Whoa-oh is both a pop-punk staple and a songwriting trick that finds its way across many genres. Is it a gimmick to create an easy anthem; a cheap way to fill in syllables; or does it not matter at all because, in the end, the songs that use it have burrowed their way into your memory giving a lasting memory of non-sensical words.
Scene Point Blank has been thinking long at hard about the philosophical ramifications and come to only one conclusion:
Naked Raygun – "Rat Patrol"
(Throb Throb, 1985)
This song is largely the inspiration for this list. Having caught back-to-back nights of Naked Raygun back in 2007, I was left with the whoa-oh melody stuck in my head for days—so much so, in fact, that it still pops in there for an hour here and there. Naked Raygun has an accomplished discography that's held up for pushing thirty years, but the rising energy that culminates with the "whoa oh," defines the live set perfectly, mixing hardcore energy and pop sensibility. Using the "whoa oh" essentially as a chorus, it gives a powerful boost but it doesn't feel like gimmick due to its placement as a refrain instead of a bridge. The crescendo two-thirds of the way in is just icing on an already ingrained hook. The band has explored a lot of territory over the years, but the marriage of pop and hardcore in "Rat Patrol" is hard to beat. (Loren)
Misfits – "I Turned into a Martian"
(Walk Among Us, 1982)
We could have easily chosen a number of Misfits songs, but "I Turned into a Martian" stands out as one of the more memorable Misfits tracks, as well as a blatant abuse of the phrase in discussion. I'm not going to break down a lyric sheet here, but let's just say there's a lot of filler going on here, and not just in the chorus, which reads basically as "Well, I turned into a martian / whoa-oh-oh/ [repeat]." While it's gotta be hard to come up with 1:43 worth of material on the subject of being possessed by a Martian and going on a killing spree, it really does feel like the song was meant all along as a vehicle to shout some cathartic melodies over the top of a percussion-heavy power chord. But, hey, I'm not sure that songwriting prowess was meant to be the Misfits legacy. (Loren)
The Arrivals – "Simple Pleasures in America"
(Volatile Molotov, 2010)
This is the most recent one on the list, and it's definitely utilizing it as a gimmick. Still, "Simple Pleasures in America" is a real song, building up for the first two-thirds before introducing the singalong factor. It's lighthearted and meant in fun, and it just makes sense to have something so bouncy fitting along with the pepped-up song. The song, which closes out Volatile Molotov, has become their set closer as well, and it's not uncommon to be standing in a venue talking with friends afterward and to continue to hear an audience chant of the "oh oh oh" refrain well after the stage lights have gone dark. The song celebrates the finer things in life, and what's finer than a singalong that everyone can jump into, familiarity with the record or not? (Loren)
AFI - "Sacrifice Theory"
(The Art of Drowning, 2000)
When it comes to "whoas," AFI are right there behind the Misfits. Rightfully so. The Art of Drowning is rife with "whoas," but there's something about "Sacrifice Theory" that sticks out to me. There's something very Misfits-esque in the whoas on this track than almost any other AFI track I can think of. It's that crack in the voice at the start of nearly every single one. At times, their whoas can be choral like in "Fall Children" or at the end of "At a Glance." Other times, it's filler like in "Of Greetings and Goodbyes" or "No Poetic Device." While it can be said for a lot of AFI's Nitro years, when it comes to "Sacrifice Theory," the whoas play an integral part of the music and lyrics in an exceptional way. (Aaron)
The Hold Steady – "Massive Nights"
(Boys and Girls in America, 2006)
In the name of varying our genres a bit here, I defer to 2006's Hold Steady song, "Massive Nights." On first listen to Boys and Girls in America, the song exemplified a new, poppier approach to the band's "bar rock" style. This song itself is something of the catharsis on this point on the record, drifting away from Craig Finn's well-documented sing-speak to culminate with a singalong moment of, well, massive proportions. It highlights not only a pinnacle of energy on a concept album, but also signifies the growth of the band in a new direction—now there's a phrase you won't often here in relation to a "whoa-oh" chorus. Sure, the band seems to have adopted a loftier, arena rock style in albums since, but it marked that the band was still in the process of defining their sound.
Any that we've missed? Let us know below.