#936: ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ – Wheatus

Ah yes, Wheatus. That group who, for a brief period at the start of this millennium, almost managed to make bucket hats seem cool. It’s sort of crazy though, that this song which has entered the annals of history as something of a joke song, one that has been looked down upon by many starched shirts of the music world, actually has managed to stand the test of time rather well.

I have vivid memories of hearing this song for the first time upon its release. Of course, Australia was one of the places where this track saw its greatest success, so I couldn’t escape it. It spent four weeks on top of the charts, and catapulted the group to massive amounts of success in this country, which possibly explains why Australia was one of the few places in the world their track ‘Leroy‘ saw any success.

The first time I heard it though, one of my cousins put the song on the stereo, telling me I have to hear it. At first, I didn’t particularly care for it. I wasn’t exactly the target demographic for it, but soon enough it began to grow on me. In fact, it also became one of the first songs I ever learnt while learning to play guitar. The song’s catchy, anthemic chorus became one that I enjoyed singing as loudly as possible, and the lyrics became far more relatable as I entered my teenage years and found that I had truly become the titular ‘dirtbag’.

However, there has always been one thing that’s bugged me about the song. The first verse sets up the fact that our narrator is infatuated with a girl at his school. However, she isn’t aware of him, and in fact, ‘doesn’t give a damn about him.’ The second verse outlines the fact that she has a boyfriend. All well and good, but it goes on to say the guy is a bit of a rough customer. He has a penhant for driving a car suited for insecure highschoolers, enjoyes picking on presumably weaker students, and he also brings a gun to school. Needless to say, this fellow doesn’t exactly seem like someone you’d want to associate with.

The third verse though, well suddenly our narrator is at his prom, when the girl of his dreams comes along, invites him to see Iron Maiden, and everything is all hunky dory. But for me, the question remains, what the hell prompted this? Did she suddenly realise the fact that her boyfriend is a bit of a dud and that she can do better? Well, one would hope, but if she truly doesn’t know who our narrator is, and doesn’t give a damn about him, why has she suddenly had a change of heart? Did she always carry a torch for him that he was unaware of? Was her lack of attention towards the narrator simply an invention of his own mind? How did she know that his favourite band was Iron Maiden? (Well, he might’ve worn an Iron Maiden t-shirt, I’m not his bedroom closet.) To me, there’s a few too many open questions here for this song to make its way out of the 900 block.

But in all seriousness though, I dare you to find a song that can unite music fans of the early ’00s in such a way that will result in a brilliant singalong of self-deprecating, nostalgic proportions. (Okay, maybe Beck’s ‘Loser‘, but that’s supposed to be ironic, yeah?)

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