1. "Don't Cha" by The Pussycat Dolls feat. Busta Rhymes
Turn Up Factor: Medium. The Pussycat Dolls were like the Barbie-meets-stripper version of the Spice Girls, and we were HERE for it. With sassy lyrics like “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me,” it was hard not to strut your stuff to this spunky anthem. But face it, you HAD to be the Nicole Scherzinger of your friend group.
2. "Toxic" by Britney Spears
Turn Up Factor: Fairly high. Britney’s magnum opus isn’t just an iconic music video, it also was a middle school dance staple that STILL holds up to this day. It definitely was a fave of baby gays and tween girls everywhere, and we are eternally grateful to Miss Spears for this jam. The real question is, which Britney is your favorite: blonde, redhead, or brunette?
3. "Let's Get It Started" by the Black Eyed Peas
4. "Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake
5. "Get the Party Started" by Pink
Turn Up Factor: Very high. Let’s be honest, your definition of “getting the party started” in middle school was getting hopped up on Mountain Dew and sweating like a pig at a middle school dance. Whatever. Pink GOT it, and this party banger was a total turn-up anthem.
6. "Sk8r Boi" by Avril Lavigne
7. "Lose Control" by Missy Elliott feat. Ciara and Fatman Scoop
Turn Up Factor: Hella high. Listen, Missy practically shat turn-up bangers in the early 2000s, which made her appearance at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show all the sweeter. This jam totally caused more than its fair share of awkward middle school grinding, and for that, Missy deserves all the pats on the back.
8. "1, 2 Step" by Ciara feat. Missy Elliott
Turn Up Factor: Very Moderate. Yup, Ciara and Missy again. It’s a little slower, a little slinkier than “Lose Control,” but with a pulsing beat, who really cared? Yeah, you still really don’t know what a “1, 2 Step” is, but you’re too busy trying to forget awkward memories of attempting the dance moves to really care. Amen, Ciara. Amen!
9. "Milkshake" by Kelis
Turn Up Factor: Pretty high. “LOL, a song about milkshakes!” your middle school self said. How novel! “My milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard” was the vaguely sexual, incredibly novel lyric that your 14-year-old self would not stop tossing around. Then you found out what Kelis meant by milkshakes…and your world changed forever. MIND. BLOWN.
10. "Yeah!" by Usher feat. Ludacris and Lil Jon
Turn Up Factor: Higher than Mount Everest. Wow. If any song says “mid-2000s,” it’s this Hall of Fame turn-up anthem. It’s almost as if the music gods said, “Here, middle schoolers: We know you have acne, and braces, and are going through puberty, so we’ll have Usher record ‘Yeah’ to help make up for it.” And then, we were blessed. Peace up, A-Town!
11. "Gold Digger" by Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx
12. "Get Low" by Lil Jon feat. Ying Yang Twinz
Turn Up Factor: Maximum. At this point, we probably should bestow Lil Jon with the title of Patron Saint of Middle School Dances. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in churning out the songs that made you rock out as a pimply preteen. Face it, one of the best parts of middle school was chanting out “From the windows, to the walls! Till the sweat runs down my balls” when this song came on.
13. "The Way You Move" by Outkast feat. Sleepy Brown
14. "Lean Back" by Terror Squad
15. "Ride Wit Me" by Nelly feat. City Spud
Turn Up Factor: Low, but a “chill” low. This ain’t no banger, but that’s fine! This is the type of song that came on in your mom’s minivan while she drove you to a middle school dance, and you were so here for it (provided she didn’t switch the radio station). Thanks, Nelly!
16. "In Da Club" by 50 Cent
17. "Pon de Replay" by Rihanna
Turn Up Factor: Pretty damn high. Before there was “We Found Love,” “S & M,” or even “Umbrella,” Rihanna introduced herself to the world with the smash success that was “Pon de Replay.” Who knew this was the first of many bangers she would gift to us, but this one will always hold a special place in our hearts because it will forever be a part of our “cherished” middle school memories. Also, what the hell does the song even MEAN?
18. "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers
19. "Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera feat. Redman
Turn Up Factor: Filthy high. You were lucky if the middle school DJ played this song at your banger of a dance. But when he did, the dance floor got crazier than Studio 54 in the ‘70s. This song single-handedly ushered a generation of self-conscious tweens through puberty. A round of applause for Xtina, PLEASE, and bonus points for the assless chaps in the music video.
20. "It's Like That" by Mariah Carey
21. "Lose My Breath" by Destiny's Child
Turn Up Factor: Pretty damn high. This song lit’rally had you losing your breath as you got crunk on the dance floor. Bey, Kelly, and what’s-her-name were at it again, and boy, did Destiny’s Child not disappoint. THE DRUMS. THE BEAT. THE EVERYTHING.
22. "Get Right" by Jennifer Lopez
Turn Up Factor: Good, but not great. Yeah, there are more memorable songs from those halcyon middle school days. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t honor the ageless wonder that is J.Lo. This song had your hands in the air, swaying in your spaghetti-strap dress or cargo shorts. Thank you, Jenny from the block.
23. "Move Ya Body" by Nina Sky feat. Jabba
24. "My Love Is Like... Wo" by Mya
25. "Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani
26. "Naughty Girl" by Beyoncé
Turn Up Factor: So, so high. Beyoncé’s debut solo album had so many classic middle school jams — “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy” come to mind — but “Naughty Girl” just might take the cake here, because it was probably the song your mom was quickest to change when it came on the radio. If only she knew “Partition” was to come…
27. "What's Luv" by Fat Joe feat. Ashanti and Ja Rule
Turn Up Factor: Strong moderate. God, Ashanti and Ja Rule were like our generation’s musical Batman and Robin. Throw Fat Joe into the mix, and you have the recipe for a perfect middle school jam. Gotta love it.