Do you remember you middle school years?Â For old codgers like me, middle school was called â€œjunior highâ€ and yes, it was also den of conflicting emotions, big changes in bodies, self-awareness,Â crushes, and for some, the beginning of a love affair with music that shaped one’s tastes for years to come.
My daughter is in the thick of it right now. Middle school friends, cliques, status symbols (Thank the cellphone gods I signed up for unlimited texting), fretting over hair, clothes, makeup, and gossiping about boys.Â But music is very important to her as well.Â I know she likes some of the music I enjoy, but thatâ€™s starting to change as she charts her own course and develops her own tastes that reflect her generation.
I gave her a texting assignment a few weeks ago, and it was pretty simple:Â Have her friends text in three of their favorite songs, bands, or singers. She sent out a mass text to 20 of her closest friends, and most couldnâ€™t peg a particular song they liked, but they sure had opinions on favorite band or singers.Â There was a lot of overlap, and some editing by yours truly, but what follows is a pretty good unscientific sample of the middle school soundtrack in a San Francisco/Bay Area suburb.
â€œFences,â€ Paramore (download)
Granted, this band has been around for a few years, but having a song featured on the Twilight soundtrack has propelled Paramore from â€œYeah, theyâ€™re kind of coolâ€ to the cusp of superstardom.Â While many of their songs have an unremarkable pop/rock sound (to me, anyway), â€œFencesâ€ stands out in part because of the infectious Cure/â€Love Catsâ€-inspired bass line.
â€œSomething in Your Mouth,â€ Nickelback (download)
The popularity of Nickelback amongst the current crop of middle schoolers surprises me. Certainly, Nickelback has never been shy about exploiting a pop hook for maximum appeal, but what about their rock chops? â€œSomething in Your Mouthâ€ is a song whose heavy sound is such that itâ€™s perfect for discovering your first air guitar — or just playing Guitar Hero.
Green Dayâ€™s new album arrives in May, and from the cover art, it looks like theyâ€™ve hiredÂ someone from My Chemical Romanceâ€™s art department.Â I havenâ€™t heard any advanced tracks from the album, but I gotta say:Â the suburban middle school love of Green Day runs very deep.Â Case in point: I was taking guitar lessons about a year after American Idiot came out, and my guitar teacher was happy to hear that I wasnâ€™t interested in learning anything from their catalog — mostly because for five days a weeks all he was teaching was songs from American Idiot, and was ready to put a gun to his head.Â To my surprise, many who texted in to say they liked Green Day mentioned Foxboro Hottub as well – which means some tweens are still trolling MySpace for music.
â€œSpaceman,â€ the Killers (download)
I have to remind myself that many parents of middle schoolers came of age during the â€˜80s.Â That was their decade, and consequently, itâ€™s not surprising that the â€˜80s synth sound of the Killers is very popular with their kids. Somewhere out there, Gary Numan is smiling when he hears the Killers.
Oh Auto-Tune, where would Rihanna be without you?Â Sure, itâ€™s a nifty trick — even though I canâ€™t stop thinking of Cher when I hear artists using it so liberally.Â But … whoâ€™s this T.I. guy?
â€œSweet Dreams,â€ Beyonce (download)
Lots of ear candy on this album, so itâ€™s kind of like shooting fish in a barrel when trying to pick the hit of the bunch.Â Yeah, itâ€™s that easy.