Matchbox Twenty ‘malaise’ is more relevant than ever

Matchbox Twenty;  bandaged

Twenty Matchbox. Photo: Courtesy of Randall Slavin, Atlantic Records

If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that it’s okay not to be well – an important mental health lesson that Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas has learned all too well learned in the early 2000s, when he started writing “Unwell”.

The song was released in 2002, as part of the album More than you think, and became one of the biggest pop songs of the 2000s. After years as a karaoke staple and with footage of the song’s original lyric sheets becoming an NFT, it’s become more relevant than ever in 2021.

“Not too long ago there seemed to be a certain stigma attached to just saying ‘I don’t think I’m fine’, so people, instead, wouldn’t open up and wouldn’t get help,” Thomas said. VICE. “‘Unwell’ is really just a song that says ‘I don’t think I’m okay’.”

The title of the song is self-explanatory. His lyrics describe the feelings of sickness, self-doubt, insecurity and isolation that often accompany panic attacks, which Thomas revealed he experienced for a long time.

“It was about taking care of yourself and [how] you’re not comfortable in your own skin and the world sees it, and you feel like a freak,” he told DJ Steve Aoki in a video uploaded to the band’s Instagram account.

“And now with social media…it’s more prevalent than ever.”

“All night I hear voices telling me / That I should get some sleep / ‘Cause tomorrow might be good for something / Wait, I feel like I’m going to have a breakdown / And I don’t know Why.”

Lyrically, “Unwell” speaks to Thomas’ deeper personal experience dealing with anxiety. “[It] was to become more and more uncomfortable in everyday situations and to see the change happen,” he said.

“Just as I wrote this was also when I had started having small panic attacks. They only got worse over time, but the song was about me realizing I had this job where I was comfortable in front of thousands of people, but I felt like I was at outside myself in a crowded room.

And of all the lines in the three-and-a-half-minute song, her favorite is “tomorrow might be good for something.”

“It’s hopeful,” he said. “But definitely the low bar for hope.”

malaise 2003 song matchbox twenty

“Unwell” was a musical departure from the band’s signature rock style. Photo: Courtesy of Randall Slavin​, Atlantic Records

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues affecting millions of people of all ages. Experts say it can manifest as negative feelings like stress, worry and fear, and often leaves people feeling overwhelmed. In more severe cases, some experience psychological distress. This has been especially prevalent during the pandemic, with endless lockdowns and constant cycles of bad news triggering worry and loneliness.

Thomas, the frontman of one of the best-selling rock bands of the 90s and early 2000s, was rattled by his own anxiety and panic attacks in order to perform in front of thousands of people at shows in sold-out crowds and stadium tours around the world. finally opened up about his condition through music.

“This is especially important at this time when our collective anxiety has reached such a high level. Most of us know we are not feeling well, but just talking about it is a big part of the battle” , did he declare.

Thomas had his fair share of challenges and heartbreak during the height of the pandemic. He has lost friends and family members and is now worried about his wife, who is dealing with underlying health issues that have prevented her from getting vaccinated at this time.

“It’s been a challenge at times, for sure,” he said. “Even if I am vaccinated, we have to be careful.”

“Most of us know we’re not feeling well, but just talking about it is a big part of the battle.”

Compared to more famous Matchbox Twenty hits like “Push”, “Bent”, “If You’re Gone” and “Disease” (which was written by Mick Jagger and Thomas), “Unwell” was a musical departure from the group signature. rock style, slower rhythm and opening with a banjo.

“When I originally started it, I had it as a much more upbeat kind of song. Luckily Paul [the band’s drummer and rhythm guitarist], heard the demo and immediately said it had to be more of a ballad,” Thomas recalled. “We loved the song, but we knew there was a chance it wouldn’t do well.”

It was a musical risk for the band, but one they knew they had to take – and it ultimately paid off, topping the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 5 on the Hot 100 and receiving a Grammy nomination. Awards.

“When the song was on the charts, there was a lot of hip-hop and R&B surrounding it, and here’s this song from a band with a banjo as their main instrument.”

Today it is still played on radio and its music video on YouTube, which follows Thomas through one episode as he is chased by A clockwork orange-esque characters – racking up over 69 million views.

“It’s encouraging,” Thomas said of the song’s success and resonance today. “To be somewhere all these years later and still hearing one of our songs on the radio or being played by a band is amazing.”

The official music video for “Unwell”. Have you seen Carlos Santana’s Easter egg?

Now it lives on in internet history, along with a 2021 remix by DJ Steve Aoki and singer-songwriter Kiiara, featuring Wiz Khalifa, titled “Used To Be.” Thomas, who gave his stamp of approval, even makes a vocal appearance on the acoustic version.

“Kiiara is someone who faced her own struggles at a very young age. I believe she recognized herself in the general meaning of the chorus,” Thomas said, adding that he immediately warmed up on the cover and that he was “more than happy” to duet with her on the acoustic version.

“I think when artists or musicians or writers bring up something that a listener or reader connects with, it says more about the fact that we’re all the same in so many ways,” Thomas said.

Now the band is looking to get back on the road, hopefully in 2022.

“The idea that we live in a time when people in the public eye — musicians, sports stars, actors, writers, civic leaders — are talking openly about their mental health issues helps normalize sentiment.”

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