Formed in 1992 in Poway, California, a San Diego suburb, Blink-182 has endured as one of pop punk’s most beloved acts. The trio, famously composed of Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker, helped vault the genre into the mainstream alongside Green Day and The Offspring nearly 30 years ago. In the group’s early days, which included co-founder Scott Raynor on the drum kit, they made distorted, unpolished skate punk for Cargo Records and became Warped Tour legends (thanks to the success of their 1997 song “Dammit”).
After a long battle with alcoholism, Raynor was dismissed from the band and replaced by Barker, who’d previously drummed in ska bands. Blink immediately became the group we think of them as today: MTV mainstays who went big with their 1999 breakout record, Enema of the State, and helped make millennial rock and roll fashionably lame. They were groundbreaking in how they made explicit lyrics so perfectly compatible with radio-friendly instrumentals; unabashed and unafraid of leaning as far into corny songs as they could to evoke candy-coated emotions (here’s looking at you, “I Miss You”).
That success hasn’t come without turbulence, though, as the trio has broken up once and DeLonge has quit the band twice. Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba replaced DeLonge in 2015 and has filled that role ever since. After the band’s first hiatus, Hoppus, DeLonge and Barker each turned to solo projects: DeLonge and Barker played together in Box Car Racer in the early 2000s; Hoppus and Barker created +44; and DeLonge found success in his new band Angels & Airwaves in 2005.
But across eight studio albums—Cheshire Cat, Dude Ranch, Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Blink-182, Neighborhoods, California and Nine—Blink-182’s sound has gone from pop punk to post-hardcore to power pop, as they’ve long postured themselves as chameleonic within the alternative landscape. The band’s discography is dense and diverse, with boggling charades and drugged-out stupors as plentiful throughout as heavy ballads about familial and relationship trauma. They’ve gone platinum in the U.S. nine times total, won a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award and turned an unfiltered garage jam session into a mountainous three-decade empire of millennial punk.
So, to celebrate this year’s 30th anniversary of the band and the 25th anniversary of Dude Ranch, which took place over the weekend, Paste is ranking the band’s 25 best songs, which range from distorted demos and rowdy thumpers of angst to timeless pop punk masterpieces.
When Blink-182 returned from their five-year hiatus in 2016 with “Bored to Death,” the first single from California, they didn’t sound like themselves anymore. With Alkaline Trio frontman Skiba’s debut as DeLonge’s replacement, Blink’s sound shifted towards that of a cover band. Despite that, “Bored to Death” is the band’s best modern attempt at recreating the Neighborhoods-era sound abruptly halted by DeLonge’s departure—and an earnest attempt at filling the hole he left in their legacy.
A Take Off Your Pants and Jacket deep cut overshadowed by the album’s singles, “Give Me One Good Reason” is DeLonge’s brightest power pop performance. His trademark nasal croons emphasize the message he’s delivering: being an outcast is cool as hell. No popular person is safe here, as DeLonge drags them each with a splendid vigor. “Hate the jocks, the preps, the hippie fuckin’ scumbags / Heavy metalers with their awful pussy hair bands / Counting seconds until we can get away / Ditching school almost every single day,” he sings in the third verse. Sometimes the ways in which Blink catered to their high school fandom missed, given that DeLonge, Hoppus and Barker were all nearing 30 when Take Off Your Pants and Jacket came out, but “Give Me One Good Reason” was their last teenage angst-heavy effort that landed well enough to resonate.
“Josie” is Hoppus’ witty, self-deprecating ode to what a guy wants in a partner. In 2022, the lyrics would be inspiration for a satirical TikTok video about hanging with the boys, but the, “And when I feel like giving up / Like my world is falling down / I show up at 3 AM / She’s still up watching Vacation, and I / See her pretty face / It takes me away to a better place,” breakdown that Hoppus delivers is still timeless. The pedestal he’s put his unnamed lover on is problematic in how it idealizes her, but there’s a subtle adoration alive here that still makes the track sing 25 years later.
