Analyzing ‘What I Like About You’: The Lyrics & Lasting Impact of The Romantics’ Classic Hit

When it comes to timeless anthems, few can rival the infectious energy of “What I Like About You” by The Romantics. This classic rock song, with its catchy rhythm and memorable lyrics, has been a staple on radio airwaves since its release in 1979. But what’s the story behind these lyrics that we can’t help but sing along to?

Diving into the lyrics of “What I Like About You” offers a fascinating glimpse into the songwriting process and the band’s creative philosophy. It’s not just about the words—it’s about the emotions they evoke, the memories they trigger, and the connections they forge. So, let’s take a closer look at the lyrics of this iconic track, and uncover the magic that makes it so enduringly popular.

Overview of “What I Like About You” by The Romantics

The rock anthem “What I Like About You,” became The Romantics’ signature song, its infectious energy and catchy tunes making it an enduring classic. Originating from their self-titled debut album in 1979, this track showcases a perfect blend of rock and power pop that has proven irresistible to music lovers over the decades.

The Romantics, an American rock band from Detroit, achieved their breakthrough with the release of this song. The line-up of Wally Palmar, Mike Skill, Rich Cole, and Jimmy Marinos pulled off a performance that, decades later, still resounds with listeners. It’s the band’s musicality that allowed them to compose such an iconic tune, vibrant with the energy of youth and the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.

The music marked a departure from the dominant disco wave of that era. The Romantics offered something fresh, something that connected with audiences on a different level. The upbeat rhythm, when paired with memorable yet straightforward lyrics, elevated the song into something magical, gifting it an enduring popularity.

The clear, straightforward lyrics played a significant part in the song’s success. They captured the sparks of a budding romance, resonating with listeners and swiftly becoming a fan-favorite due to its relatable themes. These lyrics featured a potent mix of straightforward confessions and playful implications, a winning combination that kept the song on the radio and in the hearts of listeners for years to come.

Aggregated airplay data indicates this song’s historical popularity, with it being one of the most aired songs in history, proving that “What I Like About You” remains a cherished piece of the rock ‘n’ roll canon. Though it initially peaked at number 49 on the Billboard Hot 100, airplay over the years underscored its longevity, becoming a testament to the timeless appeal of The Romantics’ music.

It’s worth noting that the enduring legacy of the song goes beyond merely the music. It acted as a representative track of a vibrant time in music history and continues to serve as an auditory reminder of the uninhibited expression and joy found in the rock music of the past. Indeed, “What I Like About You” is more than just a song; it’s a piece of cultural heritage that showcases the best of what rock ‘n’ roll can offer.

Lyrics Breakdown

Breaking down the lyrics of The Romantics’ “What I Like About You” offers insight into the song’s lasting appeal. Simple, yet compelling, the song illustrates a timeless narrative of affection and admiration.

Firstly, the repeated line “What I like about you” sets the tone. It’s tinged with excitement, echoing the infatuation often felt in the early stages of relationships. On the other hand, this line also hints at a partner’s unique qualities that make them endearing.

Secondarily, the phrase “you hold me tight,” drawn from the chorus, offers genuineness, projecting an image of youthful passion. The listeners, regardless of age, can resonate with this desire for closeness, enhancing the relatability of the song.

Subsequently, “keep on whispering in my ear” adds an element of intimacy. With this line, the band emphasizes the importance of communication and personal connection in a relationship, again enhancing the universality of the song’s message.

Counterintuitively, however, the phrase “tell me all the things that I want to hear” reveals a slightly darker undertone. Here, the lyrics suggest a possible desire for appeasement rather than authenticity, illuminating the complexities of relationships not often touched upon in pop songs.

In essence, the transparency and relatability embedded in the lyrics contribute significantly to the song’s enduring popularity. It’s a celebration of affection and admiration that aesthetically captures the mosaic of human relationships. Despite its age, these words resonate, proving the timeless appeal of The Romantics’ masterwork, “What I Like About You”.

