Headed Back to Class? We’ve Got Songs to Start the School Year Off Right

Whether you're nostalgic for your playground days or worrying about how to pay back student loans, we've got a playlist that will help ease you into another school year.

By Bryan Gerhart Sep 02, 2011

Hope you didn’t blink, because, once again, summer has come and gone. Cute kids are already gearing up for their first days of school and older students are trying to figure out how they’ll be able to pay for this semester. Summer is a state of mind as much as it is a season, so even if you’re not zipping up your backpack for another round of scholastic endeavors, you’ll still need to shift back into your mental grind. To ease the transition, we decided to put together a list of a few of our favorite back to school jams. These aren’t necessarily educational in theme or content (there’s always Schoolhouse Rock if you’re looking for that sort of thing), but for one reason or another, each struck a chord. It might be a nostalgic glimpse into our own school days, convey an attitude synonymous with youthful abandon, or provide the words we needed to get through those all-night study sessions and final exams.

This is just the beginning. Be sure and tell us what songs you equate with schoolyard days or Autumn’s arrival in the comments below.

Another Bad Creation, "Iesha"

When you’re young, it’s easy to forget that school is supposed to be about getting an education. Making new friends and chasing crushes seem to trump that minor detail, and ABC’s "Iesha," from Coolin’ At The Playground Ya Know!, their oh-so-appropriately titled 1990 album, captures that sentiment perfectly. Recess was a welcome break from class, sure, but it was also the best opportunity you had for cultivating puppy-love.


Curtis Mayfield
"Move On Up"

The funkiest motivational speech there is. The soul legend reaffirms everything your mom always told you: "Keep on pushing / take nothing less / not even second best." Doesn’t hurt that it’s perfect for those much needed study dance-breaks either. And you’re not going to tell me I’m the only one who takes study dance-breaks.



EPMD, "You Gots to Chill"

Whether cramming for finals or trying to meet a fast-approaching deadline in the office, hearing EPMD repeat that you need to chill out with such a laid-back delivery has an almost hypnotic effect. Their point might not have been to ease the stress of sleep-deprived college students, but the song always works wonders. But c’mon; with a line like "If you’re tired, then go take a nap," who else could they be talking to?"


Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

This month marks 20 years since the release of this classic anthem of teenage revolution. As ingrained as it is in the popular consciousness, it’s still difficult to tell what words Kurt was saying, but the message reads loud and clear: it’s tough being young. Sure, the weight of the world might not rest on your shoulders, but its easy to feel like it does, especially when it seems like no one’s paying attention. Chalk it up to unfocused angst if you want, but we’ve all been there.


Nina Simone, "Ohh Child"

To quote Colorlines’ own Jorge Rivas, "It’s a school list. At one point or another you should have Nina Simone reminding you things are going to get easier." Enough said.

Zach Armand, "On the Daily"

This Southern California native is still flying under the radar, but his natural flow suggests he won’t be for much longer. On this track, Zach emphasizes the need for "knowledge and wisdom" to overcome the number of things that plague his community. The grind is a fact of life; keep holding your head up and work to better yourself because sometimes you’re the only one you can count on.

On The Daily Featuring Average Thought by Zach Armand