Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella
7 Jaw-Dropping Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 1: BLACKPINK, Bad Bunny, Blink-182 & More
The first weekend of Coachella 2023 was full of more-than-memorable moments: Rosalía got into the audience; Metro Boomin brought hip-hop's heaviest hitters to the stage; major artists rocked small stages and so much more.
In a sense, every Coachella is an historic event.
Held annually at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., it’s the first major music festival of the year and often showcases artists’ tour launches, effectively providing a sneak preview of what’s to come. It’s also a place where things happen that can seemingly only happen there. The evidence lies in the sheer multitude of special guest appearances spanning the three-day event, with cameos occurring on nearly every one of eight stages.
The 2023 edition of Coachella — which sold out its first weekend, ushering in roughly 125,000 people from around the globe — was arguably the most consequential in its 22 years. On Friday, Puerto Rican rapper-singer Bad Bunny became the fest’s first Latino solo artist headliner; Saturday’s spectacle from BLACKPINK marked the first K-pop performance to top the bill; and on Sunday, Frank Ocean made history as the first openly gay man to close out the world-class music summit.
The latter artist’s set — his first in nearly six years — was certainly memorable, but not for fond reasons. On the bright side, there were plenty of other dazzling moments, whether enhanced by surprise guests or on their own merits, which made the weekend indisputably unforgettable. Read on for seven of the best sets from Coachella 2023.
The Murder Capital Slays The Sonora Tent
With only two albums under their belt and a relatively packed audience in the Sonora Tent on Friday afternoon (the second slot of the fest), it’s fair to argue that the Irish quintet deserved the nod for one of Coachella’s best up-and-coming bands.
They earned the accolade handily within just seven songs, a no-holds-barred display of searing, snotty-yet-sincere post-punk tunes (à la hometown contemporaries Fontaines D.C. and British sonic kin Idles and Shame) evenly split between their 2019 debut album When I Have Fears and this year’s follow-up, Gigi’s Recovery.
"We don’t give a f— what time is. We want to see you move," said vocalist James McGovern before launching into the maelstrom "Feeling Fades." Every member contributed to the unrelenting energy, expertly building anticipation during slow-burn portions on songs like "A Thousand Lives" and show closer "Ethel," before thrashing through the songs’ cacophonous climaxes.
The Coachella performance marks the end of the Murder Capital's first stateside tour and, based on this exceptional performance, they’ll doubtless return ready to release even more panache and sonic punch. Fans of thought-provoking punk rock would be wise to keep a lookout.
Blink-182 Reunites For An Epic Bout Of Pop-Punk Nostalgia
It was confirmed months ago that bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker would reunite with original Blink-182 singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge for a summer tour — the pop-punk trio’s first shows together in nine years — but seeing the band's name appear on the Friday schedule upon its reveal last week stoked some the weekend’s most spirited anticipation.
Fans reacted rabidly to the news — a group of Mexican friends waiting in front, all decked out in Blink attire and sporting tattoos of the band’s logo, said they scrambled to buy tickets and make the trip to the desert with only a single day's notice. Those fellas and the thousands spilling out of the Sahara Tent were rewarded with DeLonge making his entrance with middle fingers raised high, signaling that we were about to witness the same ol’ charmingly crass charades. They wasted no time tearing into a career-spanning set (plus the live debut of recently released new track, "EDGING") peppered with sarcastic and explicit banter that was as nostalgically satisfying as hits like "I Miss You" and "All the Small Things," and deep cuts "Dysentery Gary" and "Dumpweed."
Despite his near-decade away, DeLonge sounded sharper than ever, especially when the trio took it back all the way to 1997 for show closer "Dammit," mixing in a thrilling snippet of TLC’s "No Scrubs" (which also played in-full as the outro music). It was an odd but appropriate pairing — looking around at several generations of fans singing along to every track with equal enthusiasm, it became clear that for many, Blink’s classic catalog feels just as timeless as that R&B mega-hit.
Metro Boomin Brings The Whole Crew To The Stage
With a resume that includes work with John Legend, Future, Don Tolliver, 21 Savage, and the Weeknd, the anticipation for what might manifest during producer/DJ Metro Boomin’s Friday night set in the Sahara Tent was at an all-time high. And as it so happened, every one of those artists made appearances, in that order, resulting in the most star-studded show of the weekend in an incredibly intimate setting.
