Meaning of “Hook” by Blues Traveler

Blues Traveler is a late 20th century alternative rock band from New Jersey. Between 1990 and 2021 this outfit has released four studio albums, with the most successful of those efforts being 1994’s “Four”, which was their fourth LP. And it is from that project that we get “Hook”, which was more specifically released through A&M Records on September 13th of that year.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Blues Traveler's Hook at

It was actually the second single the band released from “Four”. Two other singles were released from this album, namely “Run-Around” and “The Mountains Win Again”.


Blues Traveler’s membership has been pretty consistent throughout the act’s existence, with three of its co-founders, John Popper (frontman), guitarist Chan Kinchla (guitarist) and Brendan Hill (drummer), remaining active in the band throughout all of these decades. As such, those three individuals participated in the recording of “Four” alongside fellow co-founder, bassist Bobby Sheehan, who unfortunately passed away in 1999 at the age of 31. And it’s John Popper who wrote this song, with its producers being Michael Barbiero and Steve Thompson.

According to iMDb, the music video to this track was directed by David Hogan. It co-stars the late Keb Ober (1957-2009), who at the time was perhaps best known as a MTV personality, as well as featuring legendary American entertainer Milton Berle (1908-2002).


This song was a hit in that it appeared on six different Billboard charts, faring best on the Mainstream Top 40, where it peaked at number 8, but also breaking the top 30 of the US Hot 100. Additionally it proceeded to appear on the Canada Alternative 30 and marks one of Blues Traveler’s most successful singles.


As generally understood, the hook of a pop (i.e. contemporary) song is the recurring part of the track which features vocals that are meant to draw and maintain the listener’s attention. In most songs that the music industry offers, the hook tends to be the track’s chorus. 

And as we have pointed out numerous times in the past there are some songs out there, including quite a few classics, which feature hooks that are so powerful or catchy that the song manages to hit, even though most listeners wouldn’t know the words of the actual verses. 

If you have a nice instrumental and an appealing hook, your song can blow up. So when it comes to commercializing music, it can be argued that the hook is by far the most-important part of the track.


Some pundits cite that reality to conclude that the pop music landscape in and of itself is quite fickle. For instance, they may argue that the fact that artificial intelligence can successfully write pop songs means that human musicians aren’t trying that hard. And that’s sort of the sentiment behind “Hook”, a song that came out well before the mass advent of AI. 

Blues Traveler basically proceeds to mock the nature of popular music by dropping a track highlighting what they obviously deem to be the superficial nature of most pop songs.

For instance, in the first verse Popper puts forth that ‘it doesn’t matter what he says, so long as he sings with inflection’ or let’s say, more simply put, conviction. 

And to prove the point, his vocals do sound as if he is singing about something really meaningful. Yet halfway through the verse, John admits that he’s “said nothing so far”, but given his talent he can keep rendering compelling vocals “for as long as it takes”, i.e. throughout the duration of the track. 

And as put forth, that is his “job” which, if performed correctly, is to ‘break’ the listener’s “resolve”, which we will take as meaning compelling you to listen to the song whether you really want to or not.

And as put forth in the chorus/hook that follows, that’s “because the hook brings you back”. Or put more frankly, even if you zone out during other parts of a pop song, the hook is designed to re-pique your interest and keep you listening. That may explain why many songs (such as this one) also end with the hook, so that listeners have something to look forward to ’til the very end.

“Was that the hook that brings you back
I ain’t telling you no lie
The hook brings you back
On that you can rely”

The second verse starts off cohesively, with the vocalist once again asserting that his words don’t have any substantial backing. And as the passage progresses, Popper goes on to basically babble, such as referring to a ‘familiar hero from long ago’, that being Peter Pan. 

But again, he sets out to prove a point. And said point would be along the lines of proving that the listener isn’t really paying attention to begin with. For example, the lyrics are supposed to be about the hook of a song. But when listeners pick up on the reference to the fictional Peter Pan, those familiar with the character would likely think of Captain Hook, his archenemy (though to note, Blues Travelers also has a genuine affinity for Peter Pan lore).

The lengthy third verse that follows, after another rendering of the chorus, is even more scatterbrained than the second. Usually, when we say that a certain segment of a song reads willy-nilly, that isn’t meant to be a compliment to the songwriter. However, in this case, the lack of cohesion between what’s being said is intentional. 

Furthermore, the funny thing about it is that Popper’s voice sounds sweet throughout. “Hook” is actually a pleasant song to listen to, and its chorus/hook is indeed catchy. So in a way, Blues Traveler proved their point, that most hits lack substance, by dropping one.

But that said, the fact that this song didn’t blow up like that may indicate that the masses aren’t as blind as some people believe. That is to say that if this track did have a meaningful, clear message, i.e. one that wasn’t relayed through a sarcastic approach, then maybe it would have been an even bigger hit than it proved to be.

1 Response

  1. Antonella says:

    When he says “the hook brings you back” in the verse about Peter Pan is he saying something about Captain Hook bringing Pan back somewhere? Is that in the story of Peter Pan?

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