Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah”. The delicate white man with the acoustic guitar won’t ever, ever die. Delicate white guys have been selecting up acoustic guitars for many years and a long time. The archetype has been round, on the very least, for the reason that ’50s people revival, although god is aware of it would’ve already been a cliché by then.
Within the ’60s and ’70s, delicate white guys with acoustic guitars turned pop titans: Donovan, Paul Simon, James Taylor. (Bob Dylan was the prototype for all these guys, however Dylan was by no means particularly delicate.)
This century, delicate white guys with acoustic guitars are now not on the cultural vanguard. However one thing humorous occurred to that archetype within the ’00s. Through the George W. Bush administration, a number of delicate white guys with acoustic guitars made chart-topping hits.
Plain White T’s’ Hey There Delilah
However these delicate white guys tended to be one-hit wonders, and their hits had been goofy little cultural blips that might simply be dismissed as novelties. That’s what occurred with James Blunt, with Daniel Powter, and with Plain White T’s.
Some caveats right here: James Blunt wasn’t a one-hit surprise in his native UK, although he actually was one right here. Blunt served within the navy, so he won’t be that delicate — although he did inform tales about enjoying his acoustic guitar whereas using round on high of a tank, a really unbearable picture which may additionally symbolize a terrifying new mutation of the delicate white man with acoustic guitar kind.
Daniel Powter performs piano, not guitar, although he’s nonetheless a delicate white man with an acoustic guitar at coronary heart. And Plain White T’s are a super-polished pop-punk band, not an acoustic-guitar scenario. However “Hey There Delilah,” the band’s one hit, is a complete delicate acoustic-guitar white-guy tune. It is likely to be that decade’s purest instance of the shape.
Consider it. It’s all there — the fundamental fingerpicking with the smooth string association, the wounded cracking of the voice, the deeply goofy lovelorn lyrics that go for romanticism however come off a bit of deluded and jerky once you actually take into consideration them.
Hey There Delilah” was a random-ass stealth hit that took years to climb the Sizzling 100. As soon as upon a time, that was Paul Simon’s story. In a earlier period, a tune like that might’ve turned Plain White T’s chief Tom Higgenson into an precise star. However “Hey There Delilah” got here out in 2005 and topped the Sizzling 100 in 2007, and it’s additionally not an excellent tune. Higgenson by no means stood an opportunity.
There actually is a Delilah. Delilah DiCrescenzo is knowledgeable distance runner who was by no means, ever romantically concerned with Tom Higgenson or, for that matter, with some other Plain White T’s. Higgenson met DiCrescenzo on the Chicago Home Of Blues in 2002.
She was a scholar at Columbia in New York, and a mutual good friend launched her to Higgenson when she was again house on break. Higgenson was immediately smitten, and he informed DiCrescenzo that he’d write her a tune.
She had a boyfriend, and he or she wasn’t . Some time later, Higgenson dropped a CD off at DiCrescenzo’s home and informed her to hearken to it after he left. She did, and he or she heard “Hey There Delilah” for the primary time. She was flattered, however she nonetheless wasn’t .
Tom Higgenson grew up within the Chicago suburb of Lombard, and he shaped Plain White T’s with some highschool associates in 1997. (Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Suppose I’m Attractive?” was the #1 tune in America when Higgenson was born.)
I don’t know why Higgenson picked Plain White T’s as his band identify, however that call may’ve price him a fortune in merch cash. Why would anybody purchase a T-shirt with “Plain White T’s” written on it once they might simply purchase an precise plain white tee?
This was again earlier than Fall Out Boy was a factor, however late-’90s Chicago was already stuffed with pop-punk bands who went for large, melodic emotion. In case you hearken to Plain White T’s’ self-released 2000 debut Come On Over, you’ll be able to hear these children capturing for a softer, extra wistful model of the energetic tunefulness that scene elders like Alkaline Trio and the Lawrence Arms had already nailed.
Plain White T’s went via a bunch of lineup modifications over time, they usually had been principally an area Chicago band till 2002. That’s once they signed with Fearless Information, a California indie that specialised in pop-punk and launched early information from bands like At The Drive-In and Portugal.
