FFWDing to the Best Part: “Teenage Dirtbag,” Wheatus (2000)

There aren’t enough “story” songs anymore. Popular in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, songs with a narrative structure — a clear exposition, climax, and resolution all within five minutes or less — have fallen out of favor in our modern and increasingly monotonous times. Now, we are lucky if we get one verse and a bridge served up with the hook.

In the span of just four minutes, seven seconds, however (and that includes a 20-second intro), power-pop-punk outfit Wheatus tells a perfectly fulfilling tale of unrequited love, adolescent angst, isolation, bullying, heavy metal fanhood, loneliness, and finally … satisfaction.

The video features Jason Biggs as the titular character and Mena Suvari (I had to try really, really hard to not type “Mira Sorvino” there).  Now this was because they were also the stars of the movie Loser — the soundtrack of which “Teenage Dirtbag” is from — but having never seen this movie (obviously), I think of these kids as  Jim and Heather from American Pie, and then I wonder why Jim is lusting after his buddy’s girlfriend. And THEN I think of Chris Klein, who plays said buddy, which leads my thoughts to his modern-day counterpart (Cory Monteith, natch), who is no longer with us … I have to step away now. THANKS A LOT, WHEATUS. And that was a lot of commas.


Best part?3:17, when the story within the song crests simultaneously with the musical score.  In the third verse, we find out (SPOILER ALERT — after 13+ years) that the hipster chick has had her eye on our pathetic protagonist all along, and all is right with the world. Guitars swell, and we hit the second bridge, a touch more raucous than the first. Damn, I love this song.


There have been covers, including one in 2006 by my all-time favorite a cappella group, the University of Virginia’s Hullabahoos.   (Spotify link here. Supposedly. Amazon link here. ) And in doing my “research” (a/k/a pulling the YouTube clip), I noticed that the fine young men of One Direction also covered it in concert. Their voices are a little too polished/theatrical versus raw, in my opinion. But “A” for effort. Love you, Liam!