|Single by Blink-182|
|from the album Enema of the State|
|Released||September 5, 2000|
|Studio||Signature Sound and Studio West in San Diego, California, Mad Hatter Studios and the Bomb Factory in Los Angeles, California, Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood, California, and Big Fish Studios in Encinitas, California|
|Blink-182 singles chronology|
"Adam's Song" is a song recorded by the American rock band Blink-182 for its third studio album, Enema of the State (1999). It was released as the third and final single from Enema of the State on September 5, 2000 through MCA Records. "Adam's Song" shares writing credits between the band's guitarist Tom DeLonge and bassist Mark Hoppus, but Hoppus was the primary composer of the song. The track concerns suicide, depression and loneliness. It incorporates a piano in its bridge section, and was regarded as one of the most serious songs the band had written to that point.
Hoppus was inspired by the loneliness he experienced while on tour; while his bandmates had significant others to return home to, he was single. He was also influenced by a teen suicide letter he read in a magazine. The song takes the form of a suicide note, and contains lyrical allusions to the grunge band Nirvana. "Adam's Song" was one of the last songs to be written and recorded for Enema of the State, and it was nearly left off the album. Though Hoppus worried the subject matter was too depressing, his bandmates were receptive to its message. The song was produced by Jerry Finn.
"Adam's Song" peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart; it was also a top 25 hit in Canada and Italy, but did not replicate its success on other charts. It received praise from music critics, who considered it a change of pace from the trio's more lighthearted singles. The single's music video, a hit on MTV, was directed by Liz Friedlander. Though the song was intended to inspire hope to those struggling with depression, it encountered controversy when a student of Columbine High School committed suicide with the track on repeat in 2000.
- 1 Background
- 2 Recording and production
- 3 Composition
- 4 Commercial performance
- 5 Critical reception
- 6 Suicide of Greg Barnes
- 7 Music video
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Formats and track listing
- 10 Credits and personnel
- 11 Charts
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Beginning in the summer of 1997, Blink-182 would enter an extended period of touring to support their second studio album, Dude Ranch. The group had played a handful of dates on the Vans Warped Tour 1996, a lifestyle tour promoting skateboarding and punk rock music. However, upon Dude Ranch's release and popularity, Blink-182 would play every date of the 1997 tour worldwide with the bands NOFX and Social Distortion. The group were gone from their hometown of San Diego for nearly nine months straight beginning in late 1997. "When we did our longest tour stretch, it was right when I started dating my fiancee," recalled vocalist/guitarist Tom DeLonge. "We were all new and in love, and I had to leave. It was just, "Hey, I'll see you in nine months." It was really hard."
Bassist Mark Hoppus penned "Adam's Song" to vent these frustrations and the loneliness he experienced on the tour; while the other members had longtime girlfriends to return home to, Hoppus was single. "When you're on tour, you're so lonely," Hoppus said. "You hang out with all your bros and it's a great time and everything, but everybody wants to come home and have a girlfriend. And every time we'd fly home, Tom and [former drummer] Scott [Raynor] always had girlfriends waiting for them at the airport, and I didn't. It's about me being depressed and lonely out on tour, and not really having anything to come home to." The couplet "I couldn't wait til I got home/To pass the time in my room alone" originally ended "to get off the plane alone." In opposition to what Hoppus was feeling was the fact that the band were reaching professional highs: Dude Ranch had gone gold and the band were on the verge of stardom. "It feels ridiculous saying, 'Our band's doing really good, but personally, I'm not feeling like I'm connecting.' It felt like I had too much good fortune to complain about anything," he recalled in a later interview.
Hoppus said the song's inspiration came from "reading a magazine where some teenage kid had killed himself and left a letter for his family." Untrue online rumors purported that the song was inspired by a friend from Hoppus' high school years who committed suicide, or a play titled Adam's Letter (2005) that has the same focus, but was not written until years after the song's release. John Cosper, the writer behind Adam's Letter, said, "the naming of the central character was a coincidence. The name goes back to the original script; I had no knowledge of Blink-182 or their music at that time." In his memoir Can I Say, drummer Travis Barker wrote that the song's title was taken from a "sketch on Mr. Show about a band that writes a song with that name encouraging one particular fan to kill himself." David Cross, co-creator of Mr. Show, confirmed this, commenting, "They were fans of the show and that was a knowing tribute that I thought was pretty cool."