The Man. Fearless launched Plain White T’s’ sophomore LP Cease. I don’t know when Tom Higgenson bought the shaggy, floppy haircut that may at all times be related to ’00s emo, however he undoubtedly had it when Plain White T’s began making movies.
In 2005, Plain White T’s launched All That We Wanted, their second album on Fearless. Sean O’Keefe, one of many producers of that report, was a Chicago man who’d grow to be an enormous deal in the entire emo world. O’Keefe had already produced profitable albums for Fall Out Boy, Movement Metropolis Soundtrack, and Hawthorne Heights.
These bands represented a complete new wave of wordy, pop-friendly guitar music that turned a grassroots teenage phenomenon within the mid-’00s. Instantly, a sure kind of band was turning into vastly fashionable, seemingly in a single day. The denims had been tight, the haircuts had been feathery, the T-shirts had been extra-medium, and the lyrics had been often about treacherous ex-girlfriends.
The entire MySpace emo wave was in all probability the final time that aggressive, guitar-driven rock-band music achieved any sort of centrality in youth tradition. Emo acts like Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional had quite a lot of success within the early ’00s, however 2005 was the yr that the wave actually crested.
That’s when Fall Out Boy, a Chicago band that later took Plain White T’s on tour, launched their breakout album From Below The Cork Tree. That yr, Fall Out Boy’s anthemic single “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” made it to #8. (It’s a ten.) Sean O’Keefe didn’t produce From Below The Cork Tree, however his involvement nonetheless put Plain White T’s in good firm.
The opposite producer who labored on Plain White T’s’ All That We Wanted was Ariel Rechtshaid, the previous chief of a Los Angeles ska-punk band known as the Hippos. By 2005, Rechtshaid was enjoying bass within the indie rock band Overseas Born. He was fairly new to manufacturing on the time, although he’d labored on New Jersey emo band Armor For Sleep’s 2003 debut.
O’Keefe and Rechtshaid each knew what they had been doing, and most of All That We Wanted is a cleaner, extra radio-friendly model of the pop-punk that Plain White T’s has already been making. The only “Take Me Away,” which appears like junior-varsity Jimmy Eat World, is fairly typical of the entire report.
On its last observe, although, All That We Wanted takes a flip. That’s after we get “Hey There Delilah,” the one acoustic ballad on the LP. Tom Higgenson wrote that tune about Delilah DiCrescenzo, however the tune depicts a complete fictional and fantastical state of affairs the place they’re truly collectively.
On “Hey There Delilah,” Higgenson imagines himself in a long-distance relationship with Delilah. He’s in Chicago, and he or she’s in New York, however they’re nonetheless collectively in spirit: “Hey there Delilah, don’t you are concerned concerning the distance/ I’m proper there in the event you get lonely, give this tune one other pay attention.”
Tom Higgenson guarantees that he’ll ultimately “pay the payments with this guitar,” and he appears to be like ahead to the day when Delilah leaves New York for good: “Hey there Delilah, you be good, and don’t you miss me/ Two extra years and also you’ll be performed with faculty/ And I’ll be making historical past like I do.” What the fuck is that line? He’ll be making historical past? Chill out, buddy.
Understanding what I do know concerning the tune’s genesis, I think about “Hey There Delilah” as Higgenson’s last-ditch try to impress this woman and win her away from her boyfriend; the lyrics even have Higgenson describing the impact that he desires his music to have on her: “If each easy tune I wrote to you’ll take your breath away, I’d write all of it/ Much more in love with me, you’d fall.”
If Tom Higgenson’s purpose was to woo Delilah DiCrescenzo, “Hey There Delilah” didn’t work. In a 2013 ESPN interview, Delilah talks about how she felt when she heard “Hey There Delilah”: “My first thought: ‘Oh no! Did I lead Tom on?’ I turned anxious.” Delilah actually frightened that she’d given Tom Higgenson the incorrect impression.
If she’d been pissed off about his flights of lyrical fancy about her, she would’ve been justified. The refrain of “Hey There Delilah” is simply Higgenson repeating the phrase “oh, it’s what you do to me” time and again. In that ESPN interview, Delilah says that her father heard the tune and requested, “Delilah, precisely what did you do to this man?”
