Stop The Presses!

Music Videos 101: The Back-to-School Special

Lyndsey Parker
Stop The Presses!

You know, not all pop stars are slack-jawed morons who, without a record deal, would have to earn a living by asking, "Do you want fries with that?" After all, it takes brains to remember all those lyrics, chords, and groupies' names! So let's celebrate that autumnal time of year known as "Back to School" with our picks for the top 20 scholastic-themed videos of all time. Put aside your boring calculus homework and watch now...

1) Yo La Tengo - "Sugarcube"
While this little-seen "120 Minutes" gem may not win any popularity contests, in our book it's at the head of the class. Music video students, take note: This is, officially, the funniest music video ever made. When you put KISS makeup and pink wigs on Bob Odenkirk and David Cross from HBO's "Mr. Show," then throw in a class poetry reading of Rush lyrics and a Doobie Brothers singalong, you can expect nothing less than pure genius.

2) Van Halen - "Hot For Teacher"
This is a schoolhouse-rockin' CLASSIC. Sexy schoolteachers; mini-me kiddo versions of Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth; the John Wayne-esque voice of lovable geek Waldo supplied by late "SNL" alum Phil Hartman (Diamond Dave and Phil Hartman -- now THAT'S a true meeting of the comic minds); the immortal line "I got my PEN-cil"; an Animal House parody...really now, this one gets an A-plus.

3) Britney Spears - "Baby One More Time"
It's hard to believe that back in more innocent times, Britney caused controversy by merely donning a short-short schoolgirl skirt and nibbling seductively on a pencil end in her Lolita-esque video debut. Considering what happened to her later, clearly this errant student needed to spend a little more time in detention.

4) Nada Surf - "Popular"
Although these brainy indie-rockers have graduated to critics'-darling status since releasing their novelty song "Popular," this is still their best-known track. The hilarious lyrics to this song are from an actual home-ec guide to teen popularity from the 1950s. Wonder if advice like "make sure to keep your hair spotlessly clean--wash it at least every two weeks" and "support a one-month limit on going steady" actually worked back then?

5) J. Geils Band - "Centerfold"
Another '80s classic from the days of Trapper Keepers, E.T. lunchboxes, and calculator watches, the "Centerfold" video does NOT, contrary to urban legend, star early-MTV veejay Martha Quinn as one of the nubile, lingerie-clad coeds. But the milk-in-drum trick at the end still looks totally awesome after all these years (cooler than anything you'd see in a high school science-lab experiment).

6) Chopper One - "A Punk Named Josh"
This is another little-seen gem (featuring original Weezer guitarist Jason Cropper), but it's worth checking out because its dead-on Breakfast Club parody is waaaay better than the one in that stupid JC Penney commercial from a couple years ago.

7) The Ramones - "Rock 'n' Roll High School"
The theme song to one of the greatest rock movies (and greatest Cliff Howard movies) ever made, this song/video/cult flick will make you wish you roamed the hallways with a satin-jacketed classmate as cool as Riff Randle.

8) Motley Crue - "Smokin' In the Boys' Room"
Hair-metal bands always make THE best school-themed videos (scroll up for Van Halen, scroll down for Twisted Sister, etc.), and Motley's anti-authority epic here is no exception. By the way, if the freaky-looking the evil principal in this video looks familiar, it's because that's Michael Berryman, who's played scary roles in such movies as Spy Hard, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Star Trek IV, Weird Science, and The Hills Have Eyes. He's still not scarier-looking than Mick Mars, though...

9) Pearl Jam - "Jeremy"
All right, fun's over, class. Time to get serious for second. This video is one of the few bummers on this list, as it's based on the real-life classroom suicide of an ostracized student (a storyline that hit even closer to home after the Columbine tragedy that took place six years after this video was made, and all the anti-bullying campaigns going on today). But "Jeremy" didn't win four 1993 VMAs, including Video of the Year, for nothing. It's an amazing piece of video art, still well worth studying.

