There’s a lot of things we wish we could change about our middle school years. The hair gel. The cyberbullying. The Xanga usernames. Those stupid purses with the little mermaid sparkles all over them. But the music? No regrets.
We’re already embarrassed for buying “The Motto” on iTunes, but we have nothing but fond memories of jamming out to “Lean Back” at the D.A.R.E. skate social or grinding to “Goodies” at the school dance, (alternatively, watching the popular kids grind to “Goodies” at the school dance).
Take a trip down memory lane with us (you might wanna bust out your A&F fragrance of choice to get the full sensory experience) as we list the finest, occasionally age-inappropriate songs that defined our middle school lives. Prepare to cringe.
“Sk8er Boi,” Avril Lavigne | Holly Coletta
I just realized I had a girlcrush on Avril Lavigne back when I didn’t even fully realize what “girlcrush” meant (and also when I didn’t know that it was “La-veen” and not “La-vig-nee”). Let’s take a moment to forget that Avril is currently married to Nickelback and remember the good old days of thick black eyeliner and wearing-boys’-ties-because-it’s-rebellious and “Sk8er Boi.”
The bratty Canuck is probably best known for “Complicated” and it’s arguable that the entire “Let Go” album defined my preteen years/teen years/life always, but “Sk8er Boi” will always have a special place in my heart and on my iPod. It’s not just the ingenious 2 Kool 4 Skool spelling or the way Avril’s rhymes could challenge literature’s finest poets (“He was a skater boy/She said ‘See you later, boy’”) or all the bike riding and (duh) skateboarding being done in the music video. It’s the deeper meaning.
“Sk8er Boi” is a twist on the classic “girl gets boy” tune because it’s a “girl gets boy after ballerina nose-upturning bitch dumps him,” which makes it great. Avril isn’t moping around and being invisible and pining after this boy who likes to skate. She totally jumps on that as soon as she gets the chance. Then, they “rock each other’s world” and laugh at the ballerina-nose-upturning-bitch-turned-groupie who dumped him. Point: Avril.
And okay – all those misplaced numbers and vowels make me really nervous, but “Sk8er Boi” was totally applicable to my life because Avril was bashing dumbass popular girls and who doesn’t have a middle school history with dumbass popular girls? “Sk8r Boi” is sugar-coated revenge pop punk fabulousness at its best and helped cement Avril Lavigne as one of the go-to grrrls for angsty anthems, a throne she still occupies today (even though she probably has Canadian Thanksgiving at Nickelback’s house). Don’t even get me started on “Girlfriend” and the affects it’s had on my dating life.
“Revolution,” The Veronicas | Maura McNamee
The Veronicas are the most brilliant (not to mention the most gorgeous) Australian twin sisters to ever grace us mere mortals with their musical talents. Not only is their 2005 single “Revolution” an anthem for the most angry and bitter middle school girls, it’s also pretty feminist. Basically, if you were anything like me, with a the f*** you attitude and no-nonsense, brutal honesty, this song was written for you.
“Revolution” is totally pop-punk and totally sassy. Its lyrics are reminiscent of another badass in pop music, Joan Jett (“I’ll blow your mind/I am/I’m a revolution/Why do I have to explain /Who I am again and again”) and the powerhouse chorus is so very P!nk. This song reveals the frustration we Janis Ian-types have in common: Sometimes no one gets us, and we have to punch back and fight until we’re understood. Sometimes we just have to start a revolution.
In middle school, this was the song I would blast at full volume on the bus, tuning out the rest of the much-hated world. Even if I’ve gotten over my “I hate everyone” mantra, “Revolution” still speaks volumes to me and hopefully to the rest of us 20-somethings out there who harbor the fury of a 14-year-old scorned, just waiting to show everyone exactly who we are.
“Hot in Here,” Nelly | Nikki Lanka
When I hear the first four notes of “Hot in Herre,” my clothes actually start to fall off. It’s weird and I suspect Nelly’s methods are not strictly legal and/or earthly, but I’m okay with it.
The striptease anthem of 2002 was the song we all felt cool grinding to because then we could change our AIM away messages to “I’m singing about taking my clothes off and my principal is 50 feet away I’m so edgy loll xx.”