Within the first few seconds of Metro Boomin's set, Legend strolled out to belt on "On Time," and from that point, there was only one track without a heavy hitter at the helm. Future for five songs, wrapping up on superhit "Mask Off"; Don Tolliver out for three; 21 Savage for six exhilarating tunes; and finally the Weeknd for another half-dozen. The cherry on top: both 21 Savage and Diddy joined the Weeknd for the live debut of Metro Boomin’s "Creepin'" remix to close out the set. Acting as conductor and conduit, Metro stayed relatively hidden atop a center-stage platform for the entirety of the 23-song set, letting his guests and mesmerizing dancers take the wheel.
This show could’ve and should’ve been on the main stage, and the fact that it wasn’t made it that much more special for the fest-goers wise enough to sacrifice the beginning of Bad Bunny to witness it.
Bad Bunny Makes History
In the moments before Bad Bunny's headlining slot on Friday, footage depicting past lineups and performers — including Prince, Kendrick Lamar and the Black Keys — flashed across the main stage’s massive screens. The suggestion was clear: The Puerto Rican superstar intended to cement his own legacy as Coachellan royalty.
In some ways, that status was predetermined. As the first Latino solo artist to close out the festival, the GRAMMY-winning reggaeton titan had already made history before even setting foot on stage. El Conejo Malo gave his massive audience their money’s worth and more during a 2-hour tour de force that paid tribute to Latin music and dance.
Beginning the show atop a platform designed to look like the gas station roof in San Juan, Puerto Rico where he staged a surprise performance last December, the artist lovingly referred to by fans as Benito (his legal first name) serenaded the audience with several songs off chart-topping 2022 album Un Verano Sin Ti. He rarely showed himself on the stage’s screens, instead opting to display videos of historic Latin and Caribbean musical traditions, plus brightly colored graphics paired with sweeping lasers and spurts of pyro that evoked the feel of an enormous Miami nightclub.
Though hopes were high for Cardi B to appear for her part on breakout single "I Like It," she didn’t show, but no matter. Fans were treated to plenty more surprise guests, including Jowell Y Randy on "Safaera," Jay Cortez on a hat trick of tunes played on a B-stage, and Post Malone accompanying on acoustic guitar for "La Canción" and "Yonaguni." The latter two were diminished by sound issues, but it had little effect on the impact of the show for diehard fans — it was a veritable love letter to Latin culture that his faithful followers will surely hold dear for years to come.
Dinner Party Invites Everyone To The Table
With only a few performances under their belt to date, Dinner Party — the supergroup formed in 2020 by prolific pianist Robert Glasper, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, hip-hop producer/DJ 9th Wonder and renowned producer/musician Terrace Martin — was a must-see in the Gobi Tent on Saturday afternoon.
The outfit was joined by Arin Ray, who sings on their debut full-length Enigmatic Society (released one day prior on April 14) and in this setting also handled vocal parts from Dinner Party’s self-titled EP sung by Chicago artist Phoelix. His voice set a joyful, uplifting tone on opening track "Breathe," which was followed by segments where each contributor showcased their individual talents, including wild sax duels from Washington and Martin, and a hip-hop DJ mini-set from 9th Wonder.
But the group was at their best when all players were seated at the table, so to speak, and when Ray rejoined for the show’s finale, "Freeze Tag," an enlivened, church-like feeling overtook the audience — every person in the packed tent was grooving along, no exceptions.
Rosalía Engages With Her Fans
Over the course of Rosalía's hour-long, main stage set on Saturday night, which pulled heavily from new album MOTOMAMI, the Catalonian singer proved that she’s reached superstar status, not only with respect to her spellbinding vocal delivery and dancing, but also her overall artistic vision.
Even better, she achieved all of it while making her fans feel like an essential part of the show. Case in point: Much of the show’s live feed was shot on stage within the space of three video walls that created an ultra-smooth, almost surreal music video effect. But on "La Noche de Anoche" (a Bad Bunny collaboration), she made her way down to the audience holding a handheld camera and let her fans take turns singing a few of the lyrics. Even if they sounded terribly off-key, it showed unmatched class — a performer who can step down from her well-deserved pedestal to make meaningful connections with her supporters.
