BY NAKISA RAZBAN '23
On my first day of high school, I remember walking into ABRHS and seeing the endless possibilities awaiting me. Unfortunately, my thick class syllabuses quickly knocked me into reality. This brutal awakening marked the first of many high school milestones I had the pleasure (or pain) of experiencing. Music got me through my fair share of cry—I mean cram—sessions, and several songs precisely describe the epic highs and lows of Back-To-School season! In addition to relating the songs to my experiences (because yes, the world revolves around me), I will review them on a few different aspects: how musically interesting they are, the music video (MV), and finally, how accurately they portray the high school experience.
To commence your high school journey, we have the classic High School Musical song “We’re All In This Together.” It's in C major, giving it a very upbeat feel. You're immediately brought into a state of trance-like joy, whether you want to be or not, which mirrors the experience of entering the building freshman year: all the ambassadors high-five you, and everybody seems super happy to have you there! You haven’t yet seen your teachers in their “vacation is approaching, and we are five units behind” mode, and you are blissfully unaware that taking five honors classes and joining fourteen clubs is physically impossible. This song sets false expectations for high school, as the MV’s depiction of everybody collaborating and having a good time is far from reality. High schoolers lifting each other up? We’re too sleep-deprived for that. It's a fun song, but I’m still waiting for my choreographed flashmob, smh.
After taking off the rose-tinted glasses you wore for the first day, you get into the groove of high school life with Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” In the MV, Taylor looks out of her window at her neighbor/crush with whom she interacts through handwritten notes. It’s a simple concept that portrays an innocent high school love story. However, I do have a bone to pick with this song—during the football game scene, the marching band seems to not only understand what is going on on the field but also… CARE? The inaccuracy is revolting. Thankfully, Taylor’s trademark storytelling makes up for this faux-pas. With simple phrases such as “’cause she doesn’t get your humor like I do,” we immediately understand the relationship dynamic: “I know you better than she does.” Taylor also mixes country instrumentals with a pop beat, which gives this song a “small-town romance” feel while keeping it contemporary and relatable.
Following your casual flirtation with the neighbor, you remember your pile of homework assignments, and you channel this stress into aggressive sarcasm with Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u.” Let's take a moment to appreciate the IMPECCABLE bassline. It's only three notes, but it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the song: moody and groovy. The remainder of the instrumental slowly piles on top of the baseline and builds tension, allowing the vocals to really pop. The buildup parallels the accumulation of angst as the years pass; we start off as optimistic freshmen, and as pressure increases, we channel our rage against the school system into different avenues. Some of us produce music or play sports, and some of us write angry articles for the school newspaper (what kind of a loser would do that?).
Finally, as a senior, you reminisce while listening to Conan Gray’s "Little League." The title shows Conan holding on to the "Little League" of childhood as he reaches the end of high school. This track conveys the joy of making great memories with your friends in school as well as the uncertainty of life after graduation. The song and MV feel very coming-of-age, and the chorus is super catchy. I love the low electric guitar playing underneath the vocals; it adds a lot of texture while still allowing the vocals to shine. It’s nostalgic and bittersweet in the best way possible.
High school is a special four years, which is why artists write so many songs about it. Music helps us feel understood and realize that we aren't alone in our high school experiences. So, whether it’s your first Back-To-School at ABRHS or your last, let these tunes power you through today and the rest of the year!