Music and Arrangement

The music and arrangement of “What I Like About You” by The Romantics demonstrate a perfect blend of rock and power pop elements. It’s in the combination of the band members’ instrumental prowess and the song structure that lies the timeless charm of this track.

Drums, provided by Jimmy Marinos, offer a steady and infectious rhythm that forms the backbone of the song. Listeners typically respond to the uptempo beat and the quick cymbal crash at the start of the track. Bold guitar strums, courtesy of Wally Palmar and Mike Skill, amplify the energetic vibe of the song, while Coz Canler’s lead guitar lays down those catchy riffs that make listeners want to move.

Rich Cole’s bass line weaves through the track, connecting the rhythm and melody in a way that’s often underrated in power pop offerings. The vocals follow a distinct pattern, with Marinos not just manning the drums but also supplying the main vocals. His raspy, enthusiastic delivery makes the lyrics instantly memorable.

A notable part of the arrangement is the harmonica solo, a rarity in such genre songs. This element adds a unique texture to the composition, reflecting the band’s innovation within the power pop rock domain. It also punctuates the straightforward, repetitive lyrical flow, making a big impact on listeners.

The song structure sticks to the basics, featuring verses, a chorus, and a bridge – a common formula in pop music. It’s the consistency of the structure, combined with the band’s vibrant energy, that leads the song to sound fresh even after several decades. Supported by group vocals during choruses, the infectious “hey uh-huh huh” call-and-response hooks listeners, adding to the track’s popular appeal.

In a nutshell, The Romantics created a music and arrangement masterpiece in “What I Like About You.” It’s engaging, it’s exciting, and it has an infectious energy, thanks to the winning combination of memorable instrumentation, skillful arrangement, and uncomplicated – perhaps even catchy – song structure. The song maintains its allure, continuing to captivate fans and new audiences alike, proving the enduring legacy of The Romantics’ unique musical style.

Impact and Reception of “What I Like About You”

The Romantics’ “What I Like About You” created significant ripples in the music industry. The track, despite not charting highly initially, garners a substantial number of plays across diverse platforms. It’s distinguished as one of the most aired songs on American radio, with an estimated 4 million plays, testifying to its lasting appeal.

Critical reception of the song exhibits near universal appreciation. Music critics attribute its popularity to the band’s dynamic musical blend, punctuated by edgy guitar riffs, robust rhythm section, and distinctive harmonica solo. As Billboard notes, “the infectious guitar strums and high-energy performance made the song an evergreen radio favorite.”

But it isn’t just authoritative music channels that applaud the song’s brilliance. An array of fans, listeners, and global audiences admire its timeless appeal, with many highlighting the straight-from-the-heart, relatable lyrics as the song’s distinct feature. Further enhancing the track’s reach, several artists, such as Poison and 5 Seconds of Summer, have produced their renditions of “What I Like About You,” reintroducing the classic hit to newer generations.

The song’s cultural influence extends beyond mere radio plays and artists’ covers. Adopted by various sports and entertainment agencies as a go-to crowd energizer, “What I Like About You” forms an integral part of many event soundtracks. It’s been featured in popular television shows, movies, and even a Super Bowl commercial, thereby permeating the public consciousness and reinforcing The Romantics’ enduring musical impact.

Undoubtedly, “What I Like About You” marks a celebrated cornerstone in The Romantics’ discography. As evident from the overwhelming broadcast figures, critical acclaim, and the song’s integration into pop culture, the track reaffirms The Romantics’ timeless appeal, cementing their legacy in the annals of rock music.

The Romantics and Their Discography

The Romantics, an American rock band hailing from Detroit, boasts a prolific discography punctuated by chart-topping hits and classic anthems. Their unique blend of rock ‘n’ roll fused with high-energy new wave elements positioned them as notable figures in the music industry during the late 70s and early 80s.

Their distinguished discography began with a debut album titled “The Romantics” released in 1980. It featured the dynamic track “What I Like About You,” which quickly gained recognition and remains one of the band’s most celebrated songs. Despite its initial modest chart performance, the song’s popularity soared over the years due to its infectious rhythm, memorable lyrics, and frequent airplay.

