutshell, is the band and all their songs that have resonated with myself over this last week. And I’m sure there are still many more songs I haven’t touched upon, and that’s ok. Songs speak differently to people, and that’s the beauty of music in general. For songs have the power to change and impact lives, we’ve seen it with the song ‘The Reason’ and the impact it has made in people (myself included) from it’s conception and release in 2004, to even now in 2020- turning on the song recently and realising it has emotion, weight and power, even still after such a long time. For when you release a song that changes the fabric of music and people’s lives, then you know you’re on a good thing. Hoobastank the band may not live long into the future after the band moves on to do other things. But a lot of these songs can hopefully, and one thing’s for sure- ‘The Reason’, will be one of the most iconic songs of all time, even within the next 50 years or so. For ‘The Reason’ in and of itself is a message about finding reasons to carry on in our lives, and as universal as this message is (if we take this song at face value), what I’ve come to know is that our reason for being is Jesus Christ. Simple. This band may not be a Christian band, but for all intensive purposes, they do evoke a lot of Christian imagery, songs that can be used by God to shape us, mould us and change us to become less self-centred, and more self-reflecting. Hoobastank’s music has reminded me that God can use whatever music that He wants to bring people closer to Himself, even songs that are more focused on love and earthly relationships. Hoobastank may not be popular in the terms defined by mainstream media, but nevertheless, have a discography worth checking out, if only to be reminded that the band is so much more than one song, and that a song can also still transcend the artist and become a moment in history that can impact and influence millions around the world within a certain decade of time.

Does Hoobastank and their music make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘The Reason’, ‘Same Direction’, ‘Crawling in the Dark’, ‘Disappear’ or ‘So Close, So Far’; that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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