Playlist: Let’s Have a Middle School Dance Party

Autostraddle turned 13 damn years old this week, and we’ve all been dipping into some nostalgia about when we were 13. While planning our birthday celebrations — and the membership drive + mini fundraiser that are going with it! — multiple other members of the senior staff independently came to the conclusion that I, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, would be especially down to write about the awkwardness of age 13. Perhaps because I am always talking about the movie 13 Going On 30 or perhaps because I’ve written about awkward phases many times. In any case, THEY WERE CORRECT. I am indeed thriving with all the 2000s vibes.

For this special 13th year playlist, I asked my queer friends on Instagram to chime in with their top picks for middle school dance jams from when they were actually in middle school. I have friends of all ages, but the majority of respondents fall in the 27-35 range, so we’re talking about 2000-2008ish middle school dance vibes specifically (with a few select 90s hits because, well, my girlfriend is a decade older than me after all).

Spray on your Bath & Body Works scent of choice, paint on some lip gloss, and put on your finest bejeweled outfit, because we’re going back in time to those simultaneously thrilling AND mortifying nights on your school’s gymnasium or cafeteria floor when we all did horrifying shit like slow dance to Coldplay or grind to Panic! At The Disco.

I’m about to tell you all about my 8th grade dance, but before I do that, I wanted to drop quick reminder that Autostraddle only made it to 13 with the help of reader support. Let’s have some embarrassing middle school fun, and let’s also keep Autostraddle going to 14! Consider joining A+ or giving a gift so we can keep on dancing and awkwardly staring at our crush from across the dance floor while sipping a paper cup of Country Time lemonade 💫

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My 8th grade dance was in 2006. I wore the strappy, bejeweled green dress as seen in the feature image of this post. My bad posture and the tan lines from my tennis uniform really took the look to the next level. I also had recently gotten bangs for the first time and, well, they more or less had a mind of their own, and good for them. I told Kenny R I couldn’t go with him to the dance because I already had a date, which was a lie!!!! But when he asked me, I panicked, because I didn’t want to go with him, because I didn’t want to go with anyone other than my two best friends Valerie and Katie who told me they were not going with dates either but then totally did end up with dates! And then Kenny R didn’t come to the dance at all, and I still feel bad about it? I’m sorry, Kenny R! This playlist is dedicated to you.


Middle School Dance Vibes

  1. “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry
  2. “Every Time We Touch” by Cascada
  3. “Yeah!” by Usher
  4. “Toxic” by Britney Spears
  5. “All The Small Things” by Blink-182
  6. “1, 2 Step” by Ciara
  7. “No Scrubs” by TLC
  8. “Get Low” by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz
  9. “Just A Friend” by Mario
  10. “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden
  11. “Dance Dance” by Fall Out Boy
  12. “Get Me Bodied” by Beyoncé
  13. “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” by Panic! At The Disco
  14. “Stay” by Lisa Loeb
  15. “Naughty Girl” by Beyoncé
  16. “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star
  17. “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado
  18. “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne
  19. “Waiting For Tonight” by Jennifer Lopez
  20. “Lady Marmalade” by various
  21. “Love At First Sight” by Kylie Minogue
  22. “Hey Ma” by Cam’Ron
  23. “Ms. New Booty” by Bubba Sparxxx
  24. “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas
  25. “This Is Why I’m Hot” by MIMS
  26. “Lose Control” by Missy Elliott
  27. “Honey” by Mariah Carey
  28. “MMMBop” by Hanson.

Some playlist notes:

  • “Yeah!” and “Get Low” were the most popular answers, but they were closely followed by “I Kissed A Girl.”
  • Not enough people said Missy Elliott songs imo.
  • I am indeed obsessed with the time-travely transition from Panic! At The Disco to Lisa Loeb.
  • On that note, a LOT of people said “Stay” by Lisa Loeb.
  • Multiple people referred to “I’m With You” as “It’s A Damn Cold Night,” which, fair.
  • Honestly, all of these music videos are art, so I highly recommend the YouTube playlist format for this nostalgia trip.
  • Even though I am slightly too young for “MMMBop” to have been played at my middle school dances, it has been stuck in my head ever since I started writing this post.

If you follow me on Instagram or if you read my Happy Hour At Home column that feels like it was one million years ago, then perhaps you recall when my girlfriend and I had two-person “gay club night” in our apartment in Vegas early on in the pandemic. I feel like we should pop the YouTube playlist on our TV and bring back gay club night but make it a fake middle school dance? Who’s in?


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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 394 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. I forget where I read it(I think it was the comment section here) but some of the Hanson members had like anti-lgbtq stuff on their Pinterest. I think they also are super Christian based on how many kids each member has.

  2. “Stay” was definitely on point for my era, but the defining song for my 7th grade dances in particular was the MACARENA. Nothing like easy, repetitive dance moves to pull awkward kids off the walls and onto the dance floor. It may have played more than once per dance.

  3. I think I may be just a tad bit older than most of you, or maybe just at the older end of the spectrum here. I was in middle school in the mid 90s, from 96 to 98. The Macarena really defined my school dances to, along with planet soul, push it, ‘da dip, my bu and so many more!! To this day, I still really, really love my 90s music! Makes me feel like I can still be the teenager that I only wished I could have been back then. I like today’s music too, but the 90s are probably my favorite.

  4. I have an even worse 8th grade dance story. A boy named Joey asked me to the dance and I panicked and said yes because I really didn’t expect to be asked by anyone. But I didn’t like him at all and none of my friends were going with dates, so a few days later I told him I changed my mind and I didn’t want to go with him. But the night of the dance he gave me a corsage anyway and I accepted it and then didn’t even talk to him the whole night! (I fully acknowledge that I was sometimes an awful person as a teenager.)

  5. Now I’m remembering my own ridiculous eighth grade dance story. I had recently figured out that I was a trans girl, but hadn’t come out yet to anyone except my little sister, so everyone at my school still thought I was a boy. For the past year I’d had a massive crush on a girl in my class, and I decided that the dance was the time to finally do something about it. I mustered every bit of courage I had and approached her to ask for a dance. She cut right to the chase and asked me whether I *liked* her, and I admitted that I did. She politely turned me down and explained that she liked girls. 🙃

    The icing on the cake is that her name was the feminine version of my deadname. The gods were *definitely* trolling me hard.

    • (To be fair though, she probably would have turned me down even if she had known I was a girl. Gender aside, I was still the awkwardest little weirdo on Gaia’s green earth.)

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