I think of awhile ago – We might have had it all
I was so stupid then – You needed time to grow
But now just as things change – As well my feelings do
In time things rearrange – I am so sick of chasing you
But what do I get cause I just seem to lose
You make me regret those times I spent with you
And playing those games as I wait for your call
Now I give up so goodbye and so long.
-Blink 182, Untitled from the album Dude Ranch (1997)
Tom Delonge was 22 years old when this song was featured on Blink 182’s album Dude Ranch. In 1997 I was 12, about to turn 13. It would be four years later before this song meant anything to me – I was 16, Tom was 26. At the age of 16, someone that’s 26 had may as well be 30. Heck, at almost double my age he may as well be 40. Yet there he was, standing on stage before an adoring audience of MTV-obsessed adolescents and angst-ridden teenagers singing this song every night as though he had written it the night before.
Such is the norm, I suppose, since around the same time – the year 2000 to be exact – the Chester Bennington-fronted band Linkin Park hit the scene with their major-label debut Hybrid Theory. Here, at the tender age of 24, Bennington shouted “Everything you say to me takes me one step closer to the edge and I’m about to break!“* and “You try to take the best of me – go away!“** with the scathing agony and frustration of an angry teenager fresh from an argument with their parents who, obviously, do not understand what they’re going through. Hybrid Theory went on to scale the charts, peaking at number 2 in the US and top-5 in 14 other countries. The album reached Diamond Certification (10 million copies) in the United States, selling over 27 million copies worldwide.***
Yep, just like Blink 182, Linkin Park has made a living touring worldwide performing for millions upon millions of adoring fans with band members quickly approaching middle-age while singing songs about how hard life is and loves lost, topics that really hit home for teenage high schoolers. At that age, I know I certainly needed bands like this to tell me how I was feeling…
…But I was a teenager then. While I still listen to Blink 182 with some regularity (rarely listen to Linkin Park anymore) what they’re singing about is no longer relevant to my nearly-30-year-old self. I’m 29 years old, own my house, drive a nearly-brand-new car, have next to no debt, have an unbelievable job with the world’s leading lifestyle media company, am more than happily married and have the two best dogs on the planet. And I still love music as much as I always have, so who speaks (sings) for me now?
A quick look in my current iTunes library shows my most-played song is “Get Your Back Off the Wall” by Christian freak-out group Family Force 5 followed closely by “The One” by rap supergroup Slaughterhouse. One song about challenging party-goers to a dance battle, the other about being rich, famous and able to regularly make love to celebrities, two circumstances I’ve neither experienced nor am able to identify with.
My music library truly runs the gamut from twangy honky tonk to soulful R&B, from angry, race-fueled gangster rap to joyful praise and worship and putrid, depraved death metal. I don’t have a cheating heart, don’t really care how loud the DJ’s music is, have never been subjected to the tyranny of a racist white man, am not overly spiritual and have certainly never desired to make love to a child’s corpse. Music is where I try to find my identity, yet based on what I regularly listen to, I’m afraid I have no idea who I am anymore.
But maybe that’s the point. Maybe like reading books or writing fiction one can do it as a way of being someone else – of experiencing things as a person with characteristics you don’t have but maybe wished you did (or glad you didn’t, I suppose). Maybe it’s okay for me to see myself as an overly-emotional church of Satan member when I listen to Alkaline Trio, a heart-broken soul needing something steady in my otherwise broken life when I listen to Amy Winehouse, a god-filled spiritual powerhouse when I listen to Ascend the Hill, a rugged viking when I blast Amon Amarth, a rambling simple man when I listen to Old Crow Medicine Show or even an underdog, training boxer when I listen to Bill Conti. Maybe it’s alright if I can feel the cold, damp streets of London while listening to Scroobius Pip, the slums of Kingston, Jamaica while listening to Desmond Dekker, lusting after big, black asses while listening to Foxy Shazam, fantasizing about Gypsy life with Gogol Bordello, worshiping the dark lord with Ghost, crushing the dark lord with Demon Hunter, fighting “the man” with Street Sweeper Social Club and yearning for that Old Time Religion with Woody Guthrie.
All things I don’t really do in real life.
And that’s okay.
Because I know I’ve certainly not heard any songs lately about leading the regular, seemingly-boring life of a video nerd that just wants to read, draw and eat in his spare time. And if you have, I’d love to hear them.
*Linkin Park, ‘One Step Closer’ from the album Hybrid Theory (2000)
**Linkin Park, ‘A Place for My Head’ from the album Hybrid Theory (2000)
***Wikipedia article on Hybrid Theory