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Hoobastank Explains Why ‘The Reason’ Still Resonates 20 Years Later: ‘It’s Pure in Its Message’ (Exclusive)

How does one write a hit song — that lasts? It’s a question that Hoobastank, the band behind “The Reason,” ponders in the latest episode of Us Weekly’s “Anatomy of a Song.”

The band’s Doug Robb and Dan Estrin spoke to Us about the title track of the band’s 2003 album, The Reason (the special 20th Anniversary Edition of The Reason arrives on DSPs Friday, January 12). Released as the LP’s second single in January 2004, “The Reason” became a radio and commercial smash, hitting No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and going 4x platinum in the United States.

“We’re guilty of trying to deconstruct that song,” says vocalist Robb, 49, told Us in an interview with guitarist Estrin, 47. While the duo says they “wish we knew exactly what it was” that made the song so popular, Robb thinks it’s because it wasn’t written formulaically.

Hoobastank Explains Why Audiences Still Love The Reason
Elizabeth Wiltshire

“It wasn’t like, ‘what does the audience want? What kind of tempo is good? Major minor chords, what chords work together?’ People do construct songs that way,” he says. “‘What’s a hot topic now? What’s good, what are phrases you can use’ – everything! They break it down to a science. They take all the ‘romance’ out of it.”

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“It was pure in its writing and its message,” says Robb. “It was one of the fastest songs from conception to finish that I think we’ve ever written. There wasn’t a lot of second-guessing — going back and going, ‘you should try this chord, try this word.’” The song’s success, Robb theorizes, is due to “just the authenticity of it. It’s a message that was true to me but not intended to be universal. It wasn’t like I needed to write something that a lot of people could relate to. It was never intended that way.”

Estrin remembers how he came up with the guitar parts. He tells Us he was still living at his mom’s house and was “constantly just working on music.” While sitting in the guest room, he played around when he landed on something that caught his ear. “It was somewhat unique or different to what I had been coming up with,” he says, “or maybe it was an evolution of what I had been doing already because the riff -on a song from the first record called ‘Crawling in the Dark,’ it’s not terribly different.”

Hoobastank Explains Why Audiences Still Love The Reason
Matt Akana

What he had created was “pretty interesting,” says Estrin. “And I was like, ‘OK well. Where can I go from there?’ And I found these other chords and just started going between these things that spoke to me.” What resulted was a chord progression that Estrin recorded and sent over to Robb. The singer went through some of his lyrics, poems and phrases and put them together.

Robb also shared what – or who – “The Reason” is about. “After a million questions like, ‘Hey, who’s the song about? Who’s the girl?’ It took all the questioning for me to really realize the song is about me. The song is about my own issues of messing up, and having to readjust my own behavior to make things work.”

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“The Reason” has connected with audiences since its release, most recently becoming a viral TikTok trend. To commemorate the legacy, Hoobastank released a physical LP commemorating the 20th anniversary of The Reason in December. The limited edition vinyl featured reimagined artwork and never-before-seen Polaroids from legendary rock photographer Kevin Estrada. The album also included a bonus track – Hoobastank’s rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

Hoobastank Explains Why Audiences Still Love The Reason
Elizabeth Wiltshire

In this episode of “Anatomy of a Song,” Robb and Estrin also discuss how “The Reason” has become the soundtrack to their fans’ lives, their take on it becoming a TikTok trend and some of the weirdest places they heard the song during their 20+ year career. Watch the video above for more.

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