26. “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink-182 (1999)

The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.

I graduated in the year 2000. I voted for this song as our class song, even though I don’t think it was nominated. I just did my own write-in vote. Here we are about to graduate and move onto the next phase of life, but I still made crank calls with my friends and once got distracted while a girl was taking off my pants that led to hilarious tension immediately thereafter. Was I an adult? Was I still a kid? Both? Neither? I didn’t fucking know. What’s my age again?

You know what our actual class song was? “Two Thousand Years” by Billy Joel, a choice I refuse to believe literally anyone our age would ever vote for. Billy Joel is probably the most “adult” mainstream recording artist I can think of except for maybe Celine Dion. What kind of high school kid in the year 2000 gets excited for the song stylings of 51 year-old Billy Joel and his dumbass song from fucking 1993? What a load.

It also bears mention that immediately following the Uber ride where I paid the driver $15 to play “Saturday” by Ludacris, our new friends were litigating some of their ancient history and arguing again about who failed to procure Billy Joel tickets when he played Wrigley Field. I apparently looked annoyed and they thought I was irritated that this was like the 3rd time I’d heard about this disagreement in the 5 hours I’d been there. I didn’t give a shit about that; I truly couldn’t believe they were arguing about Billy fucking Joel.

Billy Joel sucks. I don’t like his music. I don’t like his sensibility. I don’t like his writing. I don’t like his dumb face. I just listened to “Two Thousand Years” again for the first time since I was forced to hear it for the first and (up to that point) only time in my life at graduation, and, unsurprisingly, it sucks absolute shit. I ripped into Billy Joel for approximately the next 10 minutes to the group’s surprising delight and amusement and concluded with this, “Which ever one of you technically fucked up here should get a medal for saving you all so much goddamn money. I can’t think of a worse way of spending $800 than having to sit through two hours of this shit merchant. Congrats on doing literally anything else.”

Enema of the State, Blink’s third album, is how the year 2000 actually sounds. I went to Spain for three weeks that Spring with other members of the AP Spanish class, sat next to my friend Chris on the plane, borrowed this CD from him, fell in love with it, and then never gave it back (Sorry, Chris). Pop punk was everywhere and these guys were the kings.

It was a perfect soundtrack to a moment. Y2K came and went with little disruption. The stock market was kicking ass and the economy was sound and growing. Our outgoing president was forcing us all to have hilariously weird conversations about fellatio and cigars. And the country was enrobed in a pre-9/11 optimism that’s hard to describe to anyone who wasn’t there.

Blink-182 has always had an antic sensibility that I feel deep in my bones. Remember on Seinfeld when Elaine tells Jerry he can’t not be funny? That to me is Blink. Even when they’re serious on a track like “I Miss You” you still get Tom’s hilarious delivery of “Where are you?! And I’m so sorry! I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight!” Great song, but I didn’t even have to tell you to read those lines in Tom’s weird voice, did I? You did it yourself.

They’re foul-mouthed and raunchy. They’re deeply silly. They think and talk about sex all the time. They’re romantics. They’re clearly, obviously, and expressively friends. They just seem like a great deal of fun. It’s how I think of my own best friends. If I had to pick a band that conveys the vibe of my favorite friendships, I would choose Blink-182.

Sometime in the mid-2000s, there was a certain breed of Internet Jerk who threw shade at Blink for their juvenilia and wrote off this album and Dude Ranch for being immature. What the fuck music were they supposed to be making? I’m sure we could ask Billy Joel. But in being totally true to themselves, they ended up writing a couple of masterpiece records. They both reflected the culture and mood of the time, and became emblematic of it. Neat trick. Oh, and their new album One More Time is fantastic and true to who Blink-182 is in 2023 beautifully. These guys have always been extremely themselves, and I appreciate the shit out of them for that even when I don’t really care for the product itself. At least I know they ain’t puttin’ on airs.

The reason a song like “What’s My Age Again?” works at all is because it’s immature. It has exceedingly low stakes. It’s punchy. It moves through you like a warm wind gust on the beach. It shows up, it’s fun, and then it’s over. You can consume a larf of a song like this many, many times in your life without ever getting tired of it. Have you ever been mad when this song hits you in the wild? Of course not.

This should have absolutely been our class song. Fucking two years before Classes of 1998 everywhere in America got to choose “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day as their song, and did. I’m so jealous because “What’s My Age Again?” was RIGHT THERE for the taking and would have been hilarious in the moment, and brilliant in the future. And instead we got Billy Joel. Man, fuck Billy Joel.

Up next: Halfway through the list now and we’ve only had one ska song? One goddamn ska song? Let’s fix that.

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