Welcome to Pop Music Survival Kit: The perfect songs for every occasion
It’s the last week of August, and if you’re a student, that means you’re either back in school or you’re this close to starting. And if you’re a semi-dork like I was, that might be kind of exciting. But no matter how much you thrill at the prospect of learning new things—which really is awesome, you guys—it can be depressing to think about ceding your time to the rigidly structured demands of an academic schedule.
But don’t fret. Here are four songs to get you through the start of the school year.
(1) “Ready or Not” by Bridgit Mendler
It’s a history lesson you can dance to! Bridgit Mendler is a Disney Channel actress (sigh), but despite that squeaky clean and super dorky pedigree, she has managed to drop a decent dance single called “Ready or Not.” It’s got a breezy, hands-up quality that’ll go perfectly with those first fall weekends when you’re driving away from responsibility as fast as you can. The product-oriented escape fantasies—mansion like Oprah! fun all the time!—are in line with every other song like this, and the “Party in the U.S.A.” groove is undeniably pleasant. Even if, as an adult, I hate myself a little for liking it, I still DO like it. (You can watch the official video here.)
And here’s the history lesson: The chorus and the title are cribbed from “Ready or Not” by the Fugees, and if you don’t know that monster hip-hop jam from the 90s, then school yourself right now. You won’t regret learning about (or at least remembering) the time when Lauryn Hill seemed like the future of rap and soul.
(2) “You Can’t Win” by Kelly Clarkson
It’s a logic problem that makes you bob your head! In this rant against the hypocrisy of public opinion, Kelly Clarkson points out that no matter who you are, someone is always going to criticize you. “If you’re straight, why aren’t you married yet,” she snarks. “If you’re gay, why aren’t you waving a flag?” And the contradictions barrel on from there.
Meanwhile, the crunchy rock guitars and ass-kicking harmonies invite us to bounce up and down like crazy, and that’s how I want to contemplate sociology, y’all! That’s why this is one of my favorite tracks from Clarkson’s latest album, Stronger.
(3) “I Love Your Smile” by Shanice
Who says economics can’t be flirty? This classic hit from the early 90s remains one of my favorite silly pop songs, right down to the half-hearted rap interlude that was practically mandated by the first Bush presidency.
While I will always adore the chorus, with its sunny “do-do-dos,” my favorite part is the verse about Shanice daydreaming while she’s at work, acknowledging that she doesn’t make much money, and still deciding to put “that new black mini” on her “charge” anyway. Why? Because she loves a boy’s smile. Take heed, econ majors! Your deficit tables had better factor in the power of cute boys!
(4) “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears
Who says gym class can’t be jammin’? This song may have nothing to do with school, but the video, which unfolds through the halls of a high school, not only introduced us to Brit, but also proved that homeroom is the perfect spot for a sexy dance number. Where would Glee be without it?
Previously: 4 songs to make sports seem bearable
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. His favorite high school subjects were English and American history, and he didn’t enjoy physics one bit.