In Defense Of Teen Angst
A new Blink song came out today. I think it’s alright. Still love it though. They were my favorite band growing up, and remain among my favorite bands today. Their musical emotion doesn’t quite align with where I am in life these days, but I still listen to all their new music. Even if they release a song I don’t immediately like, I usually force it to grow on me.
One of the fundamental truths of the universe is that there exists no Blink 182 song that I don’t know most of the lyrics to.
It’s pretty crazy how much I know about them. I spent middle and high school scouring the depths of the internet for every obscure interview, broadcasted live performance, music video making-of, and documentary ever made about them. I’d memorize all of Mark and Tom’s one-liners and repeat them to my friends. I’d memorize and analyze their more cryptic lyrics and apply them to my own life. With how much time I’ve spent listening to their music and researching, I could write a dissertation on the evolution of Blink 182. Someday I probably will.
I’m sure a lot of 90’s kids have this — that one band they grew up with in their formative years. The one that so directly spoke to them in ways that friends and family couldn’t. It almost feels like a rite of passage into adulthood.
Besides the raw energy and catchy melodies, the biggest reason I fell in love with Blink was because I so deeply believed in what they stood for (and still do). Their unabashed toilet humor was unparalleled by any other pop punk band at the time. Such classics like “When You Fucked Grandpa”, “Fuck A Dog”, “Mother’s Day”, and “Happy Holidays You Bastard” just to name a few, were bold statements about not taking yourself too seriously. That when it comes to joking, nothing is off limits. Their sloppy live performances and carefree banter reflected their dgaf attitude towards the dryness of ‘proper’ behavior. It was a ‘fuck you’ to that pretentious kind of maturity that oozes from people who try too hard to grow up fast.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter: the defense of teen angst.
The feelings, thoughts, and art associated with teen angst need defending because they’re so easily shit on by everyone. Teen angst art is so often looked down upon as a lesser form — as if its inherent immaturity is flawed and unworthy. As if it’s not classy.
Wow I can’t believe you still listen to Blink 182…what’s your age again?
Well, I’m almost 23.
It’s pretty common for people to look back on their teenage years and cringe. A lot of people hate their adolescent selves. Especially adolescents. But to me, that kind of thinking is what’s actually flawed. You ought to love yourself, and I think loving your past selves and growth function is part of it. Sure, you can dislike past actions and attitudes you used to have, but maintaining an appreciation for the different stages of your growth seems healthy to me. Everything in your past leads to who you are. It’s the whole ‘journey vs. destination’ trope. You never really reach your final form anyway.
The awkwardness, confusion, and insecurity of adolescence so powerfully influences who we are, and yet it’s a stage of life that while still reminisced about, often leaves people feeling weird and uncomfortable.
People are so ashamed of it.
Biologically, puberty is when you’re first able to reproduce and when your brain starts to mature. Mentally, it’s when you become a real person with some semblance of self-awareness. I’d argue that in many ways, when you’re a kid, you have no idea who you are because you’ve barely even formed a personality. I can’t blanket statement this or rigorously defend it, but I think you get it. For most of us, it’s in our teenage years that we begin to espouse viewpoints, values, and philosophies. It’s when we truly wake up to the world.
Maybe you looked weird during puberty. Maybe that one girl never liked you back. Maybe your parents got divorced and you didn’t have a father figure. Maybe you were tired of doing math all day. Puberty could have sucked for so many different reasons, but the common denominator is that in that hormone-rushed state, we emoted with such raw intensity that at the time, was largely unfamiliar to us.
And that’s what makes teen angst derived art uniquely charming. It reflects some of the first real, deep thoughts we ever have. Like the birth of a child, it marks an awakening of sorts. A newborn’s first cries are discordant and unpleasant to the ear, but still inexplicably beautiful. The cries of teen angst are the cries of your second birth, your coming of age, the beginning of your search for yourself. It’s picturesque in a way, like an old sepia-toned photo. And I think it only gets so much hate because it reminds people of how terribly insecure they were during puberty.
I think we should make peace with it and embrace it with head-banging.
Because whining over power chords about how much you hate your dad, how no one understands you, how society is messed up even though you barely understand it, or how no one wants to bang you — sure, maybe it makes you cringe. But at least it’s honest. At least it can be trusted. And let’s face it, those guitar riffs are still pretty fucking cool.