“On the Curious Aspects in Which ‘Don’t Leave Me’ by blink-182 Represents a Distinctly Late-’90s Swatch of ‘Hybrid-Kitsch'”

Insofar as it’s possible to be on a blink-182 kick, I’m having what you might refer to as something like that right now in these last few days. But da**ed if this isn’t some San Diego weather we’ve been having as of late in the Midwest! This is really unusual since our Springs usually last about two weeks and then give way to three months of inner-furnace conditions. But yesterday I have to admit I listened to all of Enema of the State straight through, a CD I used to have in high school, and then part of Take off Your Pants and Jacket, another CD I irreverently procured within my formative years.

Now, an undeniable elephant in the room with this band would be “Adam’s Song,” a prominent Enema of the State single (and significantly not the lead single), which addresses the topic of suicide and likewise sort of stands alone in their catalogue as this epic, sweeping statement of colossal beauty and emotion. Part of my point in this post is that… hey… “Don’t Leave Me,” track two on Enema, is like, kinda sorta that, too. In truth, it might be Mark Hoppus’ voice (the half of the Hoppus/Delonge band songwriting duo responsible also for “Adam’s Song”) [1], which on this particular tune melds a natural, warm and rich timbre with this sort of subtle conveyance of urgent emotion. Three quarters of the way, that is, it’s a genuine, plangent love song, or song of heartbreak. Within this discussion, though, I just found his inclusion of the plea “Just one more time / I’ll try I swear / I’ll listen up / Pretend to care” kind of interesting in the way of being obviously a crowd-pleasing, or “kitsch” [2], addition to the overall lyricism.

Now, “Don’t Leave Me,” by and large, also paints the sort of disillusioned picture of a breakup that you tend to appreciate more and more as you get older (which is to say a tad bit more than I did in 10th grade, lo and behold). Swathed within the style of pop-punk, it still renders this chorus that makes full scope of aching, poignant heartbreak, probably more so than any creation of the caustic, goofy Dexter Holland or the grounded, steady-Eddy Billie Joe Armstrong. In this way, too, it stands in stark contrast to album lead single and ostensible initial meal ticket “What’s My Age Again?”, which treats women as if they’re expendable (through the ironic tactic of self-disrespect, as it were, rather than extended disrespect directed to that particular party), as well as Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” both of which almost psychedelically throw an oblivious cheek to even the THOUGHT of the average day involving any mature emotion-sifting. It’s possible, though, that Hoppus “grew up” [3] a little bit on “Don’t Leave Me,” an act hardly befitting of the puerile, breezy pop radio zeitgeist flooding the summer of ’99 [4].


Addenda: “All the Small Things”

This brings me to the sprawling beast that is “All the Small Things,” a song whose value is so mindless and primal that it’s almost impossible to explain or describe. In light of this, I’ve seen fit to take a whole entire section to try to describe it, because this is just the sort of ill-fated trips I go on as administrator of Dolby Disaster.

The discussion points pile up like thickets in a glade, with this tune, anyway. I remember this attractive boss I had at this one bar and grill nodding along to it, proving its ubiquitous appeal, and of course who could forget the video, which seemed like the ultimate indulgence in MTV “goofiness” yet still never seemed overdone, because there was just so much to make fun of in the world. Many would sophomorically refer the song title’s meaning to men’s penis sizes, as you might expect (a ploy about as clever as the douche bags who would yell “Run, Forrest, Run” at our cross-country team when it was traversing a nearby or concurrent block) and one of my friends particularly made light of how Delonge declares “Work sucks / I know”, despite the fact that, according to my friend, he’d never worked a day in his life.

But it’s ubiquitous. It really is. That’s really what means that it’s good, aside from MAKING IT good, and whatever MAKES it good must have occurred before the chorus, because sugar that sucka is just “Nah-nah-nah-nah / Nah-nah-nah-nah”. One little tidbit modicum of explanation, anyway, might be that, da**, Tom Delonge is really pretty good at palm-muting [5].

But “All the Small Things” is like the conjunction where the genuine, noxious emotion of “Adam’s Song” and “Don’t Leave Me” meets the frat-boy high jinks of which this band is capable more than proven by their choice of album titles [6]. “All the Small Things” is a rich, synergistic musical vial, no more explainable than Niagra Falls or Mount Vesuvius, that struts around in a robe of focused, adamant groove and chord progression to then erupt into the sweet meaninglessness with the non-discursive chorus. It’s as if those “nah-nah-nah”’s, as a mantra, represent the exact, ironic “wisdom” that helped this band catapult to the top of rock radio around the turn of the century. That is, if you can admit that your own platitudinous problems and relationship trifles are less important than, say, the gods of rhythm, or the gods of fart jokes, then you might become a lot more popular, and maybe even more meaningful, in the process.


[1] Where Mark Hoppus tended to zoom in and wield an uncanny understanding of minute human developments, Tom Delonge harbored a proclivity for looking at the big picture, as in “Aliens Exist,” et. al.


[2] Kitsch is defined roughly as “mass-produced culture,” conceived probably along with the economic boom of the 1950s and Andy Warhol’s “pop art,” which was punctilious in its depiction and juxtaposition of repetition and definitive human manifestations.


[3] For the record, Hoppus was 27 when “What’s My Age Again?” came out, as opposed to the “23” the song optimistically proffers.


[4] As I think I’m painting here in sidelong metaphysical picture, this summer was a little more well-rounded musically than the dichotomy of boy band cutesiness and violent rock-rap/Woodstock calamity with which it’s typically tagged.


[5] This is of course discounting that gaggle of fly-by-night experts on technical guitar skills who would inevitably declare that “This stuff is so easy to play” and then probably fail in even tuning a string, let along playing a song that would mean anything to anybody.


[6] I think the fact that they chose those titles, though, almost obviates that their immature, slapstick shtick was really only a veneer to please the masses and the record label and that they really toted enough substantive musical valence to justify their existence as a band, even without it. The lowbrow humor is a SURFACE element of blink, in other words.

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