Recording and production
"Adam's Song" was among the last tracks composed and recorded for Enema of the State, and was nearly absent from the final album. The band was halfway finished with recording when Hoppus developed the idea. Though he worried it was "a bit too far and depressing for what we were trying to do," his bandmates were receptive towards the idea:
I remember the day I played ["Adam's Song"] for Tom and Travis, and they were like, "Wow, that's a pretty heavy song. It's really good." [There] was never even a question of whether or not to put it on the record, or was that a "real" Blink song, or was that the right direction for us to go. Whatever song we write, if it's a good song, we'll put it on the record. If we wanted to write a song about — I don't know, people starving somewhere, we would.
Although vocals would usually take many alternate takes to complete, Hoppus completed much of the vocal track for "Adam's Song" in a single take. "It's in a pretty high register for me, so I just blasted it out one night after dinner. That's, like, 90 percent of what's on the final track," he told Kerrang!. The idea to include piano in the track came without much forethought; "We realized, 'Well, this part here could sound rad if we put piano in here.' So we tried it out, and it sounded rad," said Hoppus. The piano was performed by session musician Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., best known for his work with Beck.
"Adam's Song" was a departure from the content of the band's previous singles, in favor of a slower tempo and more depressing lyrics. Brian Wallace of MTV wrote that Blink-182 "explores new ground on "Adam's Song," setting aside their normal pop-punk punch for a more emo-influenced approach." The song is a pop punk, emo, and alternative rock track composed in the key of C major and is set in time signature of common time with a tempo of 136 beats per minute. Hoppus' vocal range spans from G3 to G4.
The song begins with the narrator contemplating suicide with the lyrics "I never thought I'd die alone." The lyrics continue: "I'm too depressed to go on / You'll be sorry when I'm gone." "Adam's Song" includes a reference to "Come as You Are" by Nirvana. "Come as You Are" by Nirvana includes the lyrics "Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don't be late". "Adam's Song", in turn, includes the lyrics "I took my time, I hurried up, The choice was mine, I didn't think enough".
Barker's drum track was labeled by Drummerworld as "one of the most creative beats of his career," and mainly consists of the same basic beat repeated in sections throughout the verses. The first measure begins with the kick drum and splash cymbal playing on the downbeat, followed by a hit on the bell of the ride cymbal on the "and" of beat two, preceding an open hi-hat that rings out for a full count on beat three. "The kick, snare, and floor tom are all hit simultaneously on beat four, followed by floor tom hits on the last two sixteenth-note triplets of beat four." The snare is hit on beats two and four, respectively. The song "gradually builds to a powerful, piano-laden crescendo," and the song's final chorus and conclusion take a more uplifting view of the world: "Tomorrow holds such better days / Days when I can still feel alive/ When I can't wait to get outside." DeLonge noted that over six guitar parts were recorded for the "gigantic, sad" choruses, but upon mixing, only four were used. "The extra ones didn't really do anything besides make it a little more unclear what was going on."
"Adam's Song" was mainly a commercial success in the United States, but it was a top 25 hit in Canada and Italy as well. In the US, it debuted on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart at number 38 in the issue dated March 18, 2000. Over the following weeks, it gradually ascended the chart to a peak of number two in the issue dated April 29. It remained at that position for seven weeks, held off the top position by "Otherside" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down. On May 13, the single peaked at number one on the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart. In CMJ New Music Report, a trade magazine that contained exclusive charts of non-commercial and college radio airplay and independent and trend-forward retail sales, "Adam's Song" was a number one hit on their Commercial Alternative Cuts chart in the issue dated May 15, 2000. The song made its sole appearance on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart on that same date, peaking at number 79. The song's last appearance on the Modern Rock Tracks chart came on September 9, 2000; as a whole, it spent 26 weeks on the chart. In the Billboard issue for July 19, 2003, Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems recognized the single with the BDS Certified Award for 100,000 radio spins. The song later made an appearance on Billboard's Rock Digital Songs at position 38 shortly after the release of the band's sixth album, Neighborhoods, in October 2011.
In Canada, the single debuted on the Rock Report chart, compiled by RPM, on May 15, 2000 at number 26. Over the ensuing weeks, its position fluctuated, but it reached a peak of number 20 on June 12, 2000. It last appeared on the chart on July 24 at number 29 before dropping out. In Italy, the single reached a peak of number 21 and spent three weeks on the charts. In New Zealand, the song reached a peak of number 39 and spent six weeks on the chart, while in Germany, the single fared poorly, spending only one week and reaching a peak of 98.