Two years after their debut, The Romantics produced another solid album, “National Breakout.” It didn’t replicate the commercial success of “What I Like About You,” but it established the group’s consistent quality in producing energetic rock songs infused with a distinct new wave twist.

In 1983, the single “Talking in Your Sleep” from the album “In Heat” topped the charts, highlighting The Romantics’ continued growth and versatility. It showcased their talent in merging different musical styles while maintaining their signature sound. The album also included “One In A Million,” another catchy rock tune with a new wave influence that demonstrated their exceptional musicianship.

Over the subsequent years, The Romantics released several albums – “Rhythm Romance” in 1985, “Made In Detroit” in 1993, and “61/49” in 2003. These albums encapsulated the band’s evolving musical style and concretized their status in rock music history.

Though viewed disparately in terms of commercial success, every album in their discography contributes to the overall narrative of The Romantics’ musical journey. From “What I Like About You” to their latest offerings, these albums provide a showcase of their technical skill, unique sound, and lasting influence in the realm of rock music. Their discography reflects the band’s commitment to creating music that excites, entertains, and endures, reinforcing The Romantics’ legacy in rock music.

Personal Interpretations and Reflections

Amid varying interpretations of “What I Like About You,” a common thread emerges: the listeners’ universal connection to the lyrics. Comprising words that resonate with the everyday man, the song possesses an inherent human touch, mirroring the ups and downs of relationships. It’s worth noting, it’s not a tale of extraordinary love or drastic heartbreak— simply a sweet ode to the little things that makes one person special to another.

Analysts often denote the track’s lyrics as a testament to the power of “ordinary” love. They, the heart-stricken characters of the song, celebrate the ordinary: a shared smile, laughter, whispered sweet nothings, and endearing gaze—elements that often define real-life relationships. Such instances, mundane yet precious, make up the core of “What I Like About You”.

Echoing its lyrical theme, the upbeat tempo of the song further enhances its appeal. Its buoyant rhythm mirrors the joyous energy often found in healthy, loving relationships. Music critics oftentimes cite the song’s dynamic guitar lines and pulsating drum beats as perfect sonic illustrations of the thrill and excitement of young love.

Furthermore, some interpretations explore the song’s ability to evoke nostalgia. The relatability of the lyrics transports listeners back in time, recaptured moments of love and teenage passion playing out in tandem with the music. This common thread of shared experiences ensures that “What I Like About You” still resonates with audiences, irrespective of generation.

Curiously, the song’s universal appeal isn’t only illustrated in listeners’ reactions. Numerous artists from various music genres have covered “What I Like About You,” each version a unique reinterpretation anchored on the distinct lyrical imagery and energy of the original. These covers testify to the song’s timeless charm, the lyrics’ adaptability to differing musical styles encapsulating its long-lasting influence in rock music.

Indeed, interpretations of “What I Like About You” offer a unique glimpse into The Romantics’ broad appeal. The song’s lyrics, simultaneously simple and profound, have created a timeless anthem. A pulsating tribute to love’s down-to-earth moments, it exemplifies The Romantics’ capacity to capture universal experiences in their music, marking their place in rock music’s tapestry.


The Romantics’ “What I Like About You” continues to resonate with audiences, demonstrating the band’s skill in crafting relatable, timeless music. Its universal themes and upbeat tempo encapsulate the joy of love, striking a chord with listeners across generations. The song’s enduring popularity, as evidenced by numerous covers and adaptations, underscores its adaptability and broad appeal.

With its blend of rock ‘n’ roll and new wave, it’s a testament to The Romantics’ unique style and their lasting impact on rock music. The track’s relatable lyrics and nostalgic charm have helped it maintain its status as a beloved classic. In the end, “What I Like About You” isn’t just a song—it’s a celebration of ordinary love and the simple, meaningful moments that make relationships special.