During my adolescence in the early 2000s, it was just becoming cool to be an outcast. People were putting quotes on their AOL Instant Messenger profiles like “You laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at you because you’re all the same” (oddly, this quote was always on the profiles of popular kids who were never targets of laughter). And we had Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” to reassure us that those who are weird now might become successful later.
But we didn’t experience pop culture at its peak of loser-friendliness. Glee, a show dedicating to celebrating every kind of high school underdog, didn’t come out until I was in college. And a new trend in pop music has emerged over the past few years that would have given me hope back when my high school’s queen bee was saying I wore too many clothes with cats (fortunately, I’ve since come to understand that “too many cats” is not a thing).
Here are some songs that can at the very least help us redefine our adolescences retroactively, even though they weren’t there to console us at the time.
Given that Pink sings “What’s the dealio?” you would think this song were from the 90s, but the “Raise Your Glass” singer didn’t make “too school for cool,” well, cool, until 2010.
3. “Firework” by Katy Perry
While I wouldn’t have pegged America’s sweetheart Katy Perry as the voice of outsiders struggling to embrace their individuality, what teenager doesn’t need to be told that “all the doors are closed so you could open one that leads you to the perfect road”?
4. “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift
While T-Swift’s juxtaposition of a “cheer captain” who “wears short skirts” with a T-shirt wearer “on the bleachers” contains undertones of slut-shaming, the song also affirms that sometimes the marching-band girl can win over the football star.
5. “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
While this song is often celebrated as an LGBT anthem, it’s really for everyone who has “felt like a freak,” as Lady Gaga said she did growing up.
6. “Cool Kids” by Echosmith
This one doesn’t offer encouragement as much as commiseration with anyone who has ever had the thought, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in” — so, basically, everyone.