Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

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"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
Single by Crash Test Dummies
from the album God Shuffled His Feet
ReleasedOctober 1, 1993 (1993-10-01)[1]
StudioMusic Head Recording (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin)
GenreAlternative rock[2]
Songwriter(s)Brad Roberts
Crash Test Dummies singles chronology
"The First Noel"
"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
"Swimming in Your Ocean"
Audio sample

"Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" is a song by Canadian rock band Crash Test Dummies, and written by its singer Brad Roberts. It was released in October 1993 by Arista and BMG as the band's lead single from their second album, God Shuffled His Feet (1993). The song received positive critical reviews upon its release, though retrospective reviews have been more negative. The song reached number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped the national charts of Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden. In the band's native Canada, it stalled at number 14 on the RPM 100 Hit Tracks chart. The accompanying music video was directed by Dale Heslip.


Each of the three verses describes the isolation and suffering of a different child, two of whom have a physical abnormality. In the first verse, a boy is injured in a car accident and misses school for an extended period; when he returns to class, his hair has changed color from black to bright white. In the second verse, a girl refuses to change clothes in the presence of other girls due to the birthmarks that cover her body. The third child is a boy whose parents require that he come directly home after school; during services at their church, they "shake and lurch" across the floor. During a 2010 live performance for the Dutch radio station Kink FM, Roberts whispered "Pentecostal" during the third verse, suggesting this is the denomination of the church.[3]

Most of the lyrics are based on childhood experiences of Roberts. For example, he was in a few serious car crashes as a child, which inspired the first verse; he has a birthmark at the base of his spine which made him a bullying target as a child, inspiring the second verse; and he knew a girl who went to a Pentecostal church, where members were known to speak in tongues, inspiring the third. He got the idea of a boy's hair turning from black into bright white from stories he had heard about this phenomenon - Canities subita - happening to survivors of perilous experiences, including a man who almost went over the Niagara Falls, and his great uncle who fought in Pacific Theater of World War II and heard Japanese soldiers yelling threats in broken English.[4]

An alternative version sometimes performed at live concerts replaced the third verse with one concerning a boy whose mother disposed of his tonsils after a tonsillectomy, thus depriving him of the possibility of bringing them to show and tell.[5]


Critical reception[edit]

Larry Flick from Billboard called the song a "shimmering acoustic/rock jewel". He added that it "marries a worldwise vocal with a textured arrangement that is chock full of aural goodies. Given justice (and promotional tender loving care), this one will soon blossom into the across-the-board smash it should be."[6] Dave Sholin from the Gavin Report stated, "If there's an Alternative outlet in town, you can hear how great this sounds on the air."[7] Robert Hilburn from Los Angeles Times wrote, "The exaggerated vocal narration makes this sound like a novelty, but it is a deceptively original work about how kids are often tormented for falling outside the norm."[8] In his weekly UK chart commentary, James Masterton joked, "The unusual song probably holds the record for the longest song title not to include a vowel in the title."[9] Caitlin Moran from Melody Maker concluded, "It's delicate, like hope, and half-broken, like Nick Cave. It heaves and sighs with a choir to die for and a guitar line that snags on the heart."[10] Pan-European magazine Music & Media commented, "It takes one weirdo to dig another, so Dummy Brad Roberts and "Talking Head" Harrison make an ideal pair. This ballad is deceivingly ACE until you listen to the lyrics."[11] Terry Staunton from NME declared the song as "a real oddity, a melodic saunter through the weird Americana of John Irving or Garrison Keillor". He added, "Canada's Crash Test Dummies present an ode to life's misfits, borrowing a musical trick or two from the quieter side of REM and the more melancholy Tom Waits. [...] This is very good indeed."[12] Alex Kadis from Smash Hits praised it as "a truly beautiful masterpiece".[13] Another editor, Mark Frith, gave it one out of five.[14] Troy J. Augusto from Variety declared it as "an unlikely yet quite hummable pop tune."[15] The track received a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, which it lost to "I Swear" by All-4-One.[16][17]

Retrospective reception[edit]

Although highly successful when it was released, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" has since been frequently included on lists of bad songs. The song was number 15 on VH1's 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever, named by Rolling Stone as the "15th Most Annoying Song",[18] and ranked at number 31 on Blender's list of the "50 Worst Songs Ever".[19] The Huffington Post Canada ranked this song at number 29 on its list of "50 Worst Canadian Songs Ever".[20] Contrasting, VH1 named "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" as the 31st greatest one-hit wonder of the 1990s in 2011.[21]

In a 1994 essay in which he makes the case that modern life is better than life in the past, humorist P.J. O'Rourke writes, "Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Bad music, for instance, has gotten much briefer. Wagner's Ring Cycle takes four days to perform while 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm' by the Crash Test Dummies lasts little more than three minutes."[22]

Chart performance[edit]

Outside their home country of Canada, the single became the band's most successful song, reaching number four in the United States and number two in the United Kingdom—the group's biggest hit in both countries. It also reached number one on the Modern Rock Chart in the United States and in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. While the Crash Test Dummies had six singles reach the Canadian top 10, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was not one of them, instead stalling at number 14.

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was directed by Dale Heslip and premiered in October 1993.[23] It sets the song's lyrics as the script for a series of one-act plays performed by schoolchildren. Throughout, the scenes of the performance are intercut with scenes of the Crash Test Dummies performing the song at stage side.

All three one-act plays included nicknames for their lead characters, to provide Heslip with easy references:

  1. The first featured a kid nicknamed "Whitey"
  2. The second pitted "Blotchy" against "Bratty Kids", who Heslip thought lived up to their nickname; Blotchy's marks are covered with a long cape she wears throughout, whereas the "Bratty Kids" wear deerstalker hats and carry magnifying glasses
  3. The third had, as its focus, a "Reluctant Boy"

These nicknames were all revealed in an installment of Pop-Up Video.[episode needed] The same installment also revealed that Brad Roberts had decided to hum, rather than actually sing, the refrain of "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" because humming the refrain sounded more resigned to him and that he never wrote lyrics for it.

The music video for "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was published on YouTube in March 2018. It has amassed over 32 million views as of January 2023.[24]

Track listings[edit]

  • CD maxi
  1. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" – 3:53
  2. "Here I Stand Before Me" – 3:07
  3. "Superman's Song" (live from the US public radio program Mountain Stage)
  • 7-inch single
  1. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" – 3:53
  2. "Here I Stand Before Me" – 3:07
  • US single
  1. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" – 3:53
  2. "Superman's Song" (album version) – 4:31
  3. "How Does a Duck Know?" – 3:42
  • Cassette single

Features cardboard picture liner

  1. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
  2. "Here I Stand Before Me"



Certifications and sales for "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[52] Platinum 70,000^
Germany (BVMI)[68] Gold 250,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[69] Platinum 10,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[70] Platinum  
United Kingdom (BPI)[71] Gold 400,000
United States (RIAA)[73] Gold 700,000[72]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
Europe October 1, 1993
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • CD
United Kingdom April 11, 1994
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • CD
  • cassette


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