Escatawpa, Mississippi

Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down

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If I go crazy then
Will you still call me Superman? Read full Lyrics
Before Brad Arnold became the frontman for American rock band 3 Doors Down, he was a bored 15-year-old trying to survive math class by beating out drum rhythms on his desk and scribbling down lyrics to what would become the band's signature song, "Kryptonite." As Arnold says in an interview with Songfacts, " teacher knew I was not good, not paying attention, but he just kind of let me go. But yeah, I wrote that song, and a few more in there. I believe I wrote the lyrics to some others in that same class… I wrote probably about half of that Better Life album in that math class."

Arnold grew up in Escatawpa, Mississippi, a town with barely 5,000 residents located in Jackson County, "about as far south as you can go without getting wet," Arnold says. Having been inhabited since well before the Civil War, Escatawpa has been known as Dog River, Dutch Bayou, and Tugas in its lifetime, before residents settled on the Anglicized spelling Escatawpa, a name adopted from the Choctaw name for the region meaning "cut cane." Today Escatawpa, located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast half way between Biloxi and Mobile, is known only for being the home town of the band 3 Doors Down.

Pascagoula River in Escatawpa<br>Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">eutrophication&hypoxia</a>, via Flickr, CC 2.0Pascagoula River in Escatawpa
Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia, via Flickr, CC 2.0
In 1996, Arnold enlisted Todd Harrell and Matt Roberts, forming the original band lineup. After performing for a while together as a trio, Chris Henderson joined the band for a demo CD recording. This demo found its way to the local radio station, which started playing the EP version of "Kryptonite." The song quickly became the No. 1 requested song on the station for over fifteen weeks. It was following this success - and a string of energetic live performances - that Republic Records signed the band.

Given the song title, the natural conclusion is that "Kryptonite" is somehow connected to the comic book hero Superman. "That song, seems like it's really just kind of like asking a question. Its question is kind of a strange one. It's not just asking, 'If I fall down, will you be there for me?' Because it's easy to be there for someone when they're down. But it's not always easy to be there for somebody when they're doing good... That's kind of asking, 'If I'm doing good, will you be there for me? Will you not be jealous of me?'" says Arnold. Despite all protests that the song doesn't have a direct connection to the red-and-blue superhero, the music video – directed by Dean Karr – seems to play on this superhero theme, with an elderly man in ill-fitting spandex attempting to rescue a woman under attack, while the band is seen performing in a club packed with elderly super-villains. The other automatic assumption about "Kryptonite" is the shout-out to Pink Floyd, with the line about going to the dark side of the moon. Arnold refutes this connection as well, saying the lyric was merely happenstance and not an intentional reference to either Pink Floyd or to the scene in one of the Superman movies where Superman and his nemesis literally go to the dark side of the moon.

Regardless of whether these references were intentional or not, "Kryptonite" certainly became the superhero single for the band, peaking at No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 1 on all three US Billboard charts: Alternative Songs, Pop Songs and Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. Due to the success of this single, The Better Life album went on to sell over six million copies. Today, "Kryptonite" remains the song for which the band is most famous and is featured during the Superman monster truck session at Monster Jam events, as well as on the set list for both Guitar Hero 5 and as downloadable content for Rock Band.

Although the song itself may not break new musical ground in terms of pop-rock anthems, this dynamic band from the Deep South has certainly earned its place in the annals of rock history with their radio hit "Kryptonite."

Suzanne van Rooyen
December 16, 2012

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. Although she has a Master's degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and The Other Me.
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