Classes in, records on, rock out

Your friendly resident A&E Editors give you a glance at school-themed music videos through history to help get you to those early morning classes, through all nighters and piles of readings with a bang

"Hot For Teacher" - Van Halen

Little gets you to an 8:30 a.m. class in the dead of winter with three feet of snow better than a hot professor. Don’t lie, the hot or not section on is there for a reason. An undeniable schoolhouse rock classic, Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” combines motorcycle-strength drum riffs with young and old versions of the band members battling the trials and tribulations of elementary school. With the help of their sexy, scantily-clad schoolteacher, Alex, Mike, Eddie and Dave graduate to grown-up status with their evolution into their respective roles as gynecologist, psychiatric hospital patient, playboy and game show host in the 1984 video.

"Popular" - Nada Surf

With the release of this novelty track came a video full of teenage pastimes like lingering stares and making out on the bleachers. Arguably their best-known track, Nada Surf extracted hilarious lyrics from a home-ec guide to teenage popularity from the 1950s with tips such as, “Make sure to keep your hair spotless and clean, wash it at least every two weeks” and, “If you see Johnny football hero in the hall, tell him he played a great game.”

"Roses" - Outkast

While we can’t all relate to having Paula Abdul as a teacher (feel free to gauge whether this is good or bad on your own terms), we can relate to the witch of the school who makes us hate our life and cower in fear. While flipping through a “Stankonia” yearbook, viewers meet Caroline, a valentine-receiving, flirting fanatic who is parodied by a wailing and cardigan-clad Andre 3000. Drawing heavily from West Side Story, the video culminates into a dance/rap battle in the middle of the school auditorium only to be contested by Principal (and Kids in the Hall vet) Kevin McDonald.

"Baby One More Time" - Britney Spears

Before Lady Gaga shocked and awed with flaming nipples, dudes in heels and crucifix sucking, a 15-year-old Britney Spears pushed the envelope by hip-popping her way through a locker-lined hallway in 1998. With a blouse, braids and some midriff to boot, Spears was officially turned over to the public. Filmed in the same high school as Grease, Spears covers all the stereotypical high school bases while simultaneously inspiring hordes of “Evolution of Britney” costumes. Whether rolling her eyes at the basketball court, her crush or during class, the resident bubblegum popper manages to pull off a typically mundane day at school just in time to wake up and realize it was all a dream.

"Smokin' in the Boys' Room" - Motley Crue

Video link.

In the same vein as “Hot for Teacher”, the Crue released their stick-it-to-the-man opus with “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” in 1984. It’s no secret hair metal bands can rock a mean school-themed video and this is no exception. The Ramones did it first in 1979 with the song and accompanying feature film,“Rock n’ Roll High School”—their love letter to adolescents everywhere. Twisted Sister also jumped on the bandwagon with “I Wanna Rock” in 1984 acting as teachers and taking inspiration from Animal Farm. The only thing scarier than Motley’s wardrobe in “Smokin’” is the evil looking principal in the video who starred in cult classics like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and 1980s favourite, Weird Science.

"Teenage Dirtbag" - Wheatus

Featured on the soundtrack of Loser, starring Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari, Wheatus wrote an anthem with their massively successful “Teenage Dirtbag” in 2000. The video alludes to the film showing Biggs’ misadventures while he’s crushing on the hallway hottie Suvari. When she unexpectedly invites the loveable doofus to an Iron Maiden concert, hilarity ensues and concludes with a disco ball dropping onto Biggs’ head, consequently waking him from a homework-induced slumber.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana

Cue the high school adolescent angst; no one did it better than Nirvana. It’s no “Jeremy” (Pearl Jam), but the band not surprisingly captured a moment in time with their grungy and dark “Smells like Teen Spirit.” The shiny, varsity jacket clad gangs of other school-themed videos seem miles away as plaid, hair and moodiness take centre stage. Resonating with the groups who would rather stew in leather than hit up an endless semester of pep rallies, the video drives the image home with front and centre anarchist cheerleaders and a mop-thrashing janitor.

"Gossip Folks" - Missy Elliot

Video link.

What started out as a way to address rumours targeting the lady of misdemeanor, ended with one of the hottest tracks and accompanying videos of 2003. Strutting down a school hallway sporting a red Adidas sweatsuit, Missy spits out her first verse in response to whispers and stares from other ‘students’. Cafeteria battles and tiny dancers accent the video but the cherry on the cake is none other than Ludacris starring as Principal of the seeming hip-hop high school. Some of the sickest dancing and crumping ensues only to be topped by a Darryl McDaniels (DMC of Run-DMC) cameo and multiple tributes to Aaliyah, Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes and Jam Master Jay.

“Show Me Your Stuff” - Diamond Rings

If John O’Regan aka Diamond Rings is showing his stuff, it’s the stuff of dreams. Sporting quite possibly the best gym uniform ever—you can never have too many sequins—Diamond Rings and his entourage of teammates vogue, battle and rap their way through the Claire Edmonson-directed video. Effusive, beat-heavy and peppered with new-age locker rooms, football and basketball stars, viewers are transported to an alternate universe of a high school where cheers are choreographed hip hop numbers and basketballs double as disco balls.

Check out all the videos in a playlist at

Honourable Mentions

  • Yo La Tengo “Sugarcube”
  • Lil Mama “Lipgloss”
  • Fall Out Boy “Dance Dance”
  • Taylor Swift “Teardrops on My Guitar”
  • Puff Daddy “It’s All About the Benjamins”
  • Jesse Camp “See You Around”
  • My Chemical Romace “I’m Not Okay”
  • Head Automatica “Graduation Day”
  • Gwen Stefani “Hollaback Girl”
  • The Deftones “Back to School”
  • Young MC “Principal’s Office”
—Alyssa Ashton and Ally Hall

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