Staff Top 10
Top Ten Songs of Jonathan Bradley, Age 13, by Jonathan Bradley, Age 23

from the Monkees to the Arctic Monkeys, the curious whims of young adolescents loom large over the musical landscape. Hell, after being pummelled by the likes of “Chain Hang Low,” “Chicken Noodle Soup,” and “Stars Are Blind” in quick succession, one could be forgiven for believing that middle-schoolers hold all the power in the popular music industry.

But until Stylus inducts some young teens into our hallowed ranks, my own voice will have to do. As a 23 year-old, it’s a somewhat difficult task, but what I can accurately represent are the young teens of ten years ago. If Stylus had existed in 1996 (and early 1997), these are the songs my 13-year-old self would surely have turned in as his vote for the year-end singles list.

10. Roxette – June Afternoon
I got Roxette’s greatest hits collection, Don’t Bore Us: Get to the Chorus! for Christmas in 1995, and it remained in my stereo for much of the following year. It’s easy to see why I liked this track (a single that completely bricked at the time). It was a sunny pop song with completely moronic lyrics—the sort of thing that bloggers would have fawned over. With hindsight, though, the wispy melodies seem too insubstantial, and the overly-orchestrated bridge about “squirrels jumping in the trees,” is simply an excess of Swedish ridiculousness.

09. Presidents of the United States of America – Mach 5
Weird Al Yankovic aside, was there be an act more suited to 13-year-olds than the Presidents of the United States of America? Dumb lyrics, catchy riffs, and even a stupid sounding acronym (PUSA): it really is entirely impossible for me not to have adored this band. I considered “Peaches,” “Lump,” and the other briefly titled tracks in the Presidents’ oeuvre to all be fantastic, but to my ears, the zenith of their career was “Mach 5,” a gloriously ridiculous song built around a power-grunge-pop riff and an excess of cowbell.

08. Savage Garden – To the Moon and Back
With both Savage Garden and Roxette appearing, this list may give the incorrect impression that my 13-year-old self was open to the delights of pop music. Far from it. At the time, the extent of my rockism could best be described as fundamentalist. Rather, my fondness of such artists was due to naïveté: while I loudly declared my allegiance to rock and only rock for evermore, I wasn’t the best at determining what rock actually was. Savage Garden’s second single, “To the Moon and Back” was endowed with extensive guitar, and hence, kosher. I can’t begin to describe the betrayal I felt when they followed this up with the wimpy piano ballad “Truly Madly Deeply.”

07. Oasis – Champagne Supernova
I was a big Oasis fan. So much so, in fact, that when the band released Be Here Now, I listened to it incessantly in a desperate attempt to convince myself that it was good. What’s the Story, Morning Glory was more easily enjoyable, though my 13-year-old self was far more impressed with the sprawling epic “Champagne Supernova” than the album’s genuine highlights, “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

06. Alanis Morissette – Head Over Feet
The extent of Alanis Morisette’s popularity in the mid-90s is almost unfathomable. The album was steadily being strip-mined for singles more than a year after its release in June 1995. It’s hard to imagine why—at the time, it seemed like there was nary a household in the Western world without a copy. Until it got its inevitable release, “Head Over Feet” held a special place as my favorite album track, and so it’s a natural pick for this list.

05. R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter
Finally, something JB, aged 13, and JB, aged 23, can agree on! I’d always been aware of R.E.M. and was quite fond of their numerous radio hits, but “E-Bow the Letter,” combined with a borrowed copy of Lifes Rich Pageant, converted me into an ardent admirer of the band. Then I decided I liked Live and Collective Soul, too. Some lessons are hard to learn.

04. Babylon Zoo – Spaceman
If Kanye West ever produced a Jesus Jones comeback album, it would sound like this. The reason British one hit electro-rock wonders Babylon Zoo never repeated the success of “Spaceman” is simple. The only good part of the song is the one that they’d never think to replicate: the eerie intro with the super-speed high-pitched vocal wailing the title. Whenever I listened to this track, I would nearly always shuffle back to the intro after the first-half of the song. Revisiting it now, I can understand why.

03. Silverchair – Freak
In 1996, I moved to Silverchair’s hometown of Newcastle, so I had little choice but to adore this song. As an indication of my lack of discernment, I completely failed to understand why Daniel Johns was so heavily criticised for lyrical gems like, “No more maybes / Your baby’s got rabies.” I should have at least had the sense to reject the song’s bone-headed two-chord guitar riff, though.

02. No Doubt – Don’t Speak
Revisiting this ten years later, it strikes me that this track is incredibly ordinary. Apparently there was something in acoustic balladry with the slightest of flamenco tinges that I could appreciate back in 1996. Now, all I can do is thank god that Gwen Stefani hooked up with the Neptunes for a cheerleader chant.

01. Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
My parents gave me Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as a gift for my thirteenth birthday, and I have never considered it less than a perfect double album. “Tonight, Tonight” grabbed my attention with its fantastic, A Trip to the Moon-aping video, but the music secured my ardour. It was one of those delirious moments when Billy Corgan did absolutely everything right; it was impassioned and dramatic, the grandeur of the orchestra combining with the gentle restraint of the verses to create what must surely have been the year’s best single. Jonathan Bradley, age 13? The kid’s all right.

By: Jonathan Bradley
Published on: 2006-11-17
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