The scene was truly touching, and she built on that throughout the set, first by playing a tearjerkingly beautiful rendition of "Hentai" on piano dedicated to her dance teacher, then by bringing out her fiancé Rauw Alejandro for duets on "Beso" and "Vampiros," which wrapped up with the sweetest of on-stage kisses. By the end, there was no doubt of her mastery over balancing raw talent and authenticity.
BLACKPINK Shows Why K-Pop Deserves Coachella Spotlight
Saturday night’s headlining turn from the record-breaking K-pop girl group, the first to top Coachella’s lineup, was unequivocally the most impressive production of Coachella’s first weekend.
Mind-bending elements came into play before the quartet even appeared. A drone-powered light show above the stage — which first depicted a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, then a paper crane, then an astronaut, a hippo in a spacesuit and finally a heart — all representations of Coachella’s past installation art pieces — had the crowd gasping in astonishment.
Over the course of the following 18 songs, the four members danced, sang and rapped flawlessly while their live band conjured a soundtrack powerful enough to fill several arenas. Right out of the gates, they wowed with a ferocity that matched the title of opening track "Pink Venom," then strutted down the stage’s extended catwalks flanked by a brigade of equally impressive backup dancers to a B-stage for "Kill This Love" — all the while being followed by cameras that made their video element look like a high-end production seemingly unachievable in a live setting. The sequence drove the audience into a shouting, jumping frenzy as flames erupted on all sides.
After a few songs in group format, each member took a solo turn. Jennie went first, effortlessly amping up the fans with deep house-inspired "You & Me"; then Jisoo appeared for a fiery take on "Flower"; Rosé stunned with another effortlessly fierce dance routine down the catwalk; and Lisa wrapped up the segment with an unreleased explicit version of "Money," which began with a seductive pole dance followed by a decidedly hardcore rap delivery that would impress some of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters.
At its core, the performance was the most successful representation of what Coachella set out to do by booking such distinctly diverse headliners: it proliferated inclusivity. Even if you came to Coachella exclusively for another act, Blackpink had something to offer for everyone, from pop to hip-hop to rock to EDM, and it would be no surprise if they converted a new legion of fans in the process. The show concluded with a display of fireworks worthy of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration, but they really weren't necessary — their performance was explosive enough without them.
11 Electric Coachella Surprise Guest Moments From Weekend 1: Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Rauw Alejandro & More
Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa
Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More
Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.
In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."
Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, GRAMMY.com celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Below, take a listen to 50 songs by artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum — including "Unholy" and Liniker's "Baby 95" — on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella
Get To Know 5 Asian Artists Taking Center Stage At 2023 Festivals
From Jackson Wang’s historic Coachella set to NoSo’s marvelous Kilby Block Party debut, here are 5 artists of Asian heritage performing at popular music festivals this year.
Festival season is upon us and among the many names in those occasionally hard-to-read lineup posters, artists of Asian heritage have been rising to headliner status.
BLACKPINK might be first to come to mind: the South Korean group dropped jaws with their revolutionary Coachella performance, becoming the first K-pop group to headline the massive spring festival. From NewJeans to TOMORROW X TOGETHER to aespa making appearances at festivals later this August, K-pop in particular has continued to take the festival circuit by storm.
Indie, rock and EDM stars of Asian heritage are also making their mark on festival stages this year. Four Tet turned Coachella upside down alongside Skrillex and Fred again.., and Beabadoobee will take on Lollapalooza Chicago, Outside Lands, and All Things Go, all after opening for Taylor Swift on her Eras Tour and headlining her own EU tour.
From mainstays like NIKI and Raveena to rising stars like Yaeji and Wallice, festival lineups are bursting with talent this year. In honor of AAPI month, here are five Asian artists bringing their striking performances to major festival stages this year.
Although spill tab makes bedroom pop, her music was destined for festival stages.
Born Claire Chicha, the breakout French Korean singer/songwriter shapes her introspections into ambitious alternative pop. Swimming through layered vocals and electropop tinges, the artist knows how to transform her dreamy reflections into eye-catching performances.