It’s a testament to Blink’s longevity as a band that their breakthrough song, “All the Small Things,” is nowhere near their best. Undoubtedly, however, the song is still intoxicating nearly two decades later. It was a number-one hit on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart, peaked at six on the Hot 100, and is certified platinum in three countries. It’s found a place in countless movie and television soundtracks, was featured on two iterations of Guitar Hero, and was performed by the band on Saturday Night Live in 2000. The song’s lyrics are simple, much to the chagrin of its own title, but its power-pop hooks, DeLonge’s “Just say it ain’t so / I will not go / Turn the lights off / Carry me home” chorus and uber-recognizable opening chords are what make it so everlasting.
Neighborhoods is a really good album, in retrospect. Of course, the band was crumbling apart when they recorded it, but the songs that came from it are some of their best. “Wishing Well” never had the staying power of singles “Up All Night” and “After Midnight,” but it’s outshined them since the record’s release in 2011. The song, along with DeLonge’s other Neighborhoods compositions, sounds like an Angels & Airwaves cut, but Barker’s percussion and Hoppus’ bass progressions give it just enough Blink-182 flair to pivot our focus to the song’s rewarding message: make an earnest declaration of hope and find your way back from whatever trouble you’ve gotten into.
The final single released before the band’s first hiatus in 2004, “Not Now” is a Descendents-style tune about mortality. DeLonge sings from the perspective of the song’s protagonist, who, on the brink of death, much like the band at the time, keeps his loved ones close and promises to wait for them once he passes on. Blink-182 are at their absolute best when they sing about the deep stuff, and “Not Now” is a tight, riff-heavy, pop-punk performance that’s also heavy as a ton of bricks.
“First Date” holds up so well because it’s such a catchy and playful anthem about adolescence, which makes sense, because Take Off Your Pants and Jacket is, ultimately, a catchy and playful album about adolescence (with some obligatory bummer tracks in tow). The song, inspired by DeLonge’s relationship with his ex-wife Jennifer Jenkins, centers on the awkwardness of a first date, capitalizing on a resonant, universal understanding of the emotions that stem from it: overthinking, nervous stomachs and regrettable hairstyles. Despite the simplicity of the song’s story, the “Forever and ever / Let’s make this last forever” chorus captures a very profound desire: to live electrically in the reckless freedom of young love.
“Stockholm Syndrome” was written piece by piece, first when Barker recorded the drums on a 1950s microphone in a San Diego luxury community home the band rented while making Blink-182. Though “Stockholm syndrome” refers to the psychological response where hostages extend empathy towards their captors, Hoppus balances the phrase with a portrait of mental illness stifled by paranoia and self-doubt. “You’re cold with disappointment while I’m drowning in the next room / The last contagious victim of this plague between us / I’m sick with apprehension, I’m crippled from exhaustion / And I dread the moment when you finally come to kill me,” he sings in the refrain. The track’s interlude features a spoken-word performance from actress Joanne Whalley, who reads World War II-era love letters before the band breaks off into the loud, widening thrash of their best post-hardcore composition.
As heard in American Pie—the coming-of-age, teen sex comedy the band cameoed in— “Mutt” is a rumination on a pitiful couple’s love life, where they masquerade as having a romance that knows no tasteful bounds (“He wants to bone, this I know, she is ready to blow” and “He goes out every day, she goes every way”). It’s the song that put the band in front of producer Jerry Finn and features one of Hoppus’ most recognizable basslines. DeLonge’s vocal performance here is a highlight off Enema of the State, where his wincing delivery pairs delightfully with one of his wittiest couplets (“She smokes a dozen and he doesn’t seem to notice the smell / He took the seat off his own bike because the way that it felt”). “Mutt” is another cautionary tale about gross intimacy in unhealthy relationships from Blink’s catalog, done in the band’s textbook style that toes the line between lewd and sincere.
Let’s face the facts: “I Miss You” is a pretty corny song. A pop-punk nursery rhyme, the song’s protagonists, Jack and Sally, are also the main characters from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the lyrics are a cookie-cutter rendition of an already-told story. That being said, the chorus is still intoxicating 19 years later, despite DeLonge’s meme-ified inflection (“Jone waste yore toye monme / Yorall rediii / The voice inside moye yead”), leaving a comical backdrop on an already-unserious song about love and mortal partnership between skeletons. But the yin and yang of Hoppus’ monotone verses and DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves-style drawl play off each other perfectly here. The song is proof that, if a band is at the top of their game, they can make anything a hit. And when it plays through the speakers of whatever department store you’re shopping in, you probably still hum along—because “I Miss You” is catchy, delicate and forever a part of us.