I can sort of see why folks can be drawn to “Hey There Delilah.” The tune is plainspoken and particular — the unusual first identify and the New York references give the impression that Tom Higgenson is speaking to an actual individual.
One line offers him away, although: “Instances Sq. can’t shine as vivid as you.” Inside their first month on the town, New York faculty college students be taught to react with abject disgust each time an out-of-towner a lot as mentions Instances Sq.. If “Hey There Delilah” got here out right now, possibly Higgenson would sub in “Dimes Sq..”
“Hey There Delilah” has a easy, memorable melody, and it stands out — from the remainder of the Plain White T’s album, from the remainder of the 2005 emo class, and from the remainder of the stuff that was on the radio on the time.
However I consider the tune as being profoundly wimpy, principally for the way in which that Higgenson’s voice theatrically creaks all through the tune, as if he’s too emotionally overcome to sing correctly. The tune is pretty inoffensive. I by no means hated it, however I did discover it boring and simply barely off-putting.
At first, “Hey There Delilah” was simply an album nearer. When Ariel Rechtshaid recorded the observe, he didn’t assume an excessive amount of about it. Rechtshaid later informed Sound On Sound, “I keep in mind recording the vocals and the guitar individually, making an attempt to make it sound prefer it was occurring dwell — a quite simple Beatles-y/Simon & Garfunkel sort of factor.
I left it at that.” However “Hey There Delilah” picked up steam. It turned an enormous singalong at Plain White T’s reveals. In 2006, Fearless launched Hey There Delilah EP with a number of unreleased tracks and a dwell model of the tune. On the dwell model, the group virtually drowns Tom Higgenson out.
In 2006, Plain White T’s signed with the Disney-owned main label Hollywood Information, they usually launched their album Each Second Counts a yr later. At that time, Plain White T’s had been considered one of about one million emo bands who had been surging in recognition.
Each Second Counts principally sounds even cleaner than All That We Wanted, and Hollywood gave the band sufficient juice to cross over. Their lead single, the nasty post-breakup rage-out “Hate (I Actually Don’t Like You)” turned Plain White T’s’ first Sizzling 100 hit, peaking at #68.
However “Hey There Delilah” was the key weapon. A few All That We Wanted tracks reappear on the finish of Each Second Counts, and considered one of them is “Hey There Delilah.” Plain White T’s made a “Hey There Delilah” video, with Tom Higgenson enjoying his acoustic guitar in an empty room and a mannequin, enjoying Delilah, swanning round New York.
The tune began to catch on, and Ariel Rechtshaid remembers when it blew up: “Swiftly, I began listening to it on the radio and considering, ‘Is that even the identical recording that I did?’ It was such a distant reminiscence at that time. I sort of assumed that they’d re-recorded it. However it turned out that it was the identical recording, and it got here again to life and have become a #1.”
Think about how Delilah DiCrescenzo felt. On the time, she informed USA Immediately, “Once I’m on the fitness center, it’s enjoying. Once I’m on the pool, it’s enjoying. A part of me desires to scream on the high of my lungs that it’s about me. One other a part of me desires to cower and say it’s not.
For some time, she didn’t inform anybody that she was the Delilah of the tune. Later, she informed ESPN, “I used to be nervous that I’d let Tom’s followers down. They’d be upset to listen to I’ve a boyfriend. Each woman would desire a tune written about her, they usually’d assume I used to be ungrateful and impolite to disclaim Tom. I felt stress to dwell as much as these expectations.” Yikes.
Finally, considered one of Delilah DiCrescenzo’s associates volunteered her for a radio interview. She didn’t need to admit that she was the Delilah, however she went together with it. Quickly, Delilah was doing interviews in every single place; she later stated that the entire course of in all probability distracted her from her working.
Delilah made the 2008 Olympic trials, however she didn’t make the minimize for the precise Olympic crew. Delilah needed to convey publicity to her sport, and he or she additionally needed to reassure her boyfriend that he didn’t must really feel jealous. These interviews may’ve helped Delilah to get a Puma sponsorship, they usually may’ve additionally helped push the tune to #1.
