My first exposure to Wheatus was in 2007, on the old community-run website flashflashrevolution, a Dance Dance Revolution ripoff that involved tapping the keyboard instead of dancing on a pad.
When the site was still being run as a for-profit venture, it partnered with bands and gave them little widgets to put on their MySpace pages so people could play DDR files (or “stepfiles”) for said band’s song. We had some slightly big names — 5 Finger Death Punch, Disturbed, Reel Big Fish. I would play these widgets for quick fun. One day, I came across a widget for a band that seemed familiar. It was Wheatus.
Now I, being 12 years old at the time, had pretty much no sense of what good music was, so what I listened to at the time included, but was not limited to:
- 64kbps speedcore songs
- whatever came on the top 40 rock radio station in town
- metal remixes of video game music
- the Diggnation podcast
- a podcast dedicated to They Might Be Giants
- more speedcore
Given my luck, the first song I picked on this widget was Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag”. No lie — I played DDR with my fingers on a keyboard to Teenage Dirtbag and liked it. Now, to excise my past demons, I’m going to give you a play-by-play reason as to why “Teenage Dirtbag” is the worst song ever made.
The best way I can describe Wheatus’ target market for this song is that the first time I heard “Teenage Dirtbag”, it was in a fan-made anime music video using clips from both Bleach and Naruto. The song starts off with the typical late 90s college indie rock bullshit; vague record scratches and a hiphop beat to lure the listener into thinking that this song might actually have some artistic merit. The same kind of thing Limp Bizkit pulled for a decade and a half.
Then the acoustic guitar comes in playing the most fucking contrived melody you could ever image in a song. Imagine if you could take the most generic indie rock melody ever, make it even more generic, out of tune, and coming from a dollar store guitar. It might as well be a ukulele. In fact, Teenage Dirtbag sounds like it took about as much talent to play as most “ukulele cover” videos on YouTube.
Then the vocals kick in. There’s no word in the English language for how horrid the vocals are. There is honestly no way to describe the aural assault this whiny 20-year-old with a guitar puts into your ear-holes. Imagine if Beverly Hills-era Weezer got singing lessons from the Black Eyed Peas but will.i.am forgot to mention that they use Auto-Tune. That’s what it sounds like.
This song reminds me of what Weezer’s “In the Garage” would sound like if it were written by someone about 5 years younger. See:
In the garage, I feel safe. No one cares about my ways. In the garage where I belong. No one hears me sing this song. In the garage.
— chorus to “In the Garage”
Her name is Noel, I have a dream about her. She rings my bell, I got gym class in half an hour. Oh how she rocks, in Keds and tube socks.
— opening lines to Teenage Dirtbag.
They’re both the exact same concept; “Oh woe is me I’m a lowly nerd”. The difference being that “Teenage Dirtbag” shoots for the vibe of “I’M A LOWLY NERD AND I HAVE A CRUSH ON A GIRL BUT SHE DOESN’T LIKE ME IM NERDY HAHA!” angle, while “In The Garage” goes for the “Hey, I like weird things, and I get mocked for it, but I don’t really give a shit. I’m just gonna chill in the garage and play some DnD, fuck all y’all”.
Worse yet, there are times in the song where they play cheesy sound effects to accentuate the godawful lyrics. There are some bands that can pull this off (my thoughts go to That Handsome Devil’s “Charlie’s Inferno“, one of my all time favorite songs), but here it’s just too much:
Her name is Noel, I have a dream about her. She rings my bell.
$20 if you can guess the sound effect. Ding ding, that’s right! It’s a bell.
He lives on my block, and he drives an Iroc
No lie, they play screeching tires that sound like they came from a low-budget ripoff of The Last Action Hero.
After the first chorus, the lyrics devolve into what I can only call a word apocalypse. The second chorus is a veritable destruction of the human language and songwriting itself. Let’s break it down line by line:
Her boyfriend’s a dick
Alright, so we’ve established conflict. The girl the nerdy dude beats off to in gym class has a girlfriend and he’s “a dick”. Presumably he’s a dick to the narrator simply because he’s dating the girl of this shitbag’s wet dreams. No evidence is really provided of him being a “dick”.
And he brings a gun to school
Given when this was written, this would be rather out of the ordinary, especially since the guy who wrote this is from Long Island, but I think I’m missing out on the whole Having A Gun = Being A Dick correlation here? It really seems like he’s grasping for whatever he can.
And he’d simply kick my ass if he knew the truth
My biggest problem with this line is “simply kick”; is there a complex way this anonymous boyfriend would kick your ass? Would he set up a Rube Goldberg machine, with such accurate timing that it trips you while you ride home on your shitty bike, sending you tumbling down a giant hill into a broken glass factory, launched into the air, landing your ass square on this man’s foot? Is he going to verbally kick your ass with the teachings of the ancient philosophers?
He lives on my block and he drives an Iroc
The best part about this line is that, since the vocalist’s voice is so hard to understand, it sounds like he says “He drives and I rock” as if the narrator is forced to ride to school with this “dick” and spends the whole time presumably headbanging while the poor guy has to take this wimpy asshole to class.
But he doesn’t know who I am, and he doesn’t give a damn about me
At this point I think we can assume that this kid, who beats off to people in gym class and thinks no one cares about him, has some serious issues; paranoia, depression, probably is a stalker. There’s a list of shit this kid needs to get checked out for.
The song ends with, for some reason that no one fucking knows, the girl of this shithead’s dreams comes up as he’s all woe is me outside the school on prom night and, with literally no pretense, I don’t think she’s ever even talked to this dude, offers him *drumroll* Iron Maiden tickets. Yep! That’s right. The band that this song has been shamelessly namedropping the whole time is the fuckhead nerd’s dream girl’s favorite band. The whole time she reveals this, by the way, the lead singer somehow cranks up his voice another 5 octaves, making it sound like someone kicked his dick with helium-filled spiked boot.
Ultimately, Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” is a clusterfuck of horrible writing, horrible music, every college rock stereotype you could ever imagine, with lyrics that really only help to either make college kids nostalgic or to make junior high kids feel understood and an overall message of “if you just sit around and rub your cock in the middle of class some hot girl’s going to leave her boyfriend and invite you to a metal concert, you sad sack of shit.”
I’m glad Wheatus never really got commercial success outside of having a song on the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack.