Because of the ho-hum, mundane nature of small towns, it’s very easy for them to get overlooked by artists. There are hundreds of songs about New York City, but 3, at most, dedicated to Muncie, Indiana. This is why I’m always entertained when songs come out centered around someone’s personal relationship with the end result of White flight. Usually, it’s met with disdain, but hey, that’s disdain is par for the course of any artist.
The songs on this list fall into the mainstream pop punk genre because no other genre fully embraces the suburbia aesthetic as perfectly as this one. Nearly every music video on the list below takes place at a non-descript high school, or a house party that the band happens to be playing at. Sometimes both. It’s always endearing. And while these bands might kick and scream about leaving their one horse town, deep down, they know they’d be nothing without them.
1). “Check Yes, Juliet” – We The Kings
The Bard was pretty good at poetry and whatever, but he never really had a killer hook with the phrase “run, baby, run!” in it. We The Kings have the advantage on him there. Personally, I like it when Shakespearean stories are modernized because Shakespeare wrote them with the intent of capturing the times he was in. Romeo and Juliet is the story most malleable to a whitewashed recontextualization, which is why every long haired boy with a guitar winds up writing a song that compares his high school crush to Ms. Capulet. Also, I’ll be remiss if I didn’t mention how confusing We The Kings is as a band name. Are they proclaiming to be the kings in broken English, or is it a play on that old Christian song “We Three Kings”? I don’t even know if they’re still around, but if they are, I want answers.
2). “Popular” – Nada Surf
This is an anthem for sensitive suburbanites who wear their hearts on their sleeves and take their social standing to heart. The randomness of high school politics is hard to deal with for some folk. Nada Surf approaches the usual problems that occur because of said randomness with somewhat sound logic, and after 20 years, none of their advice has been taken.
3). “Going Away To College” – Blink 182
The baby boy is all grown up and now it’s time to hang those Sean William Scott posters up in his brand new dorm room and get overly invested in his intramural sports team. Baby boy needs an anthem for this new chapter in his life. Luckily, he doesn’t have to search too long for that. Blink 182’s vulnerable, subtly sentimental, yet still incredibly fun ode to this milestone is the perfect anthem for leaving the nest and embarking on the college years.
4). “Big Black” -Kerosene
Steve Albini would rather set himself on fire than settle down in a small town. I’ve been to a few, and everybody is really big on saying ‘hi’ to everyone who makes eye contact with them. It’s unsettling. So I understand where Albini is coming from, to be honest.
5). “Ocean Avenue” – Yellowcard
Literally every beach town I’ve been to has had an Ocean Avenue, and to me, that just speaks to the commonality Yellowcard’s going for here. It doesn’t really matter whether this song was written about a street in Yellowcard’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida (it was) or a street in Asbury Park, New Jersey (it wasn’t) because Ocean Avenues and Boulevards are as universal as the Springfields and Main Streets of this world. Considering the band also has a song called “Way Away” on that same album, it seems like Ryan Key really just needs an escape from everything. Let’s get him a nice log cabin in the woods somewhere so he can grow a beard, chop down trees and practice some electric violin.
6). “I’m Just A Kid” – Simple Plan
Gotta give it up to Simple Plan for being the gold standard of bratty complaint rock. I know that saying such a thing comes off wildly bratty in itself, but it’s really hard not laughing at the melodrama of these songs. They were super, super relatable to a lot the youth, though! Finally, their story was being told.
7). “The Great Escape” – Boys Like Girls
It’s only fitting that the final song on this list is another in a long line of odes about disbanding couples who are leaving their shitbox of a supportive household for the luster of the big city with nothing but big dreams and maybe a high school education between the two of them. Good luck to every dreamer out there. You’re going to make it. I believe in you. Document your journey on Tumblr. I will reblog everything.
Article by Gregory Cala. Twitter: @GregoryTCala
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