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Michael's Number Ones: "I Miss You" by Blink-182



March 6, 2004


When I turned 21, I remember thinking, "I don't feel 21; I feel like I'm somewhere between 14 and 28." At the time this is published, I'm about to turn 38, and that range feels even blurrier.

At some point, I guess we all have to grow up. The thing is, it doesn't happen overnight. Sure, you may one day wake up and realize you have responsibilities for other people, or look in the mirror and notice a few gray hairs. But growing up doesn't happen from one day to the next. It occurs in spurts, stopping and starting the way most things in life progress.

I say this because the song in today's column felt like a quantum leap of maturity for Blink-182. Even though I was just 17 when the song was released, I felt like I connected with it in ways beyond my years. At least, that's what I'd like to believe.

Blink-182 formed in the early 90s in a suburb of San Diego, California. Tom DeLonge met Mark Hoppus through a friend of a friend, and the two bonded over punk rock, particularly the Southern California scene that the two were exposed to. Together with drummer Scott Raynor, the trio formed a band. Hoppus briefly left the band when his girlfriend told him to choose her or the band, but soon after he broke up with up and returned to the band.

The trio chose the name Blink for the group. They later added the number 182, chosen at random, after an Irish band also called Blink threatened legal action against them. Blink-182 signed with indie label Cargo Records and made the rounds in the San Diego punk scene. Eventually they went on the Warped Tour, and toured relentlessly in the mid-90s. The attention they generated in touring drew the attention of major labels and they signed with MCA Records in 1997.

The band released their debut album Dude Ranch in 1997, and once again went on the Warped Tour. The second single, "Dammit", got significant airplay on alternative radio, peaking at #11 on the Modern Rock chart. Raynor, who already had reservations about signing with a major label, began drinking heavily and was fired from the band in 1998. Soon he was replaced by Travis Barker, who was drumming for tourmates The Aquabats at the time.

With their second album, Enema of the State (a great album title), the band took a gigantic leap forward. The video for the first single, "What's My Age Again?", featured the band streaking through the streets of Los Angeles and garned heavy television airplay. The song peaked at #2 on the alternative chart and crossed over to pop radio, ultimately peaking at #58 on the Hot 100. But it was the second single from the album that catapulted the band to superstardom.

"All the Small Things" is a great fucking song. But it probably wouldn't have done as well on the charts without the video, which parodied other videos by pop stars like the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and 98 Degrees. At the time, those artists were like poison to my ears, so I was more than happy to see somebody make fun of them. The funny thing was the TRL crowd joined in on making the song a hit.

I think in retrospect those artists that Blink-182 parodied weren't as popular as the hype made them out to be. Since social media didn't exist at the time, stan culture could not have prevented the song from becoming as big as it did. I can imagine a band trying the same thing with Taylor Swift today and getting stopped cold in their tracks.

The song topped the alternative chart and made it all the way to #6 on the Hot 100, becoming the band's biggest hit to date. The third single from Enema of the State, "Adam's Song", hinted at a more mature direction for the band. It peaked at #2 on the alternative chart in the summer of 2000.

The band felt rushed into production of their third album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and to me, it shows in that none of the singles really hold up in the Blink's catalog. But the album debuted at #1 on the album chart, and at the time, I was into those songs. "The Rock Show" peaked at #5 on my top 40 in the summer of 2001, and "Stay Together for the Kids" got to #4.

DeLonge was getting restless with Blink-182's relentless schedule and he and Barker formed the post-hardcore project Box Car Racer to channel inspiration he felt he couldn't employ with Blink. "I Feel So", the first single from Box Car Racer's self-titled album, was pretty good, and it peaked at #19 on my top 40. Barker also collaborated with Rancid's Tim Armstrong on the punk-hip hop fusion project Transplants. The lead single from that project, "Diamonds and Guns" got to #7 on my chart. That's an underrated classic, and it's worth your time to listen to.

The sound of those side projects rubbed off when Blink-182 went back into the studio to record their self-titled fourth album. Even though the band members smoked a copious amount of weed at the house where they recorded the album, it's clear there's a maturity and growth to the songwriting on the record. All three band members became fathers during the recording of the album. There's also a new wave influence that seemed to foretell a revival of synth-pop in the years to come.

The first single for Blink-182, "Feeling This", didn't really tip their hand to how good the album is. Maybe their label, Geffen Records, was hesitant to lean into the new wave influences, and chose "Feeling This" as the most on-brand song for the band to that point. It got to #2 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart, but only peaked at #9 on my top 40.

Like many of the songs on Blink-182, "I Miss You" was written separately by Hoppus and DeLonge. The two combined their efforts based on the themes they discussed prior to writing the song. They were directly influenced by The Cure's song "The Love Cats". The Cure were a huge influence on the whole record, so much so that Robert Smith contributed vocals to the song "All of This". (Even though it wasn't released as a single, "All of This" peaked at #31 on my chart. Robert Smith will eventually appear in this column as a featured artist. A cover of a song by The Cure will also appear very soon.)

