Every year in the late '90s and early 2000s, the end-of-year graduation rituals were the same: We would all file into our school's high school auditorium and sing ridiculous choral arrangements of terrible '70s pop ballads with vaguely uplifting choruses and otherwise blatant drug references. (I'm not specifically thinking about "Puff the Magic Dragon," but it comes to mind, certainly.) For my fifth-grade graduation ceremony, for instance, we sang a predictably over the top acoustic cover of Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance," followed by a rendition of that Vitamin C song everyone knows even if they don't want to know it, "Graduation (Friends Forever)." I'm sure your school did something similar, because every school had a few songs that absolutely defined the end of school during the '90s and 2000s — they were overplayed, overquoted, and just generally overmentioned so many times during the school year, you'll probably forget your own name before your forget their lyrics.
Regardless of how you felt about singer-songwriters of the era or elementary school pageantry in general, here are all the songs that were totally overplayed during every single end of year/graduation ceremony you ever attended in the '90s.
1. "Graduation (Friends Forever)" By Vitamin C
This is the soundtrack to you writing "Have a great summer!" in the yearbooks of classmates you had no intention of acknowledging until the following school year.
2. "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" By Green Day
Were you a child of the '90s? Did your school have end-of-year talent shows? Did you have a skate park-inclined classmate who wore unlaced shoes and learned a couple chords on the guitar earlier that fall? Then you definitely know this song.
3. "I Hope You Dance" By Lee Ann Womack
Technically from 2000, if you happened to either participate in or watch my fifth-grade graduation ceremony (sorry if you did), then you'll recall that singing this song slowly makes it no less uncomfortable to watch IRL.
4. “I’ll Be There For You” By The Rembrandts
This is you frolicking in a fountain with your five best friends with whom you share a suspiciously large West Village apartment. Wait, sorry, no. This is you watching those Friends while you microwave a Kid Cuisine and attempt to make a lanyard for the zipper on your pencil case.
5. "Closing Time" By Semisonic
If every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, as "Closing Time" suggests, then you, my friend, were definitely well on your way to high school!
6. "The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe
Apparently this song is actually about drug addiction, but if you happened to have been a high school freshman anytime in the last 20 years, that's neither here nor there, because some part of this song definitely made it into your overly-nostalgic AIM away messages. Guys, I can't believe we're in ninth grade.
7. “I Believe I Can Fly” By R. Kelly
This was you deciding between Space Jam and Kazaam the day after school let out for the summer. The decision was always so easy, though. Space Jam, hello. MJ > Shaq any day.
8. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” By Aerosmith
This is you at a poorly-chaperoned prom trying to catch the eye of the boy with which both your cootie catcher and M.A.S.H. games predicted you'd have seven kids. Spoiler alert: He's not asking you to slow dance, sorry.
9. “I Will Remember You” By Sarah McLachlan
This is you walking through the school yard at recess, looking at an acquaintance, and thinking to yourself, I will remember you, just not your name or anything we did together.
10. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" By The Verve
This was either the soundtrack to you getting handed a diploma and then tripping across the stage à la The Lizzie McGuire Movie , or the time you almost beat your all-time highest Snake score but didn't because your mom happened to call in the middle of your game. Either way, it was a bummer.
11. "Save Tonight" By Eagle Eye Cherry
Thanks to iZone cameras, you probably did manage to save that night. Just not the Tamagotchi you proceeded to neglect for three years.
12. "Drive" By Incubus
Funny story: This was the song that accompanied the montage played at my Bat Mitzvah. Guess what song also played during my terrible third cousin's montage the week earlier, much to my chagrin? That's right, "Drive." More like "Drive Me Away From This Broadway-Themed Table Setting, Because Regardless Of What Jewish Law States I'm Still Very Much A Child And Still Get Embarrassed By Everything."
Ah, to be young again...