Finally, “Hey There Delilah” was the one tune from the entire mid-’00s emo wave that went all the way in which to #1. Different bands bought larger and scored extra hits; a number of of them — Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Paramore — can nonetheless fill arenas now.
However “Hey There Delilah” had the benefit of not sounding like an emo tune — of not having any audible punk affect in any respect. It gave the impression of Starbucks music, like Gray’s Anatomy music. The world accepted “Hey There Delilah” the identical approach that it had accepted James Blunt’s “You’re Lovely” and Daniel Powter’s “Unhealthy Day.”
Plain White T’s toured arenas within the fall of 2007, however they did it as considered one of Fall Out Boy’s opening acts. (I went to that tour when it got here to Madison Sq. Backyard, however I missed Plain White T’s, and I used to be OK with that.) Each Second Counts went gold, and the “Hey There Delilah” single ultimately went quadruple platinum. The band’s follow-up single “Our Time Now” peaked at #90. Possibly that tune title was a bit of untimely.
“Hey There Delilah” bought nominated for a few Grammys, together with Tune Of The Yr, which it misplaced to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” (“Rehab” peaked at #9. It’s a 9.) Delilah DiCrescenzo bought her boyfriend’s blessing, and he or she went to the Grammys with Plain White T’s. Later, she informed ESPN, “It was a lot enjoyable, regardless of being so out of my component. I swapped my sports activities bra and trainers for a glamorous costume and costly jewellery that, sadly, I needed to return.”
Plain White T’s had been by no means going to get anyplace close to the extent of “Hey There Delilah” once more, however they saved making music, they usually notched up a pair extra minor hits. In 2008, they bought to #34 with “1, 2, 3, 4,” the folksy single from their follow-up album Massive Unhealthy World. In 2010, “Rhythm Of Love,” one other cutesy acoustic tune, made it to #38. Each “1, 2, 3, 4” and “Rhythm Of Love” gave the impression of makes an attempt to recapture what they’d already performed with “Hey There Delilah.” Each of them failed, however each no less than made the pop charts. Plain White T’s haven’t been again on the Sizzling 100 since.
After co-producing “Hey There Delilah,” Sean O’Keefe saved working, and he teamed again up with Fall Out Boy for his or her 2018 EP Lake Impact Child. Ariel Rechtshaid went on to work with a bunch of thrilling indie varieties: Cass McCombs, Glasser, Blood Orange. In 2012, Rechtshaid co-produced “Climax,” a masterpiece of a single from Usher, a man who’s been on this column a bunch of instances. (“Climax” peaked at #17.)
In 2013, Ariel Rechtshaid labored on a bunch of the yr’s finest albums: Sky Ferreira’s Evening Time, My Time, Vampire Weekend’s Fashionable Vampires Of The Metropolis, Haim’s Days Are Gone, Solange’s True. On the finish of that yr, I interviewed Rechtshaid for Stereogum, and I assumed he was cool as hell.
Rechtshaid even humored me once I requested him if he was nonetheless spending that “Hey There Delilah” cash. His reply: “No, that effectively has run dry. Possibly if I’d written it.” Rechtshaid has continued to do nice work since then; simply final month, he had a credit score on the Caroline Polachek album.
I don’t know if Tom Higgenson continues to be spending that “Hey There Delilah” cash. Plain White T’s are nonetheless going, although Higgenson is the one remaining unique member. The band ultimately parted methods with Hollywood Information, they usually returned to their outdated label Fearless for his or her most up-to-date LP, 2018’s Parallel Universe.
In 2018, Higgenson was additionally speaking about creating a “Hey There Delilah” TV present, adapting the tune right into a scripted romantic dramedy. I haven’t heard something concerning the TV present since then; I’m wondering how Delilah DiCrescenzo will really feel concerning the present if it ever comes out. Later this yr, Plain White T’s will play the second version of When We Had been Younger, the Las Vegas emo nostalgia-fest. That looks like the suitable place for them.
After “Hey There Delilah,” extra delicate white guys with acoustic guitars would come alongside, and a few of them would even grow to be main stars. This column will ultimately must take care of the entire Ed Sheeran scenario.