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We're used to hearing the songs of summer to usher in the fun, but when it starts getting dark earlier and the school supplies overtake the beach toys aisle, fun seems like a pointless emotion. What about the anxiety, the dread, the clean slate and the bad rep? Here we present 20 musicians who've done their homework and succeeded in legitimizing back-to-school butterflies with their school songs.
The first lesson is: Someone's always got it worse than you. Not only was Slim Shady bullied for no reason -- "My first day in junior high, this kid said, "It's you and I/Three o'clock sharp this afternoon you die" -- but the ruffian sometimes got help from the principal. Here's the second lesson: Shakespearian characters also used hyperbole, a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for effect.
The beginning of the school year is a really good time to set new goals and new standards for yourself. After a long summer, no one will remember how far you went with that dude behind the bleachers if this time you just put your foot down and declare (mostly to yourself), "A few times I've been around that track/So it's not just gonna happen like that/'Cause I ain't no Hollaback Girl."
The irony in this school song is thicker than petroleum and will suitably protect your secretly thin skin as you saunter down those cold linoleum hallways. Just stay aloof, ride the angst, and remember, "You don't need date insurance/You can go out with whoever you want to/Every boy, every boy, in the whole world could be yours/If you'll just listen to my plan/The Teenage Guide to Popularity."
School starts too early! Even Daddy Mack is gonna need some Xanax after this morning: "Jumped in the shower and I know I was late/Stepped out put on my jeans and my uni/And said to myself if I miss school I'm ruined/But I ran down hill and I rushed rushed/I ran down the hill tryin' to catch the bus." Neither Daddy Mack nor Mack Daddy mentioned how long it takes to put on your clothes backwards.
'Be True to Your School,' the Beach Boys
Combat your back-to-school blues with manic enthusiasm. Play sports! Get yourself some endorphins, the blissful sense of collective purpose, the thrill of achieving objective goals, a notch on the college application belt and killer calves! If you're not going to drop out, you might as well get scarily into it, and there's nothing like a Beach Boys anthem to keep that smile pulled really tight across your face.
On the other hand, don't forget that sometimes hatred breeds brilliance. Dee Snider felt, like, brain-ached and he was surrounded by zombies, but this is some serious critical thinking: "Now there must be a better way to educate/'Cause this way ain't workin' like it should/Can't they just invent a pill or frozen concentrate/That makes you smarter and taste, mmm, so good."
'Another Brick in the Wall,' Pink Floyd
Thank your parents for birthing you into the right decade. The baby boomers in Pink Floyd get right to the point: You have no idea how bad school is when your instructor wields a stick. "When we grew up and went to school/There were certain teachers who would hurt the children anyway they could." These days, we save the dark sarcasm for the blogs and save the canes, straps and paddles for fraternity initiations.
'Passin' Me By,' the Pharcyde
Pure and unfettered classroom love. So often unrequited. And like most of the early '90s, so much better in retrospect. At the time, fumbling after those beautiful girls was probably really, really embarrassing, especially if the girl wasn't just "passing them by" but yelling "Lurker!" every time she rounded the corner to find a group of skinny heavy-breathers waiting for her, scribbling rhymes in their composition pads.
So you thought teenage school days were freedom? That it'd be all driver's licenses and fake IDs? Try again. According to this school song, what you've really gotten into is the first semester of life's tough lessons: There is no recess. Kurt Cobain couldn't let this fact go unnoticed. He uses a technique that every adult knows they can resort to in the end: When you don't get your way, you can always just scream about it.
The last night of summer is worse than the night after Christmas. It's like that feeling you get every Sunday evening when you know you have to get up the next morning and, stomach churning, return to those weary halls full of caricature personalities by cold metal lockers. "Back down to Earth, a conscience burst ... /Just slipped away/The summer's gone," and it hurts, like the gray-colored pain of a meaningless death.
Forget the people mocking the Dead patches on your faded corduroys -- they're on a different plane than you. That's geometry, which you don't even have to study, because you are geometry. "Who can unlearn all the facts that I've learned/As I sat in their chairs and my synapses burned.../Can't this wait till I'm old?/Can't I live while I'm young?" Yes, dude, you can.
Even the king of the jock-ocracy that governs the school felt a need to conceal his Testament habit. He was afraid, so he called himself agnostic and got his Biblical fix privately, in his room. If only he'd grown up on Belle & Sebastian, this earnest lullaby would've reminded him to fly his flag and that "reading the Gospel to yourself is fine."
Can you relate to these sentiments? "I hate the teachers and the principal/Don't wanna be taught to be no fool/ Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock'n'roll high school" If so, you're punk. So punk. Here's some homework: bring back punk. Again. Gabba gabba hey!
Is filing into place and showing up for school every day "living a law just short of delusion"? Will the hours spent in Trig and intramural basketball make you anything besides one of "Other ordinary men/Kneeling on the parquet"? You go every day, conforming to the monotony, your headphones blasting, all around you "fear and feeling hopelessness," and you "don't want to belong." What's in a parquet anyway?
What you can really look forward to as you earn your liberal arts degree is time -- sweet, unstructured time. When you are smitten by a cruel professor, you'll not only have time to slyly align your walking patterns to cross the prof's path but time to pen a ditty: "How am I supposed to pretend/I never want to see you again/In the afternoon/You're out on the stone and grass/And I'm sleeping on the balcony/After class."
Rufus revisits the teacher-student crush, only in this instance it's the under-18 girl who conceals her love -- what will be her only love, ever, actually -- for her art teacher. Then she winds up old and unhappily married to a "corporate head." She's wearing a "uniformish pantsuit sort of thing," which sounds even more inappropriate than a jailbait relationship. But maybe we're just being romantic.
'High School Poem,' the Knife
Repetition will help you master Spanish and write electro music. Sing it over and over, and everyone will sort of believe you mean it when you say, "Who wants to be ordinary/Who wants to be sweet/Who wants to know mid-term/Which hasn't been dried for weeks." Then don a Venetian mask with a bird beak and everyone will definitely believe you are neither ordinary nor sweet.
A back-to-school crush makes waking up worth it. Watch your reputation as you're choosing the object of your affection. If you love a stoner, you're stuck chilling on the grassy knoll, and if you're a grown man crushin' on your student, you'll be restricted to the area designated by your parole officer, far away from school. Maybe save "that famous book by Nabokov" for the college professors, old man.
When your parents are harassing you and the bus smells and no one gets you, who doesn't dream of being sent away to boarding school in the heather-blue English countryside? Let Morrissey give your delusions a reality check. You think it will all be tweed and crumpets and Romantic poetry before cricket practice, but you're wrong: "Sir thwacks you on the knees, knees you in the groin/Elbow in the face, bruises bigger than dinner plates."
Even the genius behind 'Bust a Move' had his share of high school troubles. This song's got that late-'80s bounce that reminds you no matter how horrible is your day, it's still secretly fun, even if you're late, sit in gum and have your teacher read your love note to your crush out loud in front of the entire class.