After playing Austin City Limits last fall, Chicha graced the stage at Kilby Block Party in Utah this spring. Having already opened for everyone from Wallows to Sabrina Carpenter, spill tab knows the stage like the back of her hand.
The Rose is making their Lollapalooza Chicago debut this August, but the K-pop four-piece have been festival-ready since their mainstream debut in 2017.
Newly under the management of label Far East Movement, The Rose is known for their escalating soft-rock ballads like “She’s In The Rain” and “sorry.” Able to switch from electric to acoustic with ease, the group’s versatility translates into a bright, contagious energy meant for festival stages.
Marked by poignance and soft guitar, NoSo’s performances fill a venue with comfort. Just a few months after performing for NPR’s popular Tiny Desk Concert series, NoSo put on an emotionally enlightening show at Kilby Block Party.
The Korean American artist, who also identifies as nonbinary and transgender, released their debut Stay Proud of Me in 2022. The album tells stories centering around their racial and gender identity, offering a serenity akin to a healing force.
Hailing from Hong Kong, Jackson Wang made waves at Coachella as the first Chinese solo artist invited to perform at the festival. Bringing out Ciara to perform their sultry R&B collaboration “Slow,” the singer-rapper proved he’s full of surprises.
Previously part of the K-pop group GOT7, Wang’s massive platform is only continuing to grow. His smooth, breathy voice molds to every genre from pop to rap, and his spectacular Coachella performance highlighted how his shining stage presence will only continue to mesmerize audiences.
After a long dusty day of stomping around festival grounds, Tanukichan’s refreshing set can help you recharge.
Born Hannah van Loon, the San Francisco-based indie rock star balances warmth and grit perfectly, individualizing her own sound after four years in the pop band Trails and Ways. Just a few months before her Kilby Block Party debut, she released her dynamic album GIZMO, which followed her 2018 Toro y Moi-produced debut and tour support for Kero Kero Bonito.
TXT, Blackpink, Aespa & More: Here Are All The K-Pop Tours And Events You Can Catch This Summer
Photo: The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images
TXT, Blackpink, Aespa & More: Here Are All The K-Pop Tours And Events You Can Catch This Summer
Whether you want to put your Head in the Clouds, free yourself at Outside Lands or be (re)born pink, plan out your summer with these K-pop events and tours in mind.
2023 started off strong for K-pop events in the U.S. Household names like NCT 127, Kang Daniel, and Stray Kids all toured the country, while the Empire State Building was lit up in honor of TWICE's latest EP, Ready to Be. In April, BLACKPINK made history as the first K-pop group to headline Coachella, while BTS' Suga (under the alias Agust D) began his first solo tour — the first out of all BTS members.
As summer starts to bloom, so do even more tours, festivals and conventions for lovers of Korean music and culture to rejoice. From mid-May to the end of August, almost every week will be busy with affairs that range from concerts by rising groups like WEi, to weekend-long celebrations like KCON, to trailblazing performances like Tomorrow X Together (TXT) headlining Lollapalooza, or aespa becoming the first K-pop group to play at New York’s Governors Ball.
To add some color to your summer, GRAMMY.com assembled a list of all the K-pop concerts and events happening in the next few months so you can enjoy the season at its fullest.
Suga: Agust D Tour
April 26 - May 17
The first BTS member to headline his own solo tour, Suga kicked off a string of performances in the U.S. on April 26 in Belmont Park, New York. The setlist included hits from his two mixtapes, August D and D-2, new tracks from his first solo studio album, D-Day, and even some BTS classics. Before heading to the Asian leg of the tour, Suga will play in Los Angeles and in Oakland, California.
Head in the Clouds Festival
Forest Hills, New York
88rising continues its mission of spreading the talents of Asian diaspora artists through their Head in the Clouds Festival. In addition to their usual Los Angeles edition, 2023 sees Head in the Clouds Festival expand to New York for the first time. The lineup includes returning acts such as DPR IAN and DPR LIVE, while K-pop sensation ITZY, global girl group XG, and rising rockstar LØREN will make their HITC debuts.
Tomorrow X Together (TXT): ACT : SWEET MIRAGE World Tour
Dazzling boy group Tomorrow X Together (TXT) grow bigger with each new release and their international tours follow suit. After last year’s ACT : LOVESICK, they return for a six-city stint in the U.S. with ACT : SWEET MIRAGE, kicking it off on May 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Members Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai perform hits like "0x1=LOVESONG (I Know I Loved You)," "Good Boy Gone Bad" and their latest single, "Sugar Rush Ride."
