If you’ve stayed in a hostel any time between 1995 and today, you’ll have undoubtedly heard the song “Wonderwall” in nearly every common area around the world. If you haven’t, it’s probably because you’ve blocked it from your memory.
Bob Marley, Sublime, The Beatles will likely make an appearance during hostel jam time but the only song money-back guaranteed to be played is “Wonderwall” by Oasis. No matter if you’re staying in the foothills of Nepal or a glamorous hostel in London, there will always be The Wonderwall Dude present. He is oftentimes sunburned and dreadlocked. He usually has some sort of tribal tattoo imprinted into his skin — the ink made from the blood of baby hermit crabs found only on a deserted island in Thailand.
On one trip to Indonesia, my friend, Hannah, and I crashed our motorbikes while driving through Nusa Penida. We emerged from the gravel covered in scrapes and bruises. Neither of us could walk very well and we spent the next few days rotating between the bed, the bar, and the beach. One night, we went to bed early and cradled our wounds. Outside, we heard the soft strumming of a guitar. Our heads grew heavy and we slowly drifted away to the sounds of ambient chatter and the instrument’s acoustic song.
Then, the voices stopped. The guitarist began to strum the jarring beat of “Wonderwall.”
My eyelids popped open. I hopped out of bed with the agility of Usain Bolt.
“Shut up… Shut up! Stop playing!” I called out the window. “Please…” I whispered. My groaning sounded too similar to the bleats of “Wonderwall.” The culprit and his audience didn’t hear me.
I experience a visceral reaction to the song “Wonderwall.” Though it was a favorite during 2001, when I was in 6th grade, now, the mere mention of the tune makes my heart race and my stomach churn. Backpackers with guitars have forced me to turn on a song I once loved.
Where did “Wonderwall” come from?
“Wonderwall” was produced by Oasis, an English rock band, in 1995 and is the most streamed song on Spotify released before 2000. The lyrics were written by the guitarist, Noel Gallagher. It continues to rank in”best of all time” charts all around the world and fans have hit the play button on YouTube over 443 million times.
People love this song. They still go crazy over “Wonderwall.”
Many listeners believe that the lyrics are are about a potential lover that you cannot stop thinking about and assume it was written about the songwriter’s wife. However, Noel Gallagher told BBC that, “The song is about an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself.”
Whatever that means.
So why did this once-decent tune become the overly-sung anthem of backpackers?
The guitar chords suit beginners and pick-up-artists
Oasis is one of the first songs that many beginner guitarists learn how to play. In the disturbingly accurate parody video, “Learning How To Play Guitar Well Enough To Get You Laid,” the instructor mentions, “There are literally thousands of chords but only four of them are needed to play ‘Wonderwall.'”
Experienced and talented guitarists play “Wonderwall” because they believe it will be popular among the hostel crowds (and unfortunately, they’re right). After impressing the crowd with Jimi Hendrix and Santana, they’ll perform “Wonderwall.” This is to ensure that all bases are covered while serenading to and seducing the the younger backpackers.
It caters to nasally voices
Americans have one of the most nasally accents in the world (don’t get upset, fellow Yanks, it’s simply true). The singer of Oasis, an Englishman named Liam Gallagher, mastered his slightly-nasally voice and shot to stardom as a result. Since Liam Gallagher can sing well while sounding congested, many others with nasally voices harbor the false belief that they can sing well also. American and English backpackers started singing this tune en masse, and backpackers from all over the world soon followed.
Everyone else is playing it
If everyone is playing this song, it must mean that everyone likes it. Therefore, if you play a song that everyone likes, people will like you as an extension. Flawless logic.
Like an infectious disease, the song has spread from hostel lounges to cafes, shops, restaurants — anywhere that backpackers spend money at — who now play “Wonderwall” as well. Instagram-worthy murals, “Wonderwall” blaring from the speakers, and cheap cocktails are a guaranteed way to pack out a venue with backpacking millennials. There are now reggae, hard rock, trance, dubstep, and acapella versions of “Wonderwall.” It’s been covered by Ed Sheeran, One Direction, The Killers, and thousands of aspiring YouTube stars. This “Wonderwall”-playing phenomena is so popular, it’s been turned into a meme called, “Anyway, Here’s ‘Wonderwall.'”
Since everyone else is playing it, we’ve all been forced to know the words
Humans are tribal. The second this backpacker beat comes on, you can bet every last dollar that every backpacker in the hostel lounge area will be moaning along like cats in heat. Even those who don’t enjoy listening to the song will still know the words.
Because there aren’t enough older people in hostels to tell us to shut the hell up
If you’ve read this far and have no idea what this post is about, it’s likely because you stay in three-star resorts and up, are over 35 years old, or have yet to be part of the backpacker tribe long enough to truly understand. “Wonderwall” plagues youth hostels and accommodations where most guests are on a budget of $20 per day. Therefore, older generations and wealthy people are sheltered from this monstrosity. If you hear “Wonderwall” encroach into your demographic, tell Wonderwall Dude to shut the hell up. I don’t want this song to still be bouncing around my skull when I cross into the next income bracket or when I age out of youth hostels.
Please, let’s put “Wonderwall” where it belongs. Shelf it next to the parachute pants, shoulder pads, rat tail haircuts, and other relics of the past that are banned from ever making a comeback.