You never really know all of another person's story

These fucking guys

No matter how long you know someone, they retain the ability to surprise you. I've been married for over 20 years, and my wife still occasionally busts out with a story I haven't heard before; I'm much more of a belligerent open book, but I'm sure I say things that catch her off guard every now and then. And the same holds true for friends, no matter how dear — each and every one of our best buddies and pals holds within them entire unknown worlds of stories and opinions. Some are unknown to us simply because they've never come up in conversation, while others have been kept secret because they are shameful and deserve to be withheld until all of us are dead and the sun has become a white dwarf star.

Unfortunately, some of those shameful secrets occasionally come to light through grievous lapses in judgment, as I was reminded just this afternoon when Beloved Friends of Jefitoblog Jason Hare and Michael Parr strolled into our group chat and decided, for reasons that will never make sense to me no matter how long I live, to defend the Carlos Santana/Rob Thomas duet "Smooth."

I'm sure you know the story already, but to recap briefly: "Smooth" was but one of numerous all-star collaborations recorded for the 1999 Santana album Supernatural, a lab-engineered spectacle devised by Arista label president Clive Davis with an eye toward returning the band to the top of the charts. As has often been the case with Davis' craven commercial gambits, it fucking worked; this stupid record, which features cameos from a Who's Who of "popular in 1999" artists including Everlast and Eagle-Eye Cherry, topped the goddamn charts and sold more than 15 million copies, largely on the back of "Smooth."

Man, it's a bad one

Released at virtually the exact moment that the record industry peaked before filesharing started making everyone go crazy and sales entered the catastrophic digital-era slump they still haven't recovered from, "Smooth" — which was shipped as a single almost exactly 25 years ago, a horrific event commemorated in this New York Times article — was one of the last cross-format smashes to truly define its moment. This sweaty pig of a single squatted on the charts forfuckingever, staying at No. 1 for three whole months, hanging out in the Top 10 for nearly seven months, and lingering, fartlike, in the Hot 100 for more than an entire fucking year.

Why did this happen? What the hell was wrong with people? Were we, as a society, really that starved for Metatron-assisted guitar noodling accompanied by the marble-mouthed vocals of Matchbox 20's upsettingly coiffed frontman? Had we been so abused by months on end of Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth that anything else sounded like sweet relief by comparison? Did Clive Davis divert his cravat budget toward paying off program directors across the country? I don't have the answers to these questions, and I never will. All I can tell you for sure is that I purchased Supernatural, because at the time I was buying a hefty percentage of all major new releases on a weekly basis, and I did not care for one single song. I'm being utterly sincere when I say that in the summer of 1999 as well as the summer of 2024, I would rather listen to "Mambo No. 5" than "Smooth."

In other words, I can't explain and refuse to defend this song's absurd success. Then and now, it strikes me as a queasily synthetic approximation of a rock song, one whose irritating guitar squalls and vaguely horny lyrics are supposed to carry an acceptable whiff of danger for people who thought Pat Benatar was too edgy in 1982. Like everything else associated with Rob Thomas to that point, it's overwhelmingly earnest without ever feeling rooted in honest human emotion, and musically mannered to the point of existential exhaustion.

If "Smooth" had existed on December 25, 1989, the United States military would have used it to break Manuel Noriega.

I could go on about how awful "Smooth" is and how much I hate it, but I've given this multiplatinum bowel leakage enough attention already, and you more than understand how I feel. And anyway, the real moral of this story isn't that Supernatural isn't any fun to listen to or that Rob Thomas deserves endless noogies — it's that no matter how well you think you know a person, there are definitely things you don't know about them, and as often as not, that's really for the best. So try not to ask anybody too many questions — and the next time you turn on the radio, be glad it isn't the summer of 1999.