MAMAMOO: MY CON World Tour
May 16 - June 4
Vocal queens MAMAMOO will soon begin their first-ever U.S. tour. Hwasa, Solar, Moonbyul, and Wheein are set to perform in nine cities, starting with New York on May 16 and ending in Los Angeles on June 4. With almost a decade of classics under their belts, the quartet will likely perform songs such as "Um Oh Ah Yeh," solo songs by each member, and a slew of hits like "HIP" and "Egotistic."
WEi: PASSION World Tour
Boy group WEi also returns to the U.S. for their second world tour, PASSION. Each of its six members — Daehyeon, Donghan, Yongha, Yohan, Seokhwa, and Junseo — are known for competing in different survival shows, with Yohan finishing in first place on Mnet’s "Produce X 101" in 2019. Although Yohan himself will be absent from this tour due to conflicting schedules, the remaining quintet promises to have a blast from coast to coast.
Bang Yongguk: The Colors of Bang Yongguk US Tour
May 31 - June 16
As a singer/songwriter, record producer, and former leader of boy group B.A.P, Bang Yongguk is one of K-pop’s most wide-ranging artists. Through honest lyrics and a voice deeper than the Mariana Trench, Yongguk’s work is immediately identifiable and always innovative. After releasing a brand new album this month, The Colors of Love, he is set to perform 10 concerts across the U.S., beginning in Joliet, Illinois on May 31.
TRI.BE: 2023 USA Tour VIDA LOCA
June 6 - July 3
Girl group TRI.BE have graced K-pop with effervescent singles and boundless energy since 2021, when they debuted with "Doom Doom Ta." This year, members Songsun, Kelly, Jinha, Hyunbin, Jia, Soeun, and Mire will embark on their first U.S. tour. The septet will play a massive round of 17 shows throughout the country, starting in Orlando, Florida and concluding in L.A.
aespa: Governors Ball Music Festival
In less than three years since their debut, aespa are already making history. The quartet — formed by Karina, Giselle, Winter, and Ningning — will be the first K-pop group to perform at NYC outdoor festival Governors Ball, held June 9-11. SM Entertainment’s latest girl group became known for their AI-filled lore that includes avatars and an avant-garde sound in the likes of popular singles "Next Level” and “Savage."
TWICE: 5th World Tour Ready to Be
June 10 - July 9
Unrelenting girl group TWICE return to the U.S. for their 5th World Tour Ready to Be. Named after their latest album, the performances will feature hits from their 8-year spanning discography, as well as solo performances from each of its nine members. After performances in Asia and Australia, they will kick off a 13-stop North American leg of the tour at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on June 10, and wrap it up at Truist Park in Atlanta on July 9.
CRAVITY: The First World Tour Masterpiece
Last year, rising boy group CRAVITY toured the U.S. as one of the representatives of KCON 2022 Rookies — a series of concerts organized by the All Things Hallyu festival with up-and-coming names in the industry. In 2023, the nine-member group are proving their growth as they headline their own tour through New York, Chicago, San Juan, Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
JUST B: Otakon
Held in Washington, D.C., Otakon is the place to be for lovers of Asian pop culture. After bringing names like AleXa and PIXY last year, this year’s edition of the festival will bring rookie boy group JUST B — Lim Jimin, Geonu, Bain, JM, DY, and Sangwoo — for a performance and some VIP experiences to get to know them better.
Lee Youngji K-PLAY! FEST
San Mateo, California
Rapper Lee Youngji rose to fame by being the first woman to win survival shows "High School Rapper 3" and "Show Me the Money 11." However, she gathered an even bigger fandom through the YouTube variety show "My Alcohol Diary," where she invites other K-pop idols to her home for drinks and hilarious conversations. On July 30, she will headline the Bay Area edition of K-PLAY! FEST, the "first ever K-pop festival for fans, by fans." Besides spitting fiery bars, she will also do a hi-touch event, a fansign, and take some selfies with fans who purchase VIP packages.
