This was the first single taken from American alternative rock band Pearl Jam's ninth studio album, Backspacer.
The music was written by drummer Matt Cameron in 2008 and vocalist Eddie Vedder penned the lyrics.
The band debuted this in an excerpted form on July 14, 2009, during the Major League Baseball All-Star game.
The song featured in a Cameron Crowe-directed commercial for Target that Pearl Jam filmed at Seattle's Showbox. The band signed a deal with Target to be the exclusive megastore retailer for Backspacer in the United States.
This song became the foundation for Backspacer after Vedder came up with an edit of an arrangement that the band originally jammed without him. Guitarist Stone Gossard commented to Billboard: "My personal interpretation is that it's about how [Vedder] makes our songs work. When someone inspires him, he's an incredible collaborator."
This debuted at #56 on the Billboard Hot 100, Pearl Jam's highest ever entry on the chart.
Despite Eddie Vedder's bandmates seeming to think this song is referring to him, the frontman told Billboard magazine he feels it refers to everybody. Said Vedder: "I read something Stone said in relation to the band, and he might be right to a certain extent. If it were to be about the band, then it would actually be more about each different song. But that's not fixing; that's just directing it somewhere. I'm thinking more on a worldview or a community view. I read this quote from Rick Danko, maybe from before The Last Waltz. He said, 'We used to think with music that we could save the world, but now we're old enough and wise enough to know that all we can change is our community.'"
Vedder explained that this song is about male/female relationships to the Toronto Globe and Mail. He said: "Men, we all think we can fix anything. It's not necessarily a good thing. In a relationship, a woman will say 'This is wrong,' and we're like, 'I'll fix that, don't worry about it, we can fix it.' These wonderful people, the woman you're in a relationship with, they don't want you to fix it. They just want you to listen to what's happening: 'Don't fix it, I want you to own this with me – feel it.' This is a reminder song to me, to stop fixing."
Drummer Matt Cameron originally wrote the music for this lean-riff rocker. Guitarist Stone Gossard recalled to Billboard: "With that song, Matt came in with a riff and we worked out a few different arrangements. Then Ed took it and re-arranged it with Pro Tools, to get the parts he needed in the right place. You don't want to get a final arrangement for a song before he's had a chance to screw around with it, because once he gets it, it can all change. What you thought was a chorus can end up being a verse. There was a real collaborative effort on the whole album. Ed, in particular, worked with everyone on their songs." Gossard added: "It was Ed that really made the arrangement of the song. Matt had two or three more parts. When you don't have a vocal, you just put it all in there and hope for the best in terms of your arranging skills. Literally we went away and left Ed with it the night after we recorded it, and he came back with this three-minute pop song. He probably cut half the parts out and re-arranged it."
Billboard magazine asked Vedder if the album title is a typewriter reference. He replied; "Yeah, it started with the typewriter. I'm not sure when they changed it, but typewriters from the '40s and '30s, instead of 'backspace,' it said 'backspacer.' And we don't have those keys on computers. It's just 'delete' (laughs). That's a cleaner way of getting rid of your mistake, but with backspacer, you actually have to kind of look at your mistake. I was actually working on an art project with typewriter keys and I had a number of them from different typewriters. I saw that they were making jewelry out of typewriter keys years ago, when I'd look for typewriters. For me it was like shark fin soup: you're killing typewriters for a bracelet! I had an idea to make a mosaic using the typewriter keys, like a sculpture, so I was surrounded by all these keys. That key just kind of jumped out."
Backspacer was produced by Brendan O'Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine). O'Brien has collaborated with the Seattle band before, having manned the boards on several of their 1990s albums. The two parties first reunited in 2008 to record a cover of the Who's "Love, Reign O'er Me" for the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler film Reign Over Me. Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament told Billboard magazine: "Brendan works really fast. He's a super pro. I've always felt, working with him, that he understood me as a bass player and that's not always easy. A lot of producers are there to please the singer. But I've always had a great rapport with him. I can tell him I want something to sound like the O'Jays or Led Zeppelin or PJ Harvey and he gets it."
In Rolling Stone's 2009 Readers' Poll, this song was voted the Best Single of the year. In a double whammy for the Seattle band, Backspacer scored Best Album.