The narrator in "I Miss You" seems to be lamenting that someone he's infatuated with isn't reciprocating his affection. "Hello there, the angel from my nightmare, the shadow in the background of the morgue." Hoppus compares the couple to Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's an appropriate reference because the song feels just goth-adjacent enough to earn it.

The song feels like it's building to a catharsis that never fully arrives. DeLonge's chorus drives this home: "Don't waste your time on me, you're already the voice inside my head." God damn, that's a great lyric. And like a lot of the songs in this column, it mirrored my real life in ways I'd prefer it didn't.

One day in December 2003, a female classmate of mine gave me a ride home from school. She was on the cheerleading squad, and seemed like the nicest person in the school. Soon it became a regular occurrence. Of course, I developed the biggest crush on her that I can ever remember. If I had acted on the crush in time, I probably could've had a nice relationship with her for at least a few months. Instead, I made this girl a figment of my imagination, even though she was flesh and blood, someone I saw every day.

The video for the song was directed by Jonas Akerlund. It feels very stately and gothic, with the band in suits and Hoppus playing a contrabass instead of a bass guitar. There's spiders and fog and a real quasi-Art Deco vibe to the whole affair. It got tons of play on the video channels, and was essential for me loving the song as much as I did. The song became the band's second #1 song on the alternative chart, and crossed over to pop radio, peaking at #42 on the Hot 100.

That album was a seminal one for me as high school wound down. I must have played it at least once a week during the first half of 2004. Two more singles followed from the album, and they both made the top 20 of my chart. "Down" peaked at #10, while "Always" peaked at #18. The video for "Always", directed by Joseph Kahn, is one of my favorite videos of all time.

Blink followed their self-titled album with a greatest hits package, and the single "Not Now" from the record peaked at #16 on my chart in 2005. But the band members were growing apart behind the scenes and went on hiatus that year to pursue other projects. Hoppus and Barker formed the short-lived group +44, and their song "When Your Heart Stops Beating" got to #14 in the fall of 2006.

DeLonge found more lasting success with his project, Angels & Airwaves. Their 2006 debut album We Don't Need to Whisper was pretty good, and three singles from the record made the top 10 on my chart. "The Adventure" was the most successful single nationally, and it got to #4 on my top 40. Follow-ups "Do It for Me Now" and "The War" got to #2 and #9, respectively.

In the meantime, the three Blink-182 members had stopped speaking to one another. Then in September 2008, Barker was seriously injured in a plane crash in South Carolina that claimed the lives of four other passengers. Barker's near-death experience prompted Hoppus and DeLonge to reunite with each other and eventually bring the group back together.

The sessions for Blink-182's next record were fraught due to Barker having developed a fear of flying and DeLonge recording separately from the other band members. The trio produced 2011's Neighborhoods themselves, and though the album debuted at #2 on the Billboard album chart, the album cycle ultimately felt like a disappointment. The first single, "Up All Night", stalled out at #5 on my top 40.

Hoppus characterized this era of the band as "very contentious". DeLonge became somewhat mercurial during this time, and by 2014 had quit the group permanently. He continued recording with Angels & Airwaves, though none of their music made much of an impact with me or anyone else. DeLonge eventually became more famous during this time for publicly pushing for government investigations into UFOs, even forming a company with former government officials called To The Stars dedicated to this cause. I don't have the bandwidth to really go into detail about this, nor do I really care that much.

Hoppus and Barker decided to go forward with Blink-182, replacing DeLonge with Alkaline Trio lead singer Matt Skiba. (Alkaline Trio's biggest hit on my chart, 2008's "Help Me", peaked at #8.) Blink recorded two albums with Skiba in the fold, 2016's California and 2019's Nine. The lead single from California, "Bored to Death", gave Blink-182 their first #1 on the alternative chart since "I Miss You". On my chart, it peaked at #11. Until I listened to the song again for this column, I can honestly say I have no memory of how that song goes.

By the time the 2020s rolled around, it looked like Blink-182 would be rendered to the nostalgia circuit. That wouldn't have been a terrible fate; the band had more than their share of great songs to their credit that their legacy was secure. But a mixture of circumstances, including another near-death experience for one of the members, meant that Blink-182 still had more in the tank, and that rock radio would be ready to embrace them again. And you know what? So would I. It will take a while, but Blink-182 will eventually return to this column.


Here the Australian group 5 Seconds of Summer covering "I Miss You" on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge in 2014:

I'm loathed to report that The Chainsmokers have had a few songs reach my top 40. Blink-182 is directly referenced in their 2016 song "Closer", and the duo was reportedly influenced by "I Miss You" when they wrote it. It wound up being their only #1 on the Hot 100, where it stayed for 12 weeks. Here's the video:

("Closer" peaked at #29 on my top 40. The Chainsmokers' biggest hit on my chart, 2015's "Roses", peaked at #5. Halsey will eventually appear in this column. The Fray were retroactively given songwriting credit for the song, and they too will appear in this column.)

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