Song Spotlight: “Gives You Hell” by The All-American Rejects


Breakup songs are one of pop music’s most popular and overused tropes. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it; music is a great way of releasing feelings of anger or sadness, so relationships gone sour make for perfect expressions of emotion. There are so many songs written about broken relationships that it’s nearly impossible to name them. Taylor Swift, one of the most popular and well-known artists in the pop genre, has established much of her career on breakup songs. 

While this has undeniably paved the way for some fun and catchy music over the radio, it has also become stale and uninteresting for the most part. I can find myself rolling my eyes as break-up song #102 starts playing on the radio. Even with how overbearing the amount of breakup songs can be, there can be one of the many songs of this type that I genuinely love to listen to. 

But you wanna know the best part of this song? It’s not necessarily even a breakup song; it can apply to so many different situations, and its tone can be attributed to more than just a broken heart. But, the perfect amount of anger and bitterness is perfect for describing a breakup, and this band’s energy makes it so much more enjoyable to listen to. 

That band is The All-American Rejects, and the song is “Gives You Hell.”

The All-American Rejects were formed in 1999 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The band consists of lead singer and bassist Tyler Ritter, lead guitarist Nick Wheeler, rhythm guitarist Mike Kennerty, and drummer Chris Gaylor. They would become known for their pop-punk/power pop music, a genre that was becoming increasingly popular during this time period. They achieved mainstream success and popularity with their self-titled debut album, released in 2002, and their second album, “Move Along”, released in 2005. Both albums would spawn several successful singles, mainly “Swing, Swing,” “Dirty Little Secret”, and “Move Along.”

Formed in 1999, The All American Rejects became one of the most popular rock bands of the early 2000s. Their style of classic pop punk mixed with power pop added to their mainstream appeal, and they released several classic pop punk songs during this time. These include their singles “Dirty Little Secret”, “Move Along”, “Swing Swing” and of course gives you hell.

However, “Gives You Hell” is easily the band’s most successful song to date. “Gives You Hell” was the lead single off of their third studio album, “When the World Comes Down.” The song would not only peak at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, it was certified 4x Platinum by the RIAA. It was named the most-played song of the year in 2009 by Billboard. It would also chart high outside of the US, mainly in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

“Gives You Hell” was written by Nick Wheeler, and was recorded at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch Studios in California. According to Ritter, the song was written about someone you just hate. As stated by Tyler Ritter, it’s about “Just someone who makes you struggle, and it’s giving them the finger.” 

The song begins with a gentle drum roll, before going into a simple chord progression repeated for the first minute, played fingerstyle. Ritter soon enters with his signature pop-punk vocals, and from the opening lines, the song is absolutely overflowing with anger and bitterness. As he goes into the first chorus, the first heavy distorted chords are heard, before going back to the gentle loop of guitar, drums, and vocals. 

Before long, the chorus gets heavy and chanty as the distortion kicks in, and Ritter sings that ever so iconic line, “When you walk my way, I hope it gives you hell!” 

Following a softer interlude, the entire band and several backup singers enter a chant of the chorus, almost like something you’d hear at an out-of-control party. The song enters its final, powerful chorus before Ritter closes with the line, “You can sing along; I hope that it puts you through hell.”

Throughout the entire song, Ritter is taking every single shot he possibly can to the song’s subject. From mocking them for singing along to the song, calling whoever treats them well a fool, and of course, hoping that they go through hell whenever they see them. This level of bitterness is so over the top that I can’t help but love it. Besides, I’m sure most of us have had that one person we absolutely despise for whatever reason. 

While very reminiscent of a traditional breakup song, lead singer Tyler Ritter has explained the song is simply about someone you despise. This level of openness to its meaning just makes the song that much more relatable and appealing.

This level of emotion does lend itself well to a break-up song, and many of the lyrics do allude to that; but as I said earlier, it can attribute itself to many other things. This type of universal appeal, I think, makes the song so much better. Whether it’s a boss who won’t stop giving you grief, or that annoying neighbor who can’t mind their own business, the person that Ritter hopes goes through hell can be several different people, not just an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend. 

“Gives You Hell” is a pop punk/power pop classic, in my opinion, one of several released by the Rejects. It’s full of bitterness and snarkiness that may seem cruel or over-the-top, but at the same time, can be relatable to a lot of people. Plus, the fun arrangement and Ritter’s vocals make it a fun listen. All in all, whether or not you want to give specific someone hell, this song is an absolute bop. 

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