The fourth studio album by iconic rock band Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American, is celebrating its 20-year anniversary today.
The album’s musical style shifted from their 1999 release Clarity, featuring a more accessible and assertive sound from the band. Ultimately, the album was met with huge commercial success.
“Things still got pretty gnarly in the studio as far as experimentation,” singer/guitarist Jim Adkins said in a 2001 interview with MTV, “but it was always to an end that was complimentary to the song. We wanted to really make sure that we weren’t doing things, like, just to put a wacky keyboard sound in. It had to be doing something constructive for the song.”
“The Middle” was a smash hit off Bleed American, and arguably one of the band’s greatest hits. It peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, and the song remains the band’s sole Top 40 hit on the Hot 100 to date.
In their article “How Jimmy Eat World’s ‘The Middle’ became the best song for a bad time,” AV Club writer Jason Heller argues that the song came at a uniquely proper time, with many Americans searching for a message of hope following 9/11. He says it also seems to be a message the band wrote in regard to their own experience as artists in the early 2000s.
Heller says, “Even the song’s title hints at the band’s impossible situation at the time. Adkins and crew were stuck: neither underground nor popular, neither emo nor pop-punk, without a label, and seemingly wanted by no one. The song’s power comes from its universality; the reassuring lyrics and happy-sad melody are vague enough to let the listener fill in the blanks.”
Even today, we can take some advice from Jimmy Eat World, reminding ourselves we’re “in the middle of the ride/everything, everything will be alright.”
Listen to Bleed American in full below: