That's My Jam: Squeee

I'll probably catch a bunch of crap for this, but I've always loved this song -- so anyone who's got a problem with it can go screw.
Even more embarrassing than admitting I actually like a mall metal song is the fact that while I do enjoy the guitars and the arrangements -- what really draws me back to this song time and time again are the vocals. Straight up -- I love singing along with this. I mean, I'm not really that great a singer at all -- but that rarely ever stops me from trying my best to keep up with this track in the car, the shower, or wherever this might come up on the iPod.
Actual results may vary.
But the absolute weirdest fact about my love for this song is that I probably never should have even heard of it in the first place.
Had I never landed a job as a middle school teacher at the exact time frame that I
did the chances of me ever coming across this song would probably have been zero.
But I did take that job, which led to a string of years where I spent the better part of my days hanging out with rooms full of 14 year-olds.

I liked the kids. Despite all the yelling I did (and I did quite a bit of that), my students and I actually got along pretty good. A big part of that was me just being my stupid big kid self -- but I also think that a lot of it can be contributed to the fact that I liked to try and use music as a bridge.

For example I used to do this thing where I would randomly pick a kid to be the DJ. The DJ could bring in any 3 songs he wanted to play. The other kids would listen to those songs and then do a timed writing on the music they heard with prompts like "Which one of these three songs would you rather be stuck in an elevator listening to, and why?" -- which in my mind felt like an interesting way to practice for the FCAT.

But beyond that -- one of the things I noticed early on in my teaching career was the way that the different cliques of kids tended to separate. I mean, I know that's what cliques are supposed to do, -- but I always felt like it got in the way of open discussions in class. So I tried to do what I could to break down those lines, even if it was just during class time in my room.
Most of the time the kids who were into hip-hop would turn their nose at the songs the rocker kids chose (and vice versa) -- but every now and then you'd catch a kid opening his ears to something new.
Unfortunately, what it meant for me was that I had to endure a ton of really shitty death metal and cheesy hip hop while I tried to get these kids to walk a mile in each others' shoes. Between the emo kids with their H.I.M. and Evanescence and the rap fans with their Master P and Lil Jon it felt like the price for this particular d├ętente might be my own sanity.

There was even this one kid who brought in this rap country song that might just be the corniest thing I've ever heard in my life -- which was bad enough, but then I couldn't get the friggin chorus out of my head for like three days afterward.
And now neither can you. You're welcome.
Anyways, the point of all this is that one of the bands that got played to death when I did this thing was My Chemical Romance, who at the time were the darlings de jour of the Hot Topic set. Most of what I heard from them drove me up the wall -- mainly because (in an odd twist, considering the reasons I like "The Ghost of You") I really couldn't stand singer Gerard Way's caterwauling vocals and a what felt like an overabundance of frenetic pop punk behind him.
The music was loud and brash -- but instead of focusing that energy towards a destination, My Chemical Romance songs always seemed to just run around in circles like a kid who'd had too much sugar and couldn't handle the high.
Later albums had them becoming more theatrical and ostentatious -- almost as if they bought into their own fame and supposed importance, and much like latter-era Marylin Manson got caught up in their own cult of personality, culminating in the rock-opera-ish mess that made up the majority of The Black Parade. I tried to listen to it a few times at the urging of former students (not to mention multiple endorsements from Chez at Deus ex Malcontent) -- but as soon as I came across the track where the singer does a duet with (I'm not making this up) Liza Minelli, I was pretty much done with them.

It's weird, because being the old guy in the classroom back when I was a teacher -- it was painfully obvious to me that despite a staggering number of my femalestudents drawing the band's logos all over their textbooks and claiming their ever-lasting love for various members of the band all the goddamn time that My Chemical Romance were doomed to be just another flash in the pan just like so many other bands that girls had gotten all ootzy over back when I was in school.
And yet here was a song by them that I genuinely liked.
And it wasn't the only one, either.
Every year a new crop of teenagers finds some new band, rapper, or artist tho go utterly crazy for -- and then forget a few years later. From Menudo to Duran Duran (although to be fair, those dudes can actually play) -- pretty boys with guitars run the dangerous risk of becoming big stars for the most superficial of reasons, leaving them little to stand on once puberty hits and their core group fans move onto something else. Most of the time (at least in my mind) it's a good thing, because it provides most of pop music's most annoying personalities with relatively short half-lives.
But every now and then I find myself wondering if this continual building up and tearing down of the flavor of the month might occasionally be robbing us of a choice few bands or artists that might actually be a lot better than the screaming teenage fangirl hype that they were built around.
I can't be the only one who's ever run into this problem. Have there ever been any bands that you really liked as a kid because they were wildly popular or just filled with really good-looking pin-up model types who actually had good songs to offer? Maybe a group that you first found as a teeny bopper but still find yourself listening to now?
And if so, who were they?

[Listening to:  Black Sheep - "Similak Child" ]

Comments

Tricia said…
I love My Chemical Romance - and I, too, am old.

There aren't many bands that I loved as a teenybopper that I still love, but the few left standing hold a special place in my...well, that place where you're supposed to have a heart.

Violent Femmes
Pixies
Bad Religion
The Cure

Mock me if you must, but these the first three are so sing-alongable it's redonkulous. And The Cure? Please. FIND me the teenage girl who didn't masturbate to Robert Smith.
Tricia said…
And Linda Perry - but her solo album - not the 4 Non Blondes top forty shit.
Werdna said…
No. All the teeny bopper music is still teeny bopper music. You know it when you hear it.

There is no transcendence.

However some bands are great from the minute they come out. The bands that Tricia listed are empirically good (well for a certain amount of their albums and concerts).

Who is going to remember B-sides by the monkeys? Nobody. B-sides from the beatles? Day Tripper? Yeah still famous.

But much like the grammys- some shit is just wrong. The Grammy for best musical went to "Behind my camel" by the Police instead of YYZ by Rush. Ask anyone who has played RockBand or an instrument about that. Not that the Police are teeny bopper crap, they have several of the finest pop songs of all time. But seriously, "behind my camel"... I don't care how great you guys think Stewart Copeland is, that is a travesty.

Bad music will always be bad- teeny bopper or not.

So My Chemical Romance? No shame in their game. Unless they sell out. It isn't my jam, but they probably rock the spot. Will they still rock it in retrospect?
Hex said…
Tricia -- I don't know that I've ever heard Bad Religion described as a teenybopper band, lol.

Most of the groups you mentioned (great list, btw) are bands that at least to me were actually good enough to escape the teenybopper label. I mean yeah, sometimes they get lumped into the old wave category or whatever -- but it's hard for me to put the Cure into the same category as a passing fad like Menudo.

Tricia II -- I'm glad you qualified that, because 4 Non Blondes really, really suck.

Werdna -- It's funny, because whenever I post these kinds of questions I always realize after the first few answers come back that I probably didn't word it right.

What I mean is, are there "fad" bands who sorta went away as popular tastes change (which teenybopper music frequently does) who actually had something more to offer than just what all the buzz around them was about?

I think it's generally accepted that despite her bubblegum beginnings and largely forgettable string of hits that Christina Aguilera can really, really sing.

btw, even back then the Grammy's are, and have always been about politics. That's why I rarely pay them much attention at all.
Monster said…
Okay, I getcha.

The mid 90s will forever be characterized by extremely good rock - Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys (go ahead and tell me Ill Communication isn't a rock album so I can smack ya) - so the forgettable stuff in that timeframe was the crop of approachable rock that filled the rest of the radio time. There are a suprising number of one album, three-good-tracks-if-you're-lucky bands from that era... The Toadies, Dead Eye Dick, Deep Blue Something, etc. etc.

As far as most folks are concerned, I probably could have listed Semisonic in that group as well. They had the track "Closing Time", you know - "you don't have to go home but you can't stay here" - which everybody remembers. The thing is that Dan Wilson, their front man, is a brilliant songwriter. He cooks down big questions of love and passion into these tiny little things (like that moment when they turn the lights on in a bar and you haven't closed the deal with the lady you've been chatting up) and then wraps kick-ass catchy pop tunes around them. Almost all of Semisonic's catalog is above average, and Dan Wlison's subsequent solo stuff is fantastic, too. I particularly recommend the track "Free Life" from his solo album of the same name. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mi3CTN3Ufg
Heff said…
Headed off to "go screw", lol !