A Playlist of Bands We Pretended to Like As Teens 

Ellie Shechet 08/17/2017. 24 comments
Teen Week Music Dave Matthews Band Blur The Rolling Stones The Smashing Pumpkins 311 Bad Music

At an “Oktoberfest” carnival in 8th grade, I met a boy with blonde tips who was in an awful band and had a reputation as an exceptionally fast swimmer. Immediately, I was in love. We sat down on a grassy hill and he asked me if I liked the Smashing Pumpkins. I said “Yes!”, even though I had no idea who the Smashing Pumpkins were; my favorite record at the time was Michelle Branch’s seminal Hotel Paper. He then asked if I liked a band called “UDB,” to which I exclaimed, again, “yes!” UDB, I learned from a friend who’d overheard him joking about it later, meant “Up Da Butt.” We did not speak again, and I still hate the Smashing Pumpkins.

After speaking to a number of colleagues, I learned that not everyone lied to be cool when they were younger. Then again, it’s also possible that they are lying to me now in order to give the appearance of having once been cool. “Uh,” Hamilton Nolan replied when I asked if he’d ever pretended to like a band to impress someone. “No, I was just into hip hop.”

“I think I was the opposite, more obnoxious type of teen,” Deadspin’s Samer Kalaf told me, “where I hated everything popular and pretended that I understood Pink Floyd.”

“I was a really cool teen,” Anna Merlan said apologetically. “Much cooler then.” Kate Dries, as always, also provided a strong statement: “I never pretended to like any bands and as such my musical tastes were deemed wildly unpopular.”

Fortunately for my self-esteem, I was eventually able to locate a handful of coworkers across Gizmodo Media Group who, like me, were trying (varying degrees of) hard. Below are their stories, accompanied by a playlist you may or may not want to listen to.


1. The Rolling Stones

On the first day of freshman year of high school, the “hottest” freshman boy showed up wearing a Rolling Stones shirt and had the tongue sticker on his folder or something. Naturally, I spent all of my babysitting money on the entire discography of the Rolling Stones (my father has never been prouder) and made it my mission to be an absolute expert so I’d have solid material for the first time I spoke to him. When I finally did, he was like, “Whoa, you seem to really know a lot about the Rolling Stones!” And I was like, “Yeah, don’t you love them too?” He said, “Not really. I mean, I have a t-shirt...” He did go on to become my first boyfriend, though. -Phoebe Bradford

2. Blur

I feel like I should have pretended more, for my own safety and shielding of ridicule, but I always openly enjoyed typically gay shit like Madonna and Mariah Carey. I guess it was one of my ways of being out without being out. I remember once being irritated by a girl going on and on about Oasis so I decided for no other reason than to oppose her that I was team Blur. I had only heard “Girls & Boys” (this was the year before their self-titled album with their sole legit U.S. hit, “Song 2,” came out). So I bought Parklife and then realized I loved it and then became obsessed with Brit Pop for years and years. So pretending to like a band, I guess, resulted in my actually liking the band. Never did get into Joy Division, though, despite feeling obligated to. -Rich Juzwiak

3. Dave Matthews Band

My crush (who I had never spoken to) wore a Dave Matthews Band hat all the time so I said I liked Dave Matthews Band to all my friends in the hopes that it would get back to him. It never did and it made people think I like Dave Matthews Band, so lose-lose. -Madeleine Davies

4. Elastica

In middle school, everyone liked Elastica, including the edgiest and hottest boy in our grade. I didn’t care for Elastica, really, though I did admire the lead singer’s sharp bob. The reason I went along with this charade was really unspeakably lame: everyone else was. I probably still know the words to “Connection,” a fact that will haunt me until my dying day. In high school, what was popular was also what I liked—early Juvenile, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and endless repeats of “I Got 5 On It,” played to much uproar every time it came on at a pep rally or homecoming dance or what have you. The summer after I graduated high school, however, was a different story. I’m still not sure how or why this happened, but my friends and I went through a very deep and long classic rock phase, centered around arguing over which volume of The White Album to listen to and playing Led Zeppelin’s IV at top volume for hours, driving around the streets and smoking pot. I do not care for the Beatles. I can never listen to Led Zeppelin again. If “Baba O’Reilly” comes on in my presence, I will leave. We did listen to a lot of Steely Dan, though, and that is the one band that stuck. -Megan Reynolds

