From the screech of chalk on a blackboard to crummy cafeteria food and uncomfortable metal desks, nothing inspires nostalgia (and/or fear and loathing) like the signifiers of high school days gone by -- which is precisely why so many artists have shot music videos in these hallowed halls of learning. So here's our guide to the top 10 school videos -- just don't watch 'em during Spanish class or you'll get detention.
'... Baby One More Time'
Britney Spears (1998)
It may have become one of the most famous school videos ever, but it's doubtful anyone watching in 1998 would've predicted the iconic status Britney Spears now enjoys (despite K-Fed, shaved head, etc.). Legend has it Brit-Brit suggested during filming that the white shirts in the school uniform be knotted to show her midriff because she thought they looked "dorky" -- a move that, in combination with her pigtails and thigh-high socks, proved key to her rise to superstardom. Oh, and sorry, haters, the song rules.
'Show Me Your Stuff'
Diamond Rings (2010)
Androgynous Toronto popster John O'Regan (also of the D'Urbervilles) takes the gymnasium dance sequence made famous in '... Baby One More Time' and reinvents it with campy, quirky weirdness. The video combines basketball, football, vogueing, glitter, dry ice and red-hot choreographed dance moves, celebrating the teen-pop aesthetic while simultaneously goosing it. Sari and Romy Lightman (ex of Ghost Bees, now of Tasseomancy) play O'Regan's "Wendy and Lisa," and Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham from F---ed Up and Kids on TV's John Caffery make cameos.
Nada Surf (1996)
Google "one-hit wonder" and you might just find Nada Surf, who hit huge with 'Popular' in the summer of 1996 but soon lost their own popularity. In the video, lead singer Matthew Caws portrays a rumpled teacher, imparting wisdom about the pursuit of coolness to his class. The advice he intones (and ultimately screams) was cribbed from a 1964 teen advice book called 'Penny's Guide to Teen-Age Charm and Popularity.' The clip is an indictment of the in-crowd, with a heartless cheerleader who cheats on her clueless jock boyfriend with his football teammate.
Pearl Jam (1991)
Long before they eschewed music videos and became the new Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam released this 1992 clip, which won four MTV Video Music Awards. Based on a story of a Texas teen who shot himself in the head in front of his class, the video depicts the troubled inner life of the ostracized protagonist as he descends deeper into anger and depression. It was ubiquitous on music television at the time and has become a classic artifact of the grunge era, from Eddie Vedder's rumbling and oft-imitated baritone to the final scene's blood-spattered tableau.
'In the Sun'
She and Him (2010)
Zooey Deschanel and M Ward spoof 'High School Musical' silliness in this clever school video. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Deschanel leads a troupe of clean-cut "students" through choreographed dance numbers in various locations around a school, while Ward broods and skulks through the frame. With her prim white blouse, navy kilt and opaque tights, Zooey does her best Rachel Berry impression. For extra G-rated fun with She and Him, there's a guitar solo with hula hoops!
'Opposite of Adults'
Chiddy Bang (2010)
Philadelphia rap upstarts Chidera Anamege and Xaphoon Jones subvert their own swagger by transforming into bobble-headed grade-schoolers. With a brilliant sample of MGMT's 'Kids' behind them, the two college pals rap about immature fun and the avoidance of adulthood. Chiddy Bang take to the schoolyard, hit the swings, dress up as cardboard knights, skateboard and do all that other fun stuff we usually forget about when we pass age 20.
Missy Elliott (2003)
It's been years since this video came out, but Missy's schoolroom hip-hoppers still look fly. Leading a troupe of Adidas-uniformed dancers, Missy rhymes about rumours dogging her, such as an eating disorder and lesbian affairs. Lil Mama did much the same more recently with 'Lip Gloss,' another high school hallway jam. But Missy gets extra points for hiring Darryl (DMC) McDaniels as the bus driver and Ludacris as the principal. "Funky fresh dressed to impress/Ready to party" is as good a back-to-school mantra as any.
Free Energy (2010)
These Philly rockers take their love affair with late-'70s/early-'80s rock to the max with this homage to classic teen-sex romps like 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' and 'Porky's' and every retro video about goofing off in school (see also: the Ramones, Twisted Sister and Motley Crue). The five longhairs commandeer the school's PA system and blast their guitar rock to the delight of classmates and the consternation of their principal. Smoking in the bathroom? Check. Girls' locker room towel party? Check. Ball-busting female gym teacher? Check. Plus, lots of homework getting tossed around -- who needs it?
Diamond Dave and the boys pay tribute to prepubescent schoolteacher lust. In addition to the school video's star, the mega-geek Waldo, there are mini-me Van Halen members and ridiculously gratuitous shots of bikini-clad educators, including a 'Miss Phys Ed' whipping off her dress to a mass of leering 10-year-old boys. Eddie Van Halen does a library guitar solo amid the cheesecake, and the embarrassed-looking band performs half-hearted choreography in goofy tuxes. Except for David Lee Roth, who seems entirely in his element.
'Smells Like Teen Spirit'
Released nearly two decades ago, this video still has real power. It's a pep rally from hell, with gothy cheerleaders (played by strippers), unearthly light and teenage Nirvana fans headbanging in baggy flannel. The kids start on bleachers but eventually end up moshing wildly on the gym floor with the band. Kurt Cobain, looking like a teenager himself with his striped T-shirt and hair-obscured face, destroys his guitar with glee. School is officially out.