Blink-182's Big, Dumb, Anti-Christmas Spirit Lives On
"I Won't Be Home for Christmas" stood alone as a misanthropic pop-punk holiday anthem for two decades. One emo-rap prodigy might finally change that.
There are dumb Christmas songs—brash, adolescent, sex-obsessed, donkey-brained pieces of music that return to playlists every December like misbehaving college freshmen coming home to workshop their smuttiest "stuffing" puns. There is, however, no song as proudly imbecilic as Blink-182's "I Won't Be Home for Christmas." It is the Family Guy of Christmas songs, the New Jersey boardwalk T-shirt of holiday jams, the gurning, half-stoned brat of Yuletide anti-merriment. We're nine days into The Noisey Advent Calendar, and there's no point in putting it off any longer:
Fifteen years after hearing this for the first time, I'm still amazed by how fully Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and then-drummer Scott Raynor realized their goal here. Released as a radio promo in 1997—shortly after Dude Ranch had marked them as goofy pop-punk insurgents—"I Won't Be Home..." fit the band's aesthetic and ethos perfectly. It was dressed up as a song against Christmas, but it was really a song against adults and normal people, all of whom are boring and stupid and uncool. Its title negated a swooning holiday staple. It told wallet-chain-wearing kids in late-90s suburbs what they already knew but somehow hadn't heard often enough on the radio—that their parents were annoying, and Christmas was just a week-long stretch of putting up with their corniness.
Hoppus's lyrics don't leave anything to chance. "Outside the carolers start to sing / I can't describe the joy they bring / 'Cause joy is something they don't bring me," he deadpans before going onto introduce us to his girlfriend, a character who will never return. Her purpose is singular—to set the protagonist up as the type of guy who has a girlfriend. Our hero's Christmas Eve will soon spiral out of control. He attacks the carolers with a baseball bat, they flee, and the cops turn up. Like another famous Christmas anti-hero, he finds himself in jail on Christmas Eve. And, of course, jail can only mean one thing to suburban, middle-class, teenage dumbasses—blow jobs from a man named Bubba. "You people scare me / Please stay away from my home," Hoppus sings in the chorus, stumbling down that fine line between rebel and sociopath. "If you don't wanna get beat down / Just leave the presents and then leave me alone."
I loved this shit as a kid. Obviously. It was daring and revolutionary, like saying the word "balls" in class or glueing a picture of Stewie Griffin to a notebook. So-called civilized society wasn't ready for it, but Blink-182 were right there shouting their takes anyway, threatening to violently attack the wholesome. Grown-ups didn't get it, man. Christmas, like, sucked or whatever.
Blink replaced Raynor with Travis Barker in 1998, and the band went on to genuine superstardom, dropping some of their more puerile material as they grew up and started pushing at pop-punk's boundaries. But "I Won't Be Home for Christmas" never died. It came out as a fully-fledged single in 2001, then made it onto the Immortal Records compilation A Santa Cause: It's a Punk Rock Christmas in 2003. It outlasted every other pop-punk Christmas cut, including their own infantile "Happy Holidays, You Bastard" from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Nobody else was able to quite copy Blink's mix of loathing, dick jokes, and power chords, so nothing ever replaced this in the anti-Christmas canon.
The recent rise of emo-rap might be able to mount a challenge though. Just last Friday, pop prodigy Lil Aaron released a five-track EP called WORST CHRISTMAS EVER. The highlight is the second song, "FUCK CHRISTMAS," an Auto-Tuned glob of pop-punk that I suddenly can't stop playing. It's certainly concise. Here's the chorus:
Fuck Christmas, I hate it
It’s so overrated
I’d rather be naked in bed
Fuck Christmas, It’s stupid
These presents are useless
I’d rather get faded instead
Aaron is every bit as misanthropic and sick-of-this-shit as Hoppus, but he's seemingly less inclined to chase after folks on the street with a potentially deadly weapon. "FUCK CHRISTMAS" picks up on the same teen-Scrooge idea that Blink were selling, but does away with their giggly homophobia and replaces it with tired fury—it's more anguished than it is cruel. "Somebody tell me when it’s over," he sings, "Cus until then I won’t be sober / Yeah it was really nice to know ya / But get me back to California." He's so clearly picking up on Blink's legacy here. WORST CHRISTMAS EVER was produced by Travis Barker, and you can hear his influence in the crunchy, palm-muted chords as much as the crash-heavy beat.
Today's teenagers finally have a pissed-off anti-Christmas anthem all of their own. And even though "FUCK CHRISTMAS" is the better song, the kids still have Blink-182 to thank.
Alex Robert Ross would rather be naked in bed. Instead, he's on Twitter.