The Meaning of blink-182’s “All the Small Things”

“All the Small Things” is the song that transformed blink-182 from a beloved, goofy pop-punk band, to international superstars. Released as a single from their famous 1999 album Enema of the State (which also contained the much more serious “Adam’s Song”), the track reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and received ridiculous amounts of radio airplay.

Written by Tom DeLonge, the song is about his then-girlfriend and later wife, Jennifer Jenkins DeLonge, whom he married in 2001 and divorced in 2019. The pair were high school sweethearts, and were together for quite some time.

Like many blink-182 songs, “All the Small Things” is extremely simple, but extremely catchy, and that’s why it works. Tom DeLonge’s unique voice certainly helps, too.

His voice started a craze among teenagers, whom are now adults, that had many of them obsessing over blink-182 and their antics for the next ten years — even through the band’s several breakups, reconciliations, and lineup changes.

Tom DeLonge with then-wife Jen DeLonge, mid 2000s.

Let’s take a look at these lyrics and their meaning, starting with the first verse sung by Tom:

All the small things
True care, truth brings
I’ll take one lift
Your ride, best trip
Always, I know
You’ll be at my show
Watching, waiting
Commiserating

First verse to “All the Small Things” by blink-182.

In the first verse, Tom shows appreciation for the little things that his girlfriend does for him. She cares, and the truth shows through her actions. Even something as simple as giving him a ride somewhere becomes the best trip for him.

Tom knows that she’ll be at all of his shows, watching and waiting for him to finish so that they can once again spend time together. Or perhaps waiting for it to be over, because in true Tom DeLonge fashion he jokes about himself and the band being terrible, and she is “commiserating” rather than enjoying.

By this he means that she is sympathetic, almost like watching someone who is very bad at something try their best, with passion. Maybe you want to laugh, maybe you want to leave, but you don’t because you love the person performing and you want to support them, despite how much it pains you to watch.

blink-182 in 1999.

Then, we begin the buildup to the glorious chorus, with Tom singing:

Say it ain’t so, I will not go
Turn the lights off, carry me home

Pre-chorus to “All the Small Things” by blink-182.

When the show ends, Tom is not happy that it’s over, and refuses to leave. He asks the others to turn the lights off and carry him home if they want to get him out of there. This lyric may also be referring to what would happen if his girlfriend would break up with him, as she is so good to him that he would be in disbelief about things coming to an end.

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the most deep, intense, lyrical chorus that blink-182 ever wrote, featuring both Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus singing:

Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na, na
Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na, na
Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na, na
Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na, na

Chorus to “All the Small Things” by blink-182.

This part is absolutely meaningless, and was just thrown in there because it was catchy. As Tom told Blender in a 2004 interview, he was inspired to use na-na‘s by The Ramones:

 “I wanted to write a song with na-nas in it, ’cause I love the Ramones. So I thought, I’ll write this song about my chick, and it’ll be an ode to the Ramones, too.”

After Mark and Tom finish with the glorious na-na’s, Tom sings the second verse:

Late night, come home
Work sucks, I know
She left me roses by the stairs
Surprises let me know she cares

Second verse to “All the Small Things” by blink-182.

Here, the lyrics refer to coming home late at night from recording to find roses at the bottom of the staircase, left there by his girlfriend. This is just one of the small things that she does for him to let him know that she cares about him, and to Tom, it’s a nice surprise.

Enema of the State (1999)

After the second verse we have another hit of the wonderful chorus before the bridge, which repeats the pre-chorus and adds two new lines. This part is sung by both Mark and Tom:

Say it ain’t so, I will not go
Turn the lights off, carry me home
Keep your head still, I’ll be your thrill
The night will go on, my little windmill

Bridge to “All the Small Things” by blink-182.

Here, Tom makes what some fans feel to be a blowjob reference with the line “keep your head still, I’ll be your thrill”. Although this could also be his way of telling her to keep going through the hard times, and don’t let things get her down, it would certainly be on-brand for DeLonge to make a blowjob reference with his lyrics.

Next we have the most often-debated line in the song, “my little windmill”. Many fans have speculated about the meaning of this lyric over the years, with some considering it to be a further continuation of the blowjob joke from the previous line.

However, Tom apparently stated on MTV in the early 2000s that this was a nickname for his girlfriend, and since this song is written mostly as a mushy love song for her, it is doubtful that he would make a disrespectful blowjob reference in a song about her.

Tom DeLonge on stage in 2000. Photo by Bob King / Redferns / Getty Images.

The “little windmill” lyric is perhaps Tom’s way of saying that Jen is his source of power and inspiration, as windmills are designed as generators of power, and flow with the naturally-occurring wind. This is the meaning that we personally prefer, as Tom would be saying that his girlfriend gives him strength through difficult times, as effortlessly as a windmill spins in the wind.

Finally, the track closes out with an outro that combines both the chorus and the bridge, and of course plenty of na-na‘s.

“All the Small Things” was also paired with a music video that got tons of rotation on MTV at the time, helping to propel the song and blink-182 as a whole further into musical superstardom.

Directed by Marcos Siega, the video offers a parody, in true blink-182 style, of other famous music videos of the era including most notably the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”, but also Britney Spears’ “Sometimes” and Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle”.

As you’ll see from watching the video below, blink-182 were not having any fun with their newfound fame and recognition. Enjoy.

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