Tomorrow X Together, NewJeans, DRP IAN, DPR LIVE: Lollapalooza
After last year’s success with performances from Tomorrow x Together and BTS’ j-hope, the Lolla 2023 features even more K-pop. For the first time in history, TXT will headline the festival on August 5, while fellow labelmates and current sensation NewJeans will perform on Thursday, August 3. DPR IAN, 6 and DPR LIVE bring their R&B, rock, and rap fusion to the last day of the festival on Sunday.
(G)I-dle: I am FREE-TY World Tour
K-pop’s resident tomboys will bring their flair and authenticity stateside. After last year’s Just Me ( )I-dle World Tour, the quintet formed by Soyeon, Miyeon, Minnie, Yuqi, and Shuhua will perform in six cities throughout the first half of August. In addition to their attitude-filled setlist, fans can expect new songs from their upcoming sixth EP, I Feel.
Head in the Clouds Festival
After their New York edition in May, HITC heads to the West Coast for another weekend celebrating Asian talents. While the lineup is yet to be announced, fans can expect it to hold some of the names who performed in past editions, as well as exciting newcomers. HITC will happen at Brookside at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 5 and 6.
BLACKPINK: BORN PINK World Tour
Headlining Coachella in April wasn’t enough for the unstoppable girl group BLACKPINK. Jennie, Rosé, Lisa, and Jisoo have just announced four stadium concerts in August as an extension of their ongoing BORN PINK World Tour, which also included U.S. dates in 2022. The quartet will perform at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Aug. 12, then follow to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Oracle Park in San Francisco, and wrap it up at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Aug. 26.
aespa: Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival
Once again, the groundbreaking aespa hit the U.S. for another milestone: they will be the first K-pop group to perform at San Francisco’s Outside Lands. The quartet will play their futuristic set on Friday, August 11, along Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monaé and WILLOW, among others.
Known as the largest Korean culture and music festival in North America, KCON has a decade-long legacy of serving as a bridge for "all things Hallyu." Held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and Crypto.com Arena, the festival includes a two-night concert, fan signings, food and merch stalls, panels with professionals in the industry, and many other attractions. KCON hasn’t announced its official lineup yet, but attendees can expect it to maintain the same excellence of past years.
Beyond Coachella: 10 Smaller Festivals Beloved For Their Homegrown Vibes & Huge Lineups
Photo: Jack Bridgland
Blink-182 Essentials: 15 Songs That Prove They're Rock's Most Serious Unserious Band
As the classic blink-182 lineup hits the road for their massive world tour, get ready to rock out with a mix of iconic blink hits and hard-hitting deep cuts.
It's been a minute since we've seen the classic blink-182 lineup of Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker, and Tom DeLonge together — eight years, to be exact. While the band has gone through some hardships and personnel changes during that time, their music has remained ubiquitous and engrained in today's music landscape.
With new single "Edging" in tow, blink-182 ushered in the latest era of the group — one that kicks into full gear on May 4, when their world tour launches in St. Paul, Minn. After spending the summer rocking arenas throughout the US and Canada, they'll hit Europe in the fall and resume in Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Mexico in 2024.
The trio teased a hit-filled set list with two surprise sets at Coachella, where they were welcomed as heroes. The performances showed that blink-182 still sound (and look) like those punk-rock kids who went streaking in the streets of LA in their music videos — and while they may be a little older, they're still not ready to act their age.
As the beloved rock group begin their latest tour together, GRAMMY.com revisits 15 of blink-182's essential tracks.
"Carousel," Chesire Cat (1995)
When blink-182 first started, Hoppus and DeLonge were just kids who bonded over a shared love of punk rock bands like Bad Religion, NOFX, and The Descendants. They played high schools and small clubs throughout San Diego, creating a buzz in the SoCal punk rock scene.
The first album, Chesire Cat, is a bit rough around the edges, but it is undeniably the start of blink as we know them now. Album opener, "Carousel," moves at a frenetic pace of pent-up energy, and it's our first taste for what was to take over the world a little later on. They sound young and spunky, ready to get the party started.
"Dammit," Dude Ranch (1997)
Forget "Smoke on the Water" — for kids learning guitar in the early 2000s, it was the "Dammit" riff they wanted to master. And in the same vein, "Dammit" as a whole was the perfect introduction to blink-182. Everything we know and love about them — the bouncing guitars, the breakneck drums (albeit not recorded by Barker, who didn't join the band until 1998), the juvenile gossip, the singalong chorus — is all there.