10) The Police - "Don't Stand So Close to Me"
Oh, if only all male high school teachers were as studly as Sting circa 1983. Can you blame these impressionable young ladies for developing schoolgirl crushes on Mr. Sumner? Good thing he didn't teach any tantric lessons back then.

11) Fall Out Boy - "Dance Dance"
Like the entire John Hughes filmography compressed into three glorious minutes, Pete Wentz and company's adorable geeks-get-the-girls prom video instantly made them BEOCs (Big Emos On Campus). They've shot great music videos since, but this is still their finest work to date.

12) Diddy - "It's All About the Benjamins"
Diddy (or Puffy, or whatever he was called back then) actually pulled off the geek-prom-band shtick in his own video with equal aplomb, acting like a real class clown in the intro (his off-key warbling of R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" is priceless). Oddly assisted by Rob Zombie, Tommy Stinson of the Replacements/Guns N' Roses, and Dave Grohl, he made this prom night seem even more fun than Fall Out Boy's.

13) Missy Elliott - "Gossip Folks"
No one has made going back to school look as fun or funky as Missy. In this song, the newly slimmed-down hip-hop icon rapped about speculation surrounding her weight loss, including rumors like "I heard she eat one cracker a day." But she had the last laugh by looking like the flyest flygirl on campus in this clip.

14) Guided By Voices - "Bulldog Skin"
Inspired by Van Halen's aforementioned "Hot For Teacher," this rarely aired but totally awesome video was directed by Scott Marshall, son of showbiz veteran Garry Marshall -- the man who co-produced/wrote/directed "Happy Days," a TV series about a bunch of '50s high-schoolers named Richie, Potsie, Ralph Malph, and of course, the Fonz. And if you don't think GBV's video is way cool, well, you can sit on it.

15) Twisted Sister - "I Wanna Rock"
Yes, here's some more Animal House-spoofing '80s metal madness from another band voted Most Likely to Go to Juvie Hall. In this vid, actor Mark Metcalf reprised his role of the uppity, saliva-spraying Douglas C. Neidermeyer, also a featured player in Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" video. The Neidermeyer character originally surfaced in Animal House, one of the greatest scholastic-themed movies ever made.

16) Outkast - "Roses"
"Roses smell like poopoo" may not be a lesson taught in botany class, but all anyone really needs to learn from this Grease-inspired clip is that Outkast are the shiz.

17) My Chemical Romance - "I'm Not Okay"
Along with Animal House, another one of the best school movies of all time is Rushmore. MCR lovingly spoofed that '90s indie flick in their breakthrough video, and before long they graduated to the rock 'n' roll big leagues.

18) Head Automatica - "Graduation Day"
Some people can't wait to graduate high school and leave all the snobs, cheerleaders, and jocks behind. For those people, this Heathers-esque revenge-fantasy clip is ideal viewing.

19) Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Apparently high school in the grungy '90s was ALL about adolescent angst. Sure, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" isn't nearly as dark as "Jeremy" by Nirvana's Seattle peers Pearl Jam, but it hardly depicts high school out as one endless semester of fun-filled pep rallies and prom dates. Instead it completely captures a moody moment in time, and it still resonates with modern-day troubled teens 23 (TWENTY-THREE???) years later.

20) Jesse Camp - "See You Around"
What, you don't remember Jesse Camp? C'mon, sure you do. He was the winner of MTV's first "Wanna Be a VJ" contest, which led to his own brief major-label record deal. An outspoken fan of metal and glam, when he left his MTV gig in no time flat to pursue his real dream of being a rock star (MISTAKE!), he wanted his first video to pay homage to classics like Motley Crue's "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" and Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock." It wasn't quite as successful as those videos, but hey, it featured cameos by Run-DMC's Reverend Run and Marky Ramone of the Ramones, which was pretty cool at the time.

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