5. Leftover Crack

All my high school crushes were crusty punk kids (as “crusty” as you could be in the suburbs). It always felt like a “punk cred” competition where people would just name bands and judge you if you weren’t into them. I definitely pretended to KNOW about bands and would later google them and/or download whatever I could on Limewire. My most embarrassing example of this is a band called Leftover Crack. They are extremely bad and gross but all the boys loved them and I became “a fan” and I really think it’s my greatest shame. -Veronica de Souza

6. 311

In high school, I pretended to like a lot of music for the boys I was dating and wanted to date (one especially uncomfortable period was when I got heavily into the DC reggae scene). Before then, though, my friend Skylar and I had a crush on three boys one year older than us. One of their Facebook pages listed 311 under his “Music” interests, so we decided to obsessively listen to 311 and mention it very loudly while we were around him, though he never particularly cared. One time, somehow, we were in a hot! tub! with the three of them and one of them put on 311 and Skylar and I both simultaneously shit our bikini bottoms with joy. -Joanna Rothkopf

7. Jane’s Addiction

I actually liked Jane’s Addiction in 10th grade but I may have overstated my fandom to a boy I had a crush on. Then when he came over to my house and saw my cassette collection he was EXTREMELY disappointed. I will never forget him pulling out 2 Hype and exclaiming with disturbed incredulity, “KID and PLAY????” Listen… I had great taste in music. I looked up that dude on Facebook and he is hella busted now. -Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

8. Nirvana

I went to an all boys military academy, so dating didn’t really happen. There was this girl in my mom’s town who I had a huuuuuuge crush on but she wouldn’t date a kid “so far away.”

In about my junior year of high school, grunge was huge and she was down with the whole Nirvana/Hole amalgamation. She was a badass in the era of MTV badasses, while I was into groups like Gravediggaz and Iron Maiden. Anyway, summer was coming up and I went to a local skate shop and bought this deck in my attempts to woo her and show her “how down I was.” The rest of the story is kinda fuzzy due to age, but I think we might have made out and I gave her the board. -Sam Woolley

9. Sublime

My coolest set of friends as a teen were my swim team buddies. They all smoked weed and drank vodka and Sprite out of water bottles, and most importantly, listened to Sublime. They all acted like they knew what Santeria was and they all knew the lyrics. We listened to their self-titled album on a little aquamarine boom box while sunbathing between our events at like every swim meet in 2002. By the end of the season, I had googled Santeria and knew all the lyrics, too. -Kelly Stout

10. Widespread Panic

My music taste has always been a mix of “soundtrack to a well-meaning freshman women’s studies course,” Patti Smith, and a little punk. Jam bands don’t feature much in that equation and yet, for my entire junior year, I pretended to have a deep and abiding interest in Widespread Panic. A boy on my water polo team with a ridiculous amount of unkempt hair was very into jam bands and, in attempt to be very cool, I declared my love for Widespread Panic after seeing him wear a shirt with the band’s logo. To be clear, I had no idea who they were or what their music sounded like but I was forced to listen to them after he invited me to his house for a listening session. I think I stupidly let that go on for most of my junior year, wasting away my youth, pretending to love Widespread Panic. -Stassa Edwards

11. Green Day

Prob Green Day, I guess. But now I actually like them, so. -Emma Carmichael

12. Hole

My musical taste was largely formed through listening to classic rock and classic country on the radio, as my parents preferred, or watching MTV, which was mostly R&B when I discovered it, according to my unreliable memory. I basically listened to Toni Braxton on repeat all through junior high, but somehow ended up hanging out with grungy kids who explained to me who Nirvana was. When Hole released Celebrity Skin, I spent many afternoons sitting around with a bunch of girls in a darkened bedroom, burning scented candles and listening to it on repeat. I just re-listened to the single now, and it stirred welcome nostalgic memories, but at the time I hated it, and feel happy to finally admit that. -Aimee Lutkin

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