I was very pleased with comments about [Can't Keep Johnny Down] early on where people understood that — first, of all our songs aren’t biographical and everybody knows that — the song isn’t about me. In a way, the song is a joke in the way that both of our names our John. That wasn’t a mistake. The guy in the song is a complete and utter asshole and the song is in the perspective of [him]. Some of the characters [in our songs] aren’t very nice people, but we try to be nice people.
It’s kind of a classic, unreliable narrator type of song. I don’t feel totally comfortable trying to sum it up. The lyric is about a guy who seems like he’s got some mixed emotions about the world. He’s sort of reading everything in a hostile way. But “Johnny” isn’t us, although we do share a name with him.
...It's a song of defiance. It's an incredibly catchy song. That's a very nice, bittersweet concoction of a very bitchy lyric with an incredibly sunny arrangement. It's sort of Brit-pop. I'm very excited about how that one came out. It's one of those tracks that as we were putting it together, I was like "wow, this is so strong." John [Linnell] did an outstanding job with the track. The man is a genius.
On June 24, 2011, TMBG announced a fan video contest for the song, to be judged by John Hodgman. About 100 submissions were posted to the band's Facebook page. Hodgman selected the winner and runners-up on July 18. The winning video was made by Mohit Jaswal, Eduardo Urueana, and Justin Dean, who received a prize of $1,000. Runners-up received free pizzas.