NPR logo Occupy Prom Night: Six Prom Themes You Wish You'd Had

Occupy Prom Night: Six Prom Themes You Wish You'd Had

Pretty in punk. Courtesy of Michelle Sullivan hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Michelle Sullivan

For all the messy emotions it can conjure, and for all the diverse experiences it can entail, prom night hits an awful lot of predictable signifiers, whether you cried in the boys' room during Beyonce's "Halo" in 2009 or cried in the girls' room during The Flamingos' version of "I Only Have Eyes for You" half a century earlier. Prom is constant, eternal — it's sweaty palms, fear of rejection, a rite of passage, a beginning and an ending, whether you attended it yourself or not.

But even if most proms are created equal — corny theme, chart-topping ballad for slow dances, trouble in the parking lot, chaperones to root out the mischief-makers — all prom-goers most certainly are not. With that in mind, NPR Music's staff picked these songs for wishful thinkers and other alternate-universe prom-goers. Feel free to claim them as your own, if only to replace your suppressed memories of throwing up in the punch bowl to the tune of Chris De Burgh's 1986 hit "The Lady in Red."

Six Prom Themes You Wish You'd Had

  • For The Headbangers

    "Never Let Down" by Andrew W.K.
    Don't let their hardened exteriors fool you: Metalheads want to sing heavy-metal torch ballads to their leather-jacketed sweethearts on prom night, too, preferably while air-drumming. —Lars Gotrich
    YouTube
  • For The Wallflowers

    "Autumn Sweater" by Yo La Tengo
    The patron saints of awkward shy kids, Yo La Tengo's members made "Autumn Sweater" the song for everyone who just wants to sit as far from the dance floor as possible and nibble on items from the veggie platter. —Dan Raby
    YouTube
  • For The Drama Kids

    "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" from The Sound Of Music
    Oh, Rolf. The dream of every high-school drama girl and the fear of every high-school drama girl's parents. —Jenna Strucko
    YouTube
  • For The Anti-Prom Kids

    "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" by Duke Ellington and Bob Russell
    "Missed the Saturday dance" — meh. The singer rejects the repressive normativity and consumerist arms race of conventional social gatherings with cool indifference! Or she's just consumed by teenage melodrama. Here's a version featuring Ella Fitzgerald, accompanied by Ellington himself. —Patrick Jarenwattananon
    YouTube
  • For Those Participating In Prom While Maintaining A Cynical Distance

    "Prom Theme" by Fountains of Wayne
    Because this is the first day of the rest of your life, man. Leave it to the kings of meta-commentary to write a treacly, string-laden coming-of-age song that's actually about the creeping fear of growing old. —Daoud Tyler-Ameen
    YouTube
  • For The Goths

    "Seventeen Seconds" by The Cure
    Really, that's about as long as any self-respecting Goth will stay at the prom. —Stephanie Federico
    YouTube