Oh, the irony. For a band that reveled in irony like Blur, they had to appreciate that their mockery of grunge gave them their biggest hit in America. Arriving on a hail of "America, she's really awright, ya know" hype by Damon in the U.K. press, Blur was seen as perhaps Blur's stab at being Pavement, since Damon just wouldn't shut up about the California quintet. (According to rumor, Pavement leader Stephen Malkmus returned the favor by having a fling with Albarn's then-girlfriend and Elastica leader Justine Frischmann while a houseguest with the couple.) Therefore, "Song 2," the heaviest song on the album, would logically have been the most Pavement-like tune on the album. Wrong. First of all, nothing on the record sounded remotely like Pavement, and secondly, "Song 2," with its stomping four-chord riff and loud-soft dynamics, was clearly a Nirvana sendup. It's a testament to Blur's tremendous gifts as musicians that the song only sounded like a parody to those in the know and, furthermore, it didn't matter, since it was catchier, hookier, and more concise than any grunge tune. The song is practically over once it's begun, something that just never happened with lethargic grunge. And the hook -- Damon yelling "woo-hoo!" as the guitars come crashing in (you can practically see him doing his trademark jumps in your mind's eye) -- is brilliantly simple and dumb, as catchy as anything Nirvana wrote, and better than anything any Seattle group outside of Stone Temple Pilots did. It was a pure rush of sound and if the words didn't necessarily make sense, well, it was hard to follow what Layne Staley was talking about, and Albarn's snide "It's not my problem" cuts deep into the heart of slackerdom. And "When I feel heavy metal" is just plain funny.
"Song 2" was timed perfectly. Grunge had fallen by the wayside in early 1997, but it still could win a teenage audience, thanks to the loud guitars. "Song 2" managed to be reminiscent of grunge, but was fresh, due to its brevity and songcraft. Therefore, it became their first U.S. hit since "Girls & Boys," which was generally lost in the hubbub in 1994. So, what did Blur do once they had a hit? Like any band worth their salt, they whored it out. They didn't tour the U.S. that much -- they sold the hell out of the song. They turned down a U.S. Navy ad, but let it be used for the National Hockey League and ads for Paul Verohoven's ultraviolent Starship Troopers. It also showed up in a memorable episode of The Simpsons, serving as the soundtrack for a nutty chase through the Superbowl. Then, in late 1999, it moved to a car commercial. This omnipresence didn't dilute the song's message, since there wasn't a message -- it was a parody that was designed to be a hit. So, it got the fate it deserved, and it became a '90s modern rock classic in the process.