Thirteen was my last year of innocence, my last year of childhood, my last year of wearing jeans that were two inches too short and those pink and black cat eye glasses I swore were cool but really just weren’t at all. So many regrets. Kinda. It was my last year for many important things, but it was also my first year of “emo.”
Now, “emo” in middle school is a very ambivalent term and can mean just about anything, but my teenage angst swayed more toward “like, ugh, my parents just don’t GET IT and there’s, like, nothing to do in this town,” rather than anything serious that some teenagers actually have to deal with. Because I’m awful. Anyway, 13 was also the year my music tastes went from Radio Disney Top 40, of which I was a frequent caller-in, to more alt-rock. Radio 104.5 was my jam. Very few people will get that reference, but, hey, I’m going to make it anyway. Google it.
My life changed the first time the musical stylings of Fall Out Boy wafted through my junior high ears. I have this distinct memory of downloading “Infinity on High” off Limewire (let’s have a moment of silence), and then changing my entire personality overnight. FOB was my gateway drug, my first taste of true pop-punk angst. And I fell in love. They opened a whole new world to me that has laid the foundation for who I am as a person today, and basically for all time. So important, in fact, that the only thing that gets me through most midterms and finals weeks is my “Middle School Emo” playlist. Which I will now share with you, so that you too can remember a time that might be better forgotten.
“Sugar We’re Going Down” by Fall Out Boy is a classic. Nothing can ever top this. I’m a big believer that Fall Out Boy kind of sucked after their second album, but not enough to stop loving them. So please, put on your old band tees and sing with me: WE’RE GOING DOWN, DOWN IN AN EARLIER ROUND/ AND SUGAR WE’RE GOING DOWN SWINGING!
We’re going !-era PATD for this next one—“Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” by Panic! At the Disco. Can you believe this album was released in 2005? I can’t. I’m going to lose my shit. This album in general is perfection: Brenden Urie with eyeliner, the dawn of Brenden/Ryan shippers, top hats! And this song stands out as my favorite because 13-year-old Maddy probably thought she was being really badass for liking a song about fucking.
Now, if you weren’t listening to “Face Down” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, you were not cool. At least in my very white, suburban town you weren’t. Unfortunately the deeper meaning of the song—domestic violence—went unnoticed by our middle school selfs cuz that wasn’t cool, so we just screamed the lyrics and headbanged a lot. I know nothing else by this band, but this song is actually still a jam.
Let’s go even further back: Bowling for Soup’s one-hit wonder “1985.” I still know all the lyrics and this came out 10 years ago. Gross. Also, I’m currently watching the music video as I write this and I highly recommend you all do as well—it’s a gem.
Next, Metro Station’s “Shake it.” Oh yes, Miley Cyrus’s brother? I think? God this song is awful, but also awesome and adds a fun, upbeat tone to the pervasive emo we’ve got going on here. It keeps me on my toes.
Back to unnecessary angst and adding some girl power, we’ve got Paramore’s “Misery Business.” Now, I’ll admit I really hated Paramore most of the time, probably because of internalized misogyny, but for a short period between 13 and 14 I wanted to dye my hair orange and be Hayley Williams, and I think this song was the epitome of that time.
And last, but not least, we have the classic “Dirty Little Secret” by The All-American Rejects. This song will forever be the anthem of bad movies about teenage love, and at 13 I remember wishing I had a dirty little secret that no one knew because I am terrible at keeping secrets and really didn’t do anything bad ever. An alternative to this is “Swing, Swing,” because that’s a great song too, and I like the poetry of starting and ending this playlist with songs about swinging.
Other highlights of this playlist: “The Great Escape” by Boys Like Girls, “Sk8r Boy” by Avril Lavigne, and “Dear Maria, Count Me In” by All Time Low. They’re all classics that should never ever be forgotten.