In "Dammit" is the blink-182 too-cool-for-school philosophy. They don't want to go out with you anymore? Whatever. Just tell yourself they'll regret it and shrug, "I guess this is growing up."
"Josie," Dude Ranch (1997)
A fan favorite from blink-182's Dude Ranch, "Josie" doesn't waste any space. It's loud and fast, just like the music that shaped the band growing up in SoCal.
Almost like a little cousin to the Ramones' "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "Josie" is a punk rock love song hidden behind brash drums and snot-nosed guitars, about a girl who is out of their league — who laughs at their dumb jokes, drives them when they're too drunk, and doesn't get jealous when they hang with the guys. With her they know that everything is gonna be fine. Who doesn't want a relationship like that?
"What's My Age Again?," Enema of the State (1999)
Mark Hoppus is 51, and both Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge are 47. So as DeLonge's guitar rang out and the band launched into "What's My Age Again?" at Coachella, it felt more like a protest song — because what is age but a number?
"What's My Age Again?" was the first single released from their pivotal Enema of the State album, and the first official taste of the Hoppus/DeLonge/Barker lineup. It is blink-182's mission statement, an anthem for those who never want to grow up. After all, as Hoppus sings, "No one should take themselves so seriously, with many years ahead to fall in line."
Every line is quotable, every riff is memorable, and not a moment is wasted. Now that's how you make one catchy pop punk song and win over a generation in the process.
"All the Small Things," Enema of the State (1999)
If "What's My Age Again?" was a reintroduction, "All the Small Things" was the song that made damn sure you'd never forget. Sure, blink-182 may not have invented SoCal pop punk, but they were the first band to bring it to the mainstream, and "All the Small Things" was what made them a household name. It propelled them into superstardom.
Since its initial breakthrough as an MTV mainstay in 1999, the song has become a classic pop-punk party anthem with its sing-along hook and catchy undulating verses. It's a song about nothing and everything at once; it's about letting go and being free from any troubles. Work sucks, they know — so why not just sing "Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na, na"?
"Going Away to College," Enema of the State (1999)
On Enema deep cut "Going Away to College," blink-182 perfectly captured what it's like for a kid heading off on their own for the first time — heading into the unknown, leaving family and friends you grew up with behind.
"I haven't been this scared in a long time," DeLonge admits in the chorus, one of blink-182's best, most endearing in their catalog. The song is largely an adorably clumsy valentine to a high school sweetheart, and the words Hoppus sings read like a message hastily scribbled on a note in a locker: "This world's an ugly place, but you're so beautiful to me."
"Adam's Song," Enema of the State (1999)
Van Halen were once challenged to write a song other than hooking up with women or partying, so David Lee Roth wrote "Panama" about a car. In a similar way, blink-182 challenged themselves to write about something a little serious. In comes "Adam's Song," a tune sung from the perspective of a depressed teen thinking about ending his life: "Please tell mom this is not her fault," Hoppus pleads over a subdued, dirge-like guitar.
It's a heavy song that changed the idea of what a blink-182 song should sound like. Though the song was almost left off of Enema, "Adam's Song" ended up becoming one of the more important and cherished singles in the band's discography.
"Man Overboard," The Mark, Tom And Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back!) (2000)
On its surface, "Man Overboard" might seem a bit like a throwaway song as the only studio track on blink-182's 2000 live album, The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back!). The band needed a song to help promote the live album, so they turned to a song that didn't make it on the previous year's Enema of the State. Yet, the single is a bright, driving song that's chock full of hooks.
Upon closer look, there is a deeper story of confliction within, and about watching a friend succumb to alcoholism. In many ways, "Man Overboard" served as a sort of predecessor to the more serious content blink-182 would write about the albums that followed it.
"First Date," Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001)
First dates spawn a range of emotion — hope in the opportunity, butterflies in your stomach. Who wouldn't want to make that excitement last forever, and ever?
On "First Date," DeLonge sounds downright giddy at the prospect. He's so nervous he really can't eat, dreading the thought of the first kiss because it's a target he's "probably gonna miss." Barker's frenetic drumming on the track only heightens the feeling of anticipation, and the combo is a vivid portrayal of punk-rock romanticism.
