Saturday, September 8, 2007

"Bowling for Soup" lyrics and Rosh Hashana

It's back-to-school time, and my high-schooler son introduced me to a very relevant song, "High School Never Ends," by Bowling for Soup (left), about the gossipy, self-conscious need to be accepted--and feel superior. It's a catchy tune suggesting that we recycle the same prurient and superficial interests way past the time when our maturity fits it. Now, I know it's almost the eve of Rosh Hashana, when the minds of all righteous people are on repentance, but in that philosophical vein, I couldn't help connecting the message of the song with this period of self-examination.

If you have delicate sensibilities, do not read the lyrics to this song, (I mean it, skip the lyrics!) but if you're curious, here they are:

"High School Never Ends" by Bowling for Soup:
Four years, you think for sure
That's all you've got to endure
All the total dicks
All the stuck-up chicks
So superficial, so immature

Then when you graduate,
Ya take a look around and you say "Hey Wait!"
This is the same as where I just came from,
I thought it was over, Aw that's just great.

Chorus: The whole damned world is just as obsessed
With who‘s the best dressed and who's having sex
Who‘s got the money, who gets the honeys,
Who‘s kinda cute and who‘s just a mess

And you still don't have the right look
And you don't have the right friends
Nothing changes but the faces, the names, and the trends

High School Never Ends
Oh Oh, Oh Oh Oh-Oh, Oh Oh Oh-Oh, Oh Oh Oh-Oh, HEY!
Oh Oh, Oh Oh Oh-Oh, Oh Oh Oh-Oh, Oh Oh Oh-Oh, HEY!

Check out the popular kids:
You'll never guess what Jessica did!
And how did Mary Kate lose all that weight?
And Katie had a baby, so I guess Tom's straight!

And the only thing that matters,
Is climbing up that social ladder
Still care about your hair and the car you drive
Doesn't matter if you're 16 or 35

Reese Witherspoon, she's the Prom Queen
Bill Gates, Captain of the chess team
Jack Black, the clown
Brad Pitt, the quarterback

Seen it all before
I want my money back!

Chorus: The Whole Damned World is just as obsessed
With who's the best dressed and who's having sex
Who's in the club and who's on the drugs
Who's throwing up before they digest

And you still don't have the right look
And you don't have the right friends
And you still listen to the same shit you did back then

I don't know your reaction to this erstwhile epiphany on the part of someone perhaps four years past high school, and likely in the Animal House mentality of college. But as someone who feels like a collegian but with lots more years'
experience, my first thought was: "NO WAY." While indeed people in rock bands or living in the parallel universe of the New York Times Style Section may be obsessed with "who's the best dressed and who's having sex," the rest of us left that waaaay behind, if we EVER cared about such things. I'd say most of us wanted to be stylish but not "the best dressed," and despite the magazines we're forced to view at the checkout counter at the supermarket, knowing "who's having sex" is just tooooo much information. WE're having sex only with the person to whom we're married, and we want to assume that other people are, too. And for the most part, the vast majority of people in our country who are the proverbial age 35 used in the song to symbolize adulthood are too busy with children and careers and even, ulp, religious commitments, to be seeking diverse sexual experiences or want to hear about anyone else's.

What bothers me in this very popular song is the sad conclusion that "you still don't have the right look, and you still don't have the right friends..." because somehow the competition goes on. Well, this time of year, millions of kids are perhaps entering that kind of schoolyard competition, but those of us who have graduated realize that we DO have the right looks, because looks are superficial and ephemeral. And we DO have the right friends, because we've cultivated a circle of people with whom we share a lot more than Reese Witherspoon, Bill Gates, Jack Black and Brad Pitt stereotypes.

But I must say, this is a darn clever song, and, aside from the impolite language, it even has the potential to make high schoolers (and the rest of us) think. And maybe that's a good lesson for this time of year.


  1. Interestingly, because I'm with you on the 'no way', I really don't like the song all that much. When I'd first heard it I thought they'd conclude with something noting how we need to get past that stage, but instead it finishes reinforcing people's insecurities - setting them back. I don't get what people see in the song, however clever some of it may be; it doesn't take that and do anything useful with it! :::sigh:::

  2. Hey Ezzie, you must like classical music! Just kidding...I just find the song catchy and, dare I say--bouncy! There are lots of songs that stick in my mind despite so-so or even insipid lyrics; this one at least has a message to consider--and refute! L'Shana tova to you and the fam!

  3. True. :)

    I love the song "Hey there Delilah" which is out now, even though I think some of the lyrics are kinda eh.

    Shana Tova to all of you as well! We're excited to be hosting many wonderful friends this year. :)

    May it be a wonderful shana tova u'metuka!