However, the title of the best love song on Blink-182 belongs to “Always,” the band’s final album single before breaking up in 2005. The band’s self-titled album is all about influences, and “Always” is a contagious, immense homage to ’80s new-wave, with dazzling New Romantic-era synthesizers, Missing Persons-style percussion and prominent basslines—like if New Order sang bubblegum top-40. It’s a song about treasured intimacy with a lot of verbiage and pronouns (“Hold you, touch you, feel you, always”) but just as much heart. It’s textured and complex, a signal that Blink-182 were much more than a raucous punk trio.
The closing track to Blink’s breakthrough Enema of the State, “Anthem” is a surprisingly solemn detour from the often gnarly, rarely morose, obsessive recklessness of the album. Delonge’s story of a house party gone awry, it’s the thesis to what would become Enema’s follow-up, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket—touching on numerous themes of a strangling adolescence, like strict parenting (“Mom and Dad posses the key / Instant slavery”) and cliched, but needed, optimism (“Good things come to those who wait”). “Anthem” is the perfect coda to the band’s serial hijinks, with machine-gun drumming from Barker and a guitar/bass duet from Hoppus and DeLonge that’s mesmerizingly in-sync.
“Down” welcomes a gorgeous piano outerlude from famous backing musician Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Imperial Drag, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash). DeLonge’s stadium guitar riffs and Hoppus’ echoing repetition of the title give it gigantic life. An added bonus: It’s one of the only songs in Blink-182’s catalog that features a vocal performance from Barker (he whispers the lines that come before the song’s chorus). The story in “Down,” in which someone begs and pleads for their partner to stay, is a pretty textbook Blink-182 romance tale, but the track’s chorus, “Tidal waves, they rip right through me / Tears from eyes worn cold and real,” remains one of the band’s best—and it’d rank higher on this list if its original conception, which ran over six minutes and included a mammoth drum breakdown from Barker, had become the album version.
“Natives” is the crown jewel of Barker’s drumming in Blink-182. His rapid-fire delivery keeps an impeccable tempo with DeLonge’s opening riff, which sounds like an acid-soaked “Thunderstruck” lick. The song is a fluttering proclamation of anxiety and self-doubt, where DeLonge is at his most vulnerable, balancing colorful, twitchy verses with Hoppus’ monotone choruses. Home to some of the band’s best couplets (“I am as bright as the sun / I burn up all that I choose” and “I’m just a waste of your time / Maybe I’m better off dead”), “Natives” is the brightest spot in the complicated, all-over-the-place alchemy of Neighborhoods, where Blink-182 actually sound like themselves, rather than like a band on the verge of falling apart for the second time in six years.
With the popularity of “All the Small Things,” it’s easy to forget that the first single off Enema of the State was “What’s My Age Again?,” a rowdy lament about growing up. Part of the chorus (“Nobody likes you when you’re 23”) has become a fitting social media caption for those stuck in the purgatory between being old enough to drink and too young to rent a car, but the entire song remains timeless. Originally titled “Peter Pan Complex,” the lyrics speak to the ambiguity of each member’s age (Hoppus, in particular, was 28 at the time of the song’s release) in relation to the youthful antics they draw on in the early parts of their discography. Sonically, “What’s My Age Again?” is an achievement. DeLonge’s guitar parts are arpeggiated and addicting, while Hoppus has admitted that his Pixies-style opening bassline was an accident born from him trying to play Green Day’s “J.A.R.” With Dookie producer Finn at the helm, “What’s My Age Again?” immediately became a pop-punk touchstone.
Dude Ranch is still, 25 years later, Hoppus’ best all-around set of compositions. And “Apple Shampoo,” the record’s lead single in early 1997, is a loose chronicling of his crumbling relationship with Elyse Rogers (of ska-punk band Dance Hall Crashers) that is both deprecating and splendidly heartfelt. It’s honest (“I know just where I stand / A boy trapped in the body of a man”) and regretful (“And now I realize, I should have kissed you in L.A.”). Dude Ranch was drummer Scott Raynor’s last record with the band, and “Apple Shampoo” is where he displays some of his sharpest percussive work. Emotionally, the track holds one of the most profound, non-”Dammit” Blink-182 lyrics: “I’ll take what you’re willing to give, and I’ll teach myself to live.”