One of the things blink-182 always does so well is getting right to the point in their songs. There's no count in, no slow build, no BS. One swift drum roll and we're off to the races. "First Date" is a prime example of this; a thrill ride from the jump.
"Reckless Abandon," Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001)
The hardest part about growing up is that you don't know you're in the "good old days" until you leave them. On the driving Take Off Your Pants and Jacket deep cut "Reckless Abandon," Tom DeLonge waxes poetic about all the good times and those crazy memories from those endless summers gone by. Like a pop-punk "Glory Days," DeLonge looks back at those days with rose colored glasses, practically smirking as he sings in the chorus "we left a scar extra large."
"Reckless Abandon" is a fast-paced, rockin' roller coaster, the blueprint for today's blink-influenced rockers like the Menzingers or Japandroids who write similar anthems yearning for those days of youth. Because of its frenzied pace, "Reckless Abandon" has become a mainstay in blink-182's live setlist — one that is sure to get the crowd rip-roaring.
"Stay Together for the Kids," Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001)
"Stay Together for the Kids" is blink-182 at their angriest. "It's so pathetic," Hoppus spits in the opening verse, before a wall of guitars blaze through in the chorus, in which DeLonge spitefully yells, "I hope you enjoyed this time, you gave it all away. It's not right."
Like several of blink-182's songs — and rock/pop-punk songs in general — "Stay Together For the Kids" digs into a very painful, yet relatable sentiment. And as blink-182 air their own grievances out in real time, they gave anyone who has also been there something to scream along with.
"Feeling This," blink-182 (2003)
blink-182 was always about Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus. They're the yin and yang at the heart of the band – the McCartney/Lennon of blink-182, if you will. The way they played off each other in their songs and on stage was a major part of blink's appeal.
However, on 2003's self-titled album, it became clear their songwriting was moving in separate directions. That was initially apparent on blink-182's lead single, "Feeling This," one of blink's raunchier tracks. With DeLonge's snarling verse giving way to Hoppus' melodic chorus, "Feeling This" almost sounds like two separate tracks that shouldn't work together — but with the magic of Hoppus and DeLonge, they most certainly do.
"I Miss You," blink-182 (2003)
While "I Miss You" is inarguably one of blink's most iconic songs, it's seen a resurgence within social media and meme culture, particularly thanks to DeLonge's trademark vocal delivery about the voices inside his yyyyeeaaaaad. So, it can be easy to dismiss the song as a novelty — but you'd be wrong.
"I Miss You" is as sentimental as any classic ballad, and blink play it without an ounce of irony; it's as self-aware as it is self-deprecating, but in the end, it's about being lovesick. It's also the first blink-182 track to be recorded with acoustic instruments, with the band unplugging their guitars and using upright bass and drum brushes, giving the song a haunting, ghostly feel — creating a song so affecting that it remains one of their biggest to date.
"After Midnight," Neighborhoods, (2011)
In 2005, blink-182 announced that they would be going on an indefinite hiatus to pursue other projects outside of the group. A few years later in 2008, two incidents brought the band back together: Longtime collaborator and producer Jerry Finn passed away, and Travis Barker was involved in a near-fatal plane crash. The trio reconciled, and in 2009, they appeared at the 51st Grammy Awards together with the announcement that they would be picking up where they left off and a new album was on the way.
That album, 2011's Neighborhoods, sees the band coping with life's near-misses and unpredictability. While much of the album is composed of old demos and separate ideas, "After Midnight" sounds like the band writing as a cohesive unit again. With Barker's skittery drum beat and the song's soaring chorus, it has a sort of grandeur that was a new look for blink-182, but they wore it well.
You didn't think blink-182 grew up yet, did you? The bouncy new single "EDGING" — the first song in over a decade to feature Hoppus/Delonge/Barker together — is proof that blink-182 have clearly not lost their ability to write tight, catchy, sophomoric pop-punk.
Today, blink-182 have become the unlikeliest of elder statesmen, influencing new generations of kids who are creating their own pop punk anthems. But while the blink-182 on "EDGING" may be older, who says you have to get any wiser?
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