"Adam's Song" is generally considered one of the band's more serious songs, one "that hints at the emotional maturity they'd show on later releases," particularly their eponymous 2003 release. Richard Harrington of The Washington Post deemed the song "a powerful exploration of exhaustion and depression." Alex Pappademas, writing for Spin, compared the song to the music of Weezer. Katy Kroll of Billboard recognized it among her top 10 singles of 2000, calling it "a good old-fashioned depressing song with mainstream flair." Geoff Boucher, writing for the Los Angeles Times, called it "a poignant essay on a teen mulling over suicide"; conversely, Steve Appleford of the Los Angeles Times dubbed it a "moving if unremarkable examination." Scott Mervis of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it a "rare departure from the usual Blink fare."
Writers for The A.V. Club listed it among other suicide-related songs in 2009, describing it as "surprisingly affecting, especially when the band reaches the bombastic chorus, and when the song describes suicide's crushing aftermath." In a retrospective review, Chris Payne of Billboard wrote, "Stylistically, it's also a Blink breakthrough: rather than putting their heads down and plowing through at breakneck speed, the band dials back the verses and interludes to let them breathe a bit. The resulting chorus achieves an arena-worthy feel not achieved anywhere else on Enema of the State."
Suicide of Greg Barnes
The song caused a controversy in 2000 when it was set to replay indefinitely on a nearby stereo as 17-year-old Greg Barnes, a teenager who attended Columbine High School and had lost one of his best friends in the massacre the previous year, hanged himself in the garage of his family's home. Both Hoppus and DeLonge were sympathetic but stressed the song's meaning during an MTV News interview in 2001:
Hoppus: "I was actually out shopping, and management called me up and told me the story of what happened, and I was like, 'But that's an anti-suicide song!' It felt awful. I mean, the things that the kid had had to go through in his life were very saddening, and then to end it that way was really depressing. But 'Adam's Song', the heart of the song is about having hard times in your life, being depressed, and going through a difficult period, but then finding the strength to go on and finding a better place at the other side of that."
DeLonge: "It affected us really strongly because that song was a song of hope. When we were writing it, we knew specifically that we did not want kids to think it was something that we thought was cool or rad. We didn't endorse it in any way."
Hoppus also told interviewers that he received fan mail following the song's release from fans that had contemplated suicide, but decided not to go through with it after hearing the song. Rolling Stone compared the controversy to that of Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution", which similarly was playing as a teen committed suicide.
The song's music video was directed by Liz Friedlander and debuted on MTV's Total Request Live on March 7, 2000. It consists of performance footage of the trio in a warehouse in front of a wall decorated with photographs. In between verses, the photos' origins are explored through the different perspectives of individuals near the band. As the band prepares to play a show, a man has a conversation with a girl and is subsequently left alone. In another, while DeLonge and Hoppus read magazines inside a late-night convenience store, a melancholy woman attempts to make a call via a pay phone. Other montages show the trio in the company of friends and practicing, a man looking out upon the sea, and a solitary man deserted by others at an outdoor restaurant. The final montage consists of personal photos from the band's past. Friedlander's vision for the video was to focus on everyday individuals, going through difficult moments in their lives. "We never know what's going on in other people's lives," she told Andrew Limbong of NPR in 2018. "We all are dealing with our stuff, and we don't look, and don't see, and so then we don't notice."
In 2015, a mashup combining "Adam's Song" with "Hotline Bling" by Drake surfaced online. Called "Hotline Blink", the mashup received a positive review from Loren DiBlasi of MTV, who called it "hip-hop-meets-pop-punk-nostalgia" and wrote "Trust us, you'll want to watch again and again and again." In an article about the mashup, Tyler Sharp of Alternative Press wrote "In a bizarre, unexpected way, the result is tolerable—maybe even enjoyable?"
The band retired the song in 2009 after the death of Adam Goldstein, best known as DJ AM, a close personal friend of Barker and of the band. Hoppus noted that he could not bring himself to perform the tune, believing it to be "too hard". However, the band brought the song back after nine years, playing it again during their Kings of the Weekend Las Vegas residency in 2018. When asked about its revival, Hoppus said 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 a 2018 broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered, reporter Andrew Limbong chose "Adam's Song" as part of their series of "American Anthems"—"music that challenges, unites, and celebrates". In describing his 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. 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.||”|
Formats and track listing
US/UK CD single (155 742-2)
German CD single (155 743-2)
Australian CD single (155 752-2)
Credits and personnel
- Recorded at Signature Sound and Studio West in San Diego, California, Mad Hatter Studios and the Bomb Factory in Los Angeles, California, Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood, California, and Big Fish Studios in Encinitas, California.
- Mixed at Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood, California, and South Beach Studios in Miami, Florida.
- Mastering at Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood, California.
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