Blink-182 made waves in the late ’90s as pop-punk trailblazers. Much of their discography, more or less, centers on high-energy tracks with juvenile lyricism. However, across the group’s 10 studio albums, they weren’t afraid to touch on some deeper themes at times, with “Adam’s Song” being the pinnacle of that.
The song was originally released as the third and final single taken from the group’s Enema of the State album – following behind other smash Blink hits “What’s My Age Again” and “All the Small Things.” Being one of the group’s grittier tracks, there has been a ton of speculation over the years as to what the song’s lyrics mean as well as a continued controversy around the dark material. Let’s uncover the meaning below.
A Deeper Look Into the Meaning
“Adam’s Song” tells the story of a kid who is feeling so low that he contemplates suicide. As bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus runs through the song’s verses, “Adam” remembers all the times he has screwed up, which ultimately leads to his breaking point.
I took my time, I hurried up
The choice was mine, I didn’t think enough
I’m too depressed to go on
You’ll be sorry when I’m gone
The second verse is by far the darkest as Adam fully resigns to his suicidal thoughts. Again recalling seemingly trivial things that he has done wrong, including spilling a cup of apple juice. He then begins to daydream about what it might be like when he’s gone.
You’ll never step foot in my room again
You’ll close it off, board it up
Remember the time that I spilled the cup
Of apple juice in the hall
Please tell mom this is not her fault
Though the song’s opening lines are sufficiently dark and depressing, as the song progresses forward it takes a lighter turn, as he begins to feel more hopeful and ultimately makes the decision to live. With the closing lines, Blink-182 makes it clear that they intend the track as a message of hope during a dark time.
Tomorrow holds such better days
Days when I can still feel alive
When I can’t wait to get outside
The world is wide, the time goes by
The tour is over, I’ve survived
I can’t wait ’til I get home
Hoppus has long said the initial inspiration for “Adam’s Song” came to him when he was feeling lonely while on tour. He said he would often daydream of the end of the tour when he could go home and be alone.
“Tom [DeLonge] and Travis [Barker] always had girlfriends waiting back home, so they had something to look forward to at the end of the tour. But I didn’t, so it was always like, I was lonely on tour, but then I got home and it didn’t matter because there was nothing there for me anyway,” Hoppus said previously.
From there, it evolved into the suicide prevention effort that it is today.
Controversy Around the Dark Theme
Given that “Adam’s Song” is one of the most powerful track’s in Blink’s catalog, it’s easy to see why it has spurred many a strong reaction since its release. Some fans cite the song as a guiding light, thanking the group for helping them through dark times. However, the song has also inspired the opposite reaction, with some thinking the dark lyrics are impressionable to their relatively young fan base.
One driving force behind the opposers was the song’s use during an actual suicide, committed by a Columbine High School Student, Greg Barnes in 2000. Barnes lost a friend and mentor of a teacher during the massacre at the school a year earlier and decided to make the tragic decision with “Adam’s Song” playing on a loop.
Hoppus spoke about this incident during an interview on MTV in 2001, reiterating that the song’s original intention was to provide an anti-suicide message. The group later decided to retire the song in light of the situation.
The group later brought the track back out during their Kings of the Weekend Las Vegas residency in 2018. When asked about the revival, Hoppus says he found new meaning in the song, “I think of it more now as almost a celebration of hardships gone through and friends lost.”
For an NPR All Things Considered broadcast in the same year, Andrew Limbong chose “Adam’s Song” to be a part of their series on “American Anthems” – which highlights certain songs that “challenge, unite and celebrate.”
Of the selection, he wrote, “You don’t need subtlety to write an anthem; even the ones that are subversively tongue-in-cheek are pretty obvious about it. Most of the songs covered in this NPR series are huge: war songs, protest songs, songs that grace Super Bowl stages and national rallies.”
He continued, “But there is room for the anthemic in small moments, too—when you’re alone in your room and a song is the only thing that’s there for you. [… “Adam’s Song”] is a celebration that means a lot to a lot of people: Not an anthem in the usual sense of the word, more of a reminder.”
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