The song is about three children who have suffered either physical or mental trauma, and each verse is a remembrance of lead singer Brad Roberts.

The song is sung hauntingly in a slow rock groove. Roberts’s delivery is heartfelt yet laconic. The lines don’t rhyme. He just delivers them in their raw state. Roberts told his story to Dutch Public Television in 2022. He described all of the things he experienced as a young child and teen that affected him and that he included in the three verses in the song. He had been in a car accident after viewing some “forbidden fruit” in a pornographic magazine. He had a birthmark for which he was teased that inspired the story in the song of the girl who won’t change for gym class because of the birthmarks all over her body. And, he knew a girl who went to a Pentacostal church and who spoke in tongues and writhed on the floor at her church services.

Why Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm as the chorus?

Roberts thinks that less is more in this case. He presents the three stories in the song as the disinterested observer, impartial to the proceedings. The humming is meant as a commentary on the three children’s situations, implying understanding and empathy. By highlighting the trauma of the fictional children, Roberts addresses his own experiences and trauma and seeks to validate the trauma of others. His band mates thought that the wordless chorus was just right as it was when he asked them for their opinions on the song. Roberts expressed relief at that because he had been anxious about what words he was going to put with the music of the chorus of the song.

Chart Performance

The song is undoubtedly the group’s signature hit. In the United States, it rose to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Around the world, it reached No. 1 in Denmark, Australia, Belgium, Lithuania, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway. It was in the top five in eight more countries as well. Inexplicably, in the group’s native country of Canada, it only reached No. 14. It’s a gold record in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom and a platinum record in Australia, Norway, and New Zealand.

Other Media

The television programs and films in which the song appears are quite eclectic. Situation comedies like “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Mindy Project” and dramas like “Smallville” and “Cold Case” feature the song. In films, it’s been in “District 9” and “Ghost in the Shell.”


Once there was this kid who
Got into an accident and couldn’t come to school
But when he finally came back
His hair had turned from black into bright white
He said that it was from when
The cars had smashed so hard

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

Once there was this girl who
Wouldn’t go and change with the girls in the change room
But when they finally made her
They saw birthmarks all over her body
She couldn’t quite explain it
They’d always just been there

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

But both girl and boy were glad
‘Cause one kid had it worse than that

‘Cause then there was this boy whose
Parents made him come directly home right after school
And when they went to their church
They shook and lurched all over the church floor
He couldn’t quite explain it
They’d always just gone there

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

Whoooh Whoooh
Whoooh Whoooh
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Brad Roberts

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm lyrics © Dummies Prod., Inc.

Listeners of music from the 1990’s, might also appreciate the song Nothing Else Matters by Metallica.