Behind the Song: Lit, “My Own Worst Enemy”

“Imagine if you were told that you were ugly your whole life and then all of a sudden you’re a supermodel,” Jeremy Popoff laughed about Lit’s rise to fame through their hit single, “My Own Worst Enemy.” In January of 1999, Lit released one of the most iconic songs of the new millennium. “My Own Worst Enemy” was officially certified double platinum in the United States by the RIAA on May 8 of this year.

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“When we wrote it, I don’t think we had any idea what was about to happen,” Jeremy continued. “We could have never fathomed how long it would last, or stay relevant through now, going on its third decade.”

 Lit is considered one of the preeminent bands to have come out of the post-grunge era in the late ’90s and helped define a generation of SoCal power punk. The group still consists of three original members, including brothers Ajay (lead vocals) and Jeremy Popoff (lead guitar), and Kevin Baldes (bass).

A road paved with rejection and reconsideration led Lit to eventual, unimaginable fame. Among the most broadcasted, karaoked, and covered songs in music history, “My Own Worst Enemy” was not sold separately from the album A Place In The Sun until iTunes launched two years later. Since then, it has sold over 2 million digital units. After spending eleven weeks straight in the number one position of the Modern Rock Charts, It received ‘Song Of The Year’ awards from Billboard and ASCAP 

Ajay began the penning process sitting in Los Angeles traffic. The gas gauge didn’t work in his car, so he kept a scrap paper to mark mileage. One day, he happened to scribble down a few lines on the bench seat of his old Cadillac: “It’s no surprise me I am my worst enemy / ‘Cause every now and then I kick the living shit out of me.” When they met up at their warehouse in Anaheim that night, he brought the paper to the rest of the group. As Jeremy remembers, the rest of the song wrote itself in a matter of twenty minutes.

“It had uplifting energy to it. Not necessarily punk rock, not hard rock, just something that felt fun,” Ajay described. “Jeremy was playing that riff, and I remember how this groove kicked in, and the melodies came out and took on a life of its own. And it’s probably one of the easiest songs we’ve ever written, which is so ironic.”

The group showed the song to their friend and tour manager, T-Bone, who provided an unenthused response. “You write something, and you think it’s great. Then a bunch of people tell you it sucks. Then you have a complex about it,” Jeremey joked about the emotional journey of sharing their artistry. 

One night at the Troubador in Hollywood, they set fears aside and debuted that unmistakable intro to the world. The band knew they were onto something as soon as they began to play. The people in the crowd started looking around at each other, and electric energy filled the venue. 

To their dismay, the emotion was unmatched from industry attendees. There were eight labels there that night, and all eight of them passed. The brothers remember the feeling of trying so hard to get a record deal and starting to believe that they were not ready or good enough. When RCA finally said they wanted to sign the group, they felt validation. “It just takes the right batch of people to get the job done,” Jeremy emphasized. 

 The introductory riff is representative of their rise through the ranks. Jeremy, the lead guitarist, shared that all he ever learned growing up was the opening riff to songs. “I just wasn’t good enough to play the whole thing,” he admitted.” I was never going to get through an Iron Maiden solo when I was 13. We started writing our own songs so we could play something from beginning to end.”

“My Own Worst Enemy” has been covered thousands of times over the last twenty years. The band shared their favorite versions are the little kids jamming out in their garage.

 “I know it’s an easy song to play, believe me, that’s why we wrote it that way,” Jeremy laughed. “I love that it’s a simple riff in a simple song with the universal theme and groove to it. I love that kids just learning how to play can play it and get that feeling we did playing ‘Breaking the Law’ by Judas Priest or ‘Smoke On The Water.’ It was easy, but you felt that magic, that adrenalin. Those goosebumps you get the first time you plug into you know to a half stack.”

Earlier this year, RCA released a Special Anniversary White Vinyl. Additionally, they have shared a digital Expanded Edition of A Place in the Sun, celebrating its 21st year.

 “Going Double Platinum 21 years after it’s release just shows that ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ is one of the classic tracks of its era and has stood the test of time,” said John Jackson, Senior Vice President, Head of A & R, Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment. 

The band has confirmed that a film company is in the early stages of a documentary about the song. Lit remains intact with plans to release new music. On the side, Jeremy and Ajay have joined forces in Nashville, releasing country-leaning music under The Popoff Brothers. Sign up for updates on the latest from Lit here

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