A story about a parents’ divorce told from the POV of the child affected by it, Blink-182’s darkest post-“Adam’s Song” composition became a harrowing portrait of the home lives of a staggeringly high percentage of youth in America. After listening to a lot of Fugazi and Refused, DeLonge and Hoppus came together to write “Stay Together for the Kids,” the heavy, emo centerpiece of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, with lyrics conceptualized from the two singers’ parents’ separations. Hoppus’ gripping verse, “Their anger hurts my ears / Been running strong for seven years / Rather than fix the problems / They never solve them, it makes no sense at all,” showcases how the band could reach far inwards into their own trauma, and that their music could indeed achieve the dynamic backbone it had long been striving for.
The opening track on, and lead single from, Blink’s self-titled hodgepodge of alt-rock, punk, hardcore and power pop, “Feeling This” is the band’s first indictment of itself, a transformative push towards a more “mature” sound—or a more adult-sounding version of their previous antics. The song, written by Hoppus and DeLonge in separate rooms—the two, unintentionally, both wrote about sex, arriving with a dichotomous meditation on passion versus romance—begins with a singular drum roll from Barker before swelling into a sensual, palpable eruption of pop punk. “Feeling This” is a masterclass in one of Blink’s most sacred strengths: DeLonge and Hoppus trading verses in an effort to create one unstoppable machine. Inspired by The Beach Boys, Hoppus’ chorus, “Fate fell short this time, your smile fades in the summer / Place your hand in mine, I’ll leave when I wanna,” dissolves quickly into DeLonge’s interrogation, “Where do we go from here? / Turn all the lights down now,” like a Phil Spector-style wall of sound. There’s a reason it became the band’s nightly concert opener: It fucking rocks.
Blink’s oldest song on this list, “Carousel” was initially released on the demo album Buddha in early 1994 and then reworked for the band’s debut record Cheshire Cat a year later. It was conceived during Hoppus and DeLonge’s very first jam session in 1992, after Hoppus’ sister introduced the two. “Carousel” is a longtime crowd favorite and was the only non-single to appear on Blink’s Greatest Hits in 2005. Full of distorted, woozy guitars and a sparse, tin-can drum fill from Raynor, the song finds DeLonge feeling nostalgic about high school across a NOFX-style, fast-paced punk joint. There are little lyrical gems scattered across the track’s three-minute runtime that have aged particularly well in 2022, including, “Now as I walk down the street / I need a job just to sleep in sheets,” and, “A tank of gas is a treasure to me / I know now that nothing is free,” and, out of all of the band’s pre-Travis Barker compositions, “Carousel” is the one that showcased why Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge were meant to make music together.
“Reckless Abandon” is a collage of major consequences. Its placement toward the end of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket’s tracklist symbolizes an ugly disintegration of the record’s earlier, supposedly immortal romances and prankster escapades. The breakdowns midway through—“Sip a drink of the alcohol / End up kneeling in bathroom stalls / Eyes are red and my movements slow / Too high, got vertigo” and “He took a shit in the bathroom tub / And fed the dog the brownie drugs / Tried hard to not get caught / He fucked a chick in the parking lot”—aren’t glamorous or attractive. And just when you think DeLonge might be romanticizing these bad decisions, he comes back with a detoured reckoning: “We’ll use this song / To lead you on / With more bad news / We left a scar / Size extra large.” The song focuses on things not being as fun on the comedown, a prelude to the maturity they’d try to seize on their next record.
“The Rock Show” is a tune that’s never aged. Influenced by The Descendents and Ramones, Hoppus and company transmute the magnetism of falling in love, briefly, at a live show into a power-pop-punk all-timer. A teenage romance anthem, it carries one of the band’s grandest proclamations: “Seventeen without a purpose or direction / We don’t owe anyone a fucking explanation.” Blink, especially in those early years, always managed to sing about what that generation was feeling. It’s the defining piece of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, an attempt at harnessing the joys of young naïveté, and making them immortal and plentiful. It’s one side of Blink-182’s coin, the side provoking a light-heartedness that balances well with the other side, which is tough, plainspoken traumas and weathering. On “The Rock Show,” the trio are, sonically, at their tightest. DeLonge’s guitar licks are powerful, electrifying; Barker’s fills pack a room; the crescendoing outro of Hoppus repeating, “I’ll never forget tonight,” endures infinitely.