More impressive than Nelly’s ability to say “so hot in here” without really pronouncing any consonants is his ability to write a track that’s still played in 2013, even though he adapted/borrowed/stole the hook from Chuck Brown but that’s fine.
Has Nelly ditched the tape-under-the-eye thing yet? I hope he hasn’t ditched the tape-under-the-eye-thing yet. I also hope he still spells “here” with two r’s, because he can definitely get away with it. Nelly also taught us the best protocol when finding oneself in a club when tha roof catches fire: Take off your clothes, turn to your friend, and tell her “GIRL I THINK MY BUTT GETTIN’ BIG.”
“You’re So Last Summer,” Taking Back Sunday | Carina Belles
I never had a boyfriend in middle school (or high school, either, but that’s a story for another day) but boy if the tortured souls of Taking Back Sunday didn’t teach me all about heartbreak. Also, bleeding as a form of penance. And what a “lush” is. You know, educational stuff.
If my pink-and-black Limited Too jelly bracelets and My Chemical Romance away messages didn’t already give this away, I was an EMOTIONAL preteen, and the only thing that could soothe my bruised and blackened heart was a healthy dose of TBS’ 2002 pop-punk masterpiece, “You’re So Last Summer.” I could listen to it exactly six times on the bus ride to and from school (it was either that or JoJo’s anti-cheating anthem “Leave (Get Out).” Tough choice.) while pretending to sing it to my imaginary boyfriend, Draco Malfoy. Really, I don’t know why I still have friends.
This was also the beginning of my “I listen to real music,” phase. I even wrote off my one true love, Britney Spears, in favor of Adam Lazzara’s extremely deep and meaningful malice. Those preps just didn’t understand. God forbid you even like the same bands as me, POSER. No one could interpret the beautiful poetry of lines such as “the truth / is you could slit my throat / and with my one last gasping breath / I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt quite like my 13-year-old self.
Also, I’d just like to apologize to my mom for making her listen to this in the car. And for dragging her into Hollister every weekend. You’re the best, mom.
“Toxic,” Britney Spears | Ross Dickerhoof
I’ve never been much of a Britney Spears fan. Even when I was young and stupid enough to still think the live-action “Scooby-Doo” movie was good (yeah, right), I knew that Something Was Not Right with that pop princess and how carefully controlled her image and music seemed to be. So I joined all the other kids throughout the years in her collective mocking (We called her “Titney.” Oh, the rapier wit, it slays me), but there was something none of us mentioned to each other: We all thought “Toxic” was the s—t.
And I don’t mean in a guilty pleasure way. “Toxic” is just an awesome song. I didn’t even know it was a Britney Spears song when I first heard it, but after I found out, I didn’t care. All I knew was that as soon as I heard those high-pitched strings, I was hooked. Kinda like how Britney talks about the guy in the song: “Too high, can’t come down/Losing my head, spinning round and round.” It’s brilliant in a way Spears and Co. never even intended.
I didn’t have enough life experience to feel the things Britney talks about in this song when I first heard it. But that’s the best part about “Toxic,” really: it’s not about what you feelt; it’s about what you wish you could feel. We all want to meet someone who makes us burn with desire, who can make us do bad things and like them; but in a safe way, like in the context of a three-minute song. It’s self-insert fantasy, but it’s not just Britney’s fantasy, it’s everyone’s. The “Alias” meets “Blade Runner” meets “glittery ‘Playboy’ centerfold” video attests to that – don’t we all wish we could travel to awesome places around the world just to kick our douche-y ex’s ass while wearing a variety of sexy outfits?*
But overall, the biggest reason why “Toxic” stayed with me is that it’s just /i/cool/i/. The video is cool, the lyrics are cool (for a Britney Spears song, anyway), those strings I mentioned that will NEVER LEAVE YOUR HEAD are cool. There’s only one thing about it that’s not cool: its newfound association with “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Eww. E.L. James apparently didn’t take Britney’s lessons on self-insert fantasy to heart.
*Just so we’re clear, I do not currently possess a desire to kick my ex’s ass, not even while wearing a sexy outfit. Doing that in real life wouldn’t be cool, anyway.