Fly

Album: Floored (1997)
Charted: 58

Songfacts®:

  • Sugar Ray, fronted by Mark McGrath, started out as a California funk metal band before they broke into the mainstream as pop rockers nearly a decade later with "Fly." The reggae fusion tune, featuring Jamaican DJ Super Cat, finds the singer wanting to fly to romantic heights to escape all the heartache in the world, including the death of his mother. Kinda dark for an upbeat-sounding summertime hit. Says McGrath: "There is this stark imagery in there. There's loss in it. There is loss of a mother, obviously. I thought it was a good way to juxtapose the lyrics with the melody on that." (McGrath's mother, however, was very much alive.)
  • Two versions are featured on the album, one with Super Cat and one without.
  • Back in the '90s, many record labels in the US didn't release popular songs as singles in order to boost album sales, but they still needed to get them on the air to entice listeners. Although "Fly" was unlike anything on the Floored album, Atlantic Records sent a promo single to radio stations. Unfortunately album cuts weren't eligible for the Hot 100 at the time, but the song hit #1 on the Hot 100 Airplay Chart for four consecutive weeks and dominated the Modern Rock Tracks chart for eight weeks. The album sold over two million copies and landed at #12 on the albums chart.
  • McGrath hated the song when he first heard Sugar Ray drummer Stan Frazier play it. He told Rock Cellar Magazine: "Our drummer had this sort of ethereal version of 'Fly' that when I first heard it – just the chorus, the (sings in different register) 'I just want to fly' – I almost quit the band when I first heard it. It was the worst thing I had ever heard. But then a friend of mine, McG, who directs all our music videos and is now a big player in the Hollywood world, he heard the song too. I told him I hated it, but he told me 'just go back and give it another listen, see if you can structure it, make chords out of it or put verses to it.'"
  • David Kahne, fresh off producing Sublime's final album along with their biggest radio hit, "What I Got," was brought on to produce Floored and immediately smelled a hit. McGrath recalled: "We brought him to our studio and played him 'Fly,' and when I got to the part where I say 'my mother, god rest her soul' he stopped the practice and said 'do that again.'

    I did it over and over, and he said 'I can sell two million records based on that note right there.' We were skeptical, but he said 'trust me, the song's a hit, I can make it a hit.' And the rest was history."
  • "My mother, god rest her soul," is borrowed from Gilbert O'Sullivan's 1972 hit "Alone Again (Naturally)."
  • Before producing the long-running CW series Supernatural and directing action flicks like Charlie's Angels, Joseph McGinty Nichol, aka McG, started out directing colorful music videos for a host of '90s hits, including Barenaked Ladies' "One Week" and Smash Mouth's "All Star."

    The video for "Fly" shows the band performing along with guest Super Cat on a retro stage and in a small living room, where McGrath dances on the walls and ceiling. Austin the bulldog, the band's mascot, also appears. At the end of the clip, five women are eager to welcome the guys home: their real-life moms.

    McGrath and McG have a connection beyond their first three letters: they were classmates at Corona Del Mar High in Newport Beach, California.
  • Sugar Ray defied predictions that they were a one-hit wonder when their next album, 14:59, outsold Floored by a million sales. But the new millennium wasn't as kind to the band as their subsequent albums were given a lukewarm reception; Atlantic Records released them from their contract in 2007. They released one more album, Music for Cougars, before Stan Frazier, bass player Murphy Karges, and turntablist DJ Homicide called it quits.

    The band attempted a comeback as part of the "Under the Sun" '90s nostalgia tours in 2014 and 2015, but a bitter legal dispute with their former bandmates killed chances of a new album. "There will never be another Sugar Ray record, I can guarantee you that," McGrath told Arena in 2015.
  • The version without Super Cat was used in the 2000 movie Coyote Ugly, starring Piper Perabo.

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