After making a name for themselves as pop punk’s most adorable trouble-makers, Blink-182 disrupted the entire flow of Enema of the State’s energetic tracklist with “Adam’s Song,” Hoppus’ brilliant and solemn balladic anthem of loneliness and depression. Stylized like a suicide note and initially conceived while feeling alienated on tour—because DeLonge and Raynor had girlfriends waiting for them at home—the song has since become a portrait of mental illness and self-exile, glued together by Hoppus’ powerful vocals and DeLonge’s arena chords. In a wide landscape of resonant lyrics, “I never conquered, rarely came / Sixteen just held such better days / Days when I still felt alive / We couldn’t wait to get outside,” stands out the most on replays, as you can hear a genuine detachment in Hoppus’ vocal delivery. Those lines transform by the track’s end, with Hoppus, hopefully, declaring: “I never conquered, rarely came / Tomorrow holds such better days / Days when I can still feel alive / When I can’t wait to get outside.” “Adam’s Song” was one of the last tracks written and recorded during the Enema sessions, and was nearly left off the album entirely. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
“Going Away to College” would be Mark Hoppus’ greatest triumph if the year 1997 didn’t exist. That being said, this track is the defining moment of Enema of the State, showcasing how you can still be gentle amid the chaos. It’s here where DeLonge doesn’t commit too hard to the claustrophobic riffs he’d later fully embrace, instead settling for a sublime, airy strum that flexes his strengths as an axeman. “Going Away to College” is a gorgeous love song, Hoppus’—and Blink’s—best one to date. “This world’s an ugly place / But you’re so beautiful to me” remains an endearing, full-hearted and timeless burst of affection. And in the time of COVID-19, “Going Away to College” endures madly, most profoundly as we mine our own unique romantic aspirations. Enema rarely reaches for such passion, but, when it does, it achieves a tenderness the band would never be able to fully recreate.
Released as a bonus track on the band’s live record, The Mark, Tom And Travis Show in 2000, “Man Overboard” is Blink-182’s most compelling song. Featuring Hoppus’ most propulsive bassline, a quintessential glam-rock riff from DeLonge, and thunderous snare and ride cymbal work from Barker, the song is arranged perfectly. Written in the same vein as tracks like Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Knock Me Down” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, the “Man Overboard” chronicles the aftermath of OG drummer Raynor’s alcoholism and his dismissal from the band. The lyrics are so specific, yet they can be mapped onto so many moments of loss (“Man on a mission, can’t say I miss him around” and “Loss of a good friend, best of intentions I found / Tight-lipped procrastination / Yeah, later, see you around”). Though Hoppus’ verses are the meat of the song, a repetitive choral outcry from DeLonge packs the most emotional punch, when he sings, “You can only lean on me for so long / Bring the ship about to watch a friend drown.” “Man Overboard” is a compassionate document of empathy that wrestles with a familiar inward battle: feeling angry and conflicted about someone you love dearly, but have to let go of.
Shout out to Can’t Hardly Wait. If you know, you know. “Dammit” is Blink-182’s catch-all track—not an opus, but as much of a masterpiece as a pop-punk anthem can be. The song, and the radio airplay it received, very literally made the trio famous and gave them an avenue to make Enema of the State. DeLonge called it the band’s songwriting breakthrough, and his legendary riff was born on an acoustic guitar missing two strings. Nothing was going to keep this track from shining. Even Hoppus’ raw, straining vocals flourish, capping off his quailing recount of a fictional breakup, in which he catalogs jealousy and longing (“The steps that I retrace / The sad look on your face / The timing and structure / Did you hear that he fucked her?”). It’s sometimes hard to reconcile with the fact that the band’s best composition does not include Barker, but its sound is unmistakable and its legacy stretches decades. “Dammit” is the defining song of both Dude Ranch and Blink-182 altogether. It’s their longtime concert closer (with “Family Reunion”) and the inspiration behind a 25-year-old graduation cap slogan: “Well, I guess this is growing up” remains a definitive symbol for every generation of goofballs terrified of getting older, no matter their age.
Matt Mitchell is a writer living in Columbus, Ohio. His writing can be found now, or soon, in Pitchfork, Bandcamp, Paste, LitHub and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @matt_mitchell48.