A prom to remember

Audiofile reveals the perfect songs for a high schooler's big night.

Published May 31, 2007 2:40PM (EDT)

A preponderance of limos on the streets, a run on corsages and rented tuxes, kitschy pop songs filling the nighttime air -- yep, it's prom season. At this magical time of year, as our nation's high school seniors swoon under the watchful eye of their homeroom teachers and sneak wine coolers out behind the cafetorium, it's important to recognize the value of songs perfect for a last-hurrah slow dance or freakout. So in honor of the occasion, Audiofile has a few ideas about what makes a great prom song.

In addition to the appearance of hair in funny places, teens face a definite lack of musical taste -- and that's OK. A youthful embrace of cheese is the reason songs like Bryan Adams' "Heaven" and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" are perpetual prom favorites. Likewise, this list finds Journey's "Faithfully" sharing space with Eric Clapton's God-awful "Wonderful Tonight."

Cheese isn't the only factor, though. A look at the multitude of prom-related Facebook groups reveals that top-of-the-class prom pop generally has a slow tempo and is full of saccharine sentiment (Alphaville's "Forever Young," Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," or is a giddy, celebratory blast (House of Pain's "Jump Around," Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started"). Bonus marks go to songs by one-hit wonders, which is why Vitamin C's aptly named "Graduation (Friends Forever)" and Baz Luhrmann's yearbook-friendly aphorism-fest "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" are prime prom material.

Conversely, too much intellectual or cultural baggage is a definite no-no. The reason songs by folks like Alphaville and House of Pain work is the exact same reason anything by the Beatles, Springsteen or Dylan doesn't: Thinking gets in the way of a good time.

A great prom song can't be niche either. Björk and Arcade Fire may be awesome, but they're just too idiosyncratic for true prom success -- it's more fun if everyone can sing along. Expect this year's newly crowned kings and queens to be getting down with smash hits like Mim's "This Is Why I'm Hot" and making out to Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars."

But even if we can pin down some characteristics, picking good prom songs is not a science, so go ahead and write in with your faves. If you want to embellish your choices with a story or two, all the better. Just remember that no matter where you go, even if it's to a different school or whatever, Audiofile will totally always remember you. See you at the after-party.

-- David Marchese

By Salon Staff

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