The early 2000s for most of us was a hotbed for hormones, what felt like an unnecessary prolonging of puberty and an absolute lack of understanding of how life worked. Confusion and awkwardness were Totino’s pizza rolls and Mountain Dew; we crossed paths daily. But, out of the scorched earth of our adolescence came a savior: pop-punk. You listened to Fall Out Boy, blink-182 and My Chemical Romance back then, whether you publicly admit to it or not. There’s one song, though, that truly transcended. I would argue it’s the greatest song of our generation. Don’t write me off just yet; let me tell you about The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.
The best thing to come out of Arizona since canned tea, Jimmy Eat World released The Middle in ‘01, and everyone from Taylor Swift to your mother liked it. At face value, the song is good. The structure, the melodies, the harmonies – I know next to nothing about those things, but I can tell you this song definitely has the best of all three. It starts so mellow, a calm riff followed by a subdued verse. Then, boom! The only people who don’t bob their heads to that chorus are the ones whose parents wouldn’t take them to Hot Topic in middle school. The song haS something for everyone, whether it was catchy choruses or a guitar solo. There isn’t any point in the song where you decide, “Ok, the good part has passed, I can skip this now.” It doesn’t matter where you are – taking a jog, driving your car, ignoring responsibilities – this song comes on, you listen the whole way through.
When you listen to The Middle, you sing. It’s as simple as that. This isn’t an exclusive feature for our topical bop, but there is a reason I am bringing this up: you can’t sing. Statistically, you reading this right now, are more than likely to be a sub-average singer. I’m not shaming you, and I will be the first to admit that I can’t sing. When you get to that shitshow level of drunk, the one where you blast nostalgia playlists and scream out the words to every song, you can probably get away with it when you play The Middle. Can you say that when you get to “eager eyes” in Mr. Brightside? “Down, down” in Sugar We’re Going Down? You may be trying to hit those notes, but that’s all it is: an attempt. Pretend you’re asking someone if they’ve heard the song, and they say no because they grew up Amish and had no TV or Myspace. When you try to sing a few lines to see if they’re familiar with it, there’s a good chance it’s recognizable. No one will recognize your acapella version of The Great Escape.
The real great escape is this song. What truly puts The Middle a head above all other songs of our generation was the message. Anyone can relate, even if you aren’t a little girl. God, do people think I’m a loser because I’m in the seventh grade only five feet tall? Do people think my braces make me look like a dork? Do people think I’m a loser because I’m a grown man and have only grown five inches since the second grade? Self-esteem has always been a bitch for a lot of us, and unlike that guy from the Offspring, I have no one coming over to make dessert with me. Looking back on my preteen and high school years, a lot of my problems were very marginal, and I, like many others, laugh at how worked up I could get over nothing. When you’re 14, those problems are very real, though; they’re your whole life. The Middle told me that it would just take some time, I was only in the middle of the ride. I wish I could turn my life experiences into a message for today’s youth, but I don’t have the skillset required to write tasty bangers.
I will always listen to this song. I listen for the chorus, the solo, and don’t forget: when I listen, I sing. The message of self-worth that this song drove home on everyone’s radio, TV and iPod was really a snapshot of the anguish an entire generation felt. Thank god Jimmy came along, hungrier than ever to really tell us, everything will be all right.
Eric Heubusch is a writer driven by ego, whose only goal is to prove to his girlfriend he’s funny, if not the funniest person she knows. Even if they were to break up, he would continue to show up unannounced with a one liner or humorous anecdote, until such legal action is taken that would bar him from doing so.