It’s now been twenty years since American Pie became the sleeper hit of the summer of 1999, revitalizing the raunchy teen sex comedy both for better and for worse. The bastard lovechild of Porky’s and Revenge of the Nerds, the movie would go on to spawn a franchise that grossed over half a billion dollars at the box office. The movie’s soundtrack, much like the movie itself, hasn’t aged particularly well, but it remains a pure, untouched time capsule of the state of alternative rock at the end of the 90s. To celebrate this strange, beautiful relic of pre-millennium teen jams, let’s see how each song on the album holds up today.
13. “Summertime” – Bachelor No. 1
There are so many interesting 90s bands whose songs appeared in American Pie but never got a chance to make their way onto the soundtrack. Harvey Danger, Hole, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre all presumably got bumped in order to make room for less-than-one-hit wonder Bachelor No. 1. The corny, nasally opening lines (“Hello to your mother, your brother, significant other / I am the summertime”) are enough to make us all collectively cringe about all of the garbage music we thought was cool in our youth. This white guy faux beach pseudo rap is nearly impossible to listen to from start to finish. And yet, it kicks off the film’s credits, serving as the awful taste in your mouth as you exit the theater.
12. “Glory” – Sugar Ray
Grating even by Sugar Ray standards, “Glory” is a shining example of ‘you had to be there’ trendy pop rock. As it scores a moment of forced sexual exploration and the subsequent gross out gag to follow, one has to wonder whether it was actually selected by the music supervisor, or if it was just put in as filler and they forgot to go in and add a song with some actual street cred. Sugar Ray made the cut because they were all but printing money in the late 90s, but this song just makes you want to take a shower.
11. “Wishen” – The Loose Nuts
Another track that’s meant to serve as shorthand for underage drinking and bad decisions, “Wishen” is a generic third wave ska throwaway that, for some reason, opens with a strained Ricky Ricardo impression. Apparently, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones said no to the soundtrack and some out of touch studio exec thought The Loose Nuts were close enough.
10. “Man with the Hex” – The Atomic Fireballs
The late 90s seemed to have every act looking to the past, but one of the most baffling nostalgia trends was the swing revival. Bands like The Atomic Fireballs took to dressing up your dad’s record collection for the Beavis and Butt-Head generation and hoping teens won’t notice. And they didn’t, at least not for a couple of years. “Man with the Hex” is truly a relic from a forgotten time.
9. “Vintage Queen” – Goldfinger
“Vintage Queen” was easy enough for teens to throw on and think they’re badass as they wait for the song’s one dirty word. Inoffensive soundtrack padding, it just feels like diet Blink-182. This dog whistle for fans of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater served its purpose as it was hidden in the background of a party scene. At least American Pie didn’t opt for one of Goldfinger’s many ska tracks.
8. “Stranger by the Day” – Shades Apart
Delightfully wallowing in post-grunge angst, Shades Apart used muted power chords make “Stranger by the Day” just heavy enough for the skater kids who couldn’t handle punk or metal. The track is filled with silly, fake-deep lines like “Alarm goes off without a sound / The silence is so loud,” and yet it’s not without its appeal. Regardless, it feels right at home in a 90s teen sex comedy.
7. “Find Your Way Back Home” – Dishwalla
Still trying to recapture the inexplicable magic that propelled “Counting Blue Cars” toward the top of the charts three years earlier, Dishwalla made their contribution to the soundtrack with “Find Your Way Back Home.” At its best, the track expels the anguish of college radio, but at its worst, it’s dangerously close to being a Creed song. Either way, it’s very much of its time. If this didn’t pop up on Dawson’s Creek, it definitely should have.
6. “You Wanted More” – Tonic
Oddly enough, of all the songs that made the soundtrack, “You Wanted More” has probably had the longest shelf life, if only because it still routinely pops up in sports bars all across the Midwest today. Still riding the success of “If You Could Only See,” Tonic played with the strange contrast between crunchy guitars and sappy lyrics, which oddly sums up the era to a T. The song is a perfectly serviceable late 90s rock ballad, if not particularly memorable. Not to mention it helped to frame the movie’s most quoted line (Yes, the one about the flute).
5. “Super Down” – Super TransAtlantic
Why aren’t there more songs that open with the band saying their own name in the lyrics? Super TransAtlantic was easy listening for a new generation, and “Super Down” was their thesis statement. The song is very much stranded in time, but never in a way that makes it unbearable. In fact, it’s often just sweet enough to be charming.
4. “Good Morning Baby” – Dan Wilson of Semisonic & Bic Runga
Tender and cute, “Good Morning Baby” was an unexpectedly impeccable pairing of Bic Runga and Semisonic’s Dan Wilson. For many, it’s an instant wave of nostalgia. It’s such an easy track to ascribe memories to. What’s more, it’s the kind of song you find yourself humming for the rest of the day. It was a safe pick for the mix cd you made for your eighth grade crush.
3. “New Girl” – Third Eye Blind
There’s a reason this song was chosen for the character introductions over the opening credits. “New Girl” boasts all of the wild optimism of being seventeen and having the whole world laid out before you. Dripping with 1999-isms to show us how quirky and edgy the song’s subject is (“Eye of Fatima painted on her motor scooter”), this playful and joyous head bobber is nothing short of classic Third Eye Blind.
2. “Sway” – Bic Runga
So much of American Pie is consumed by the male adolescent sexual desire in its unchecked form, but rarely does it dive into the emotional drive behind the lust. That is, until we get to “Sway.” In a rare moment where the movie has its heart in the right place, Bic Runga signals the instant when all of our heroes’ preconceived notions about sex are shattered, and they finally get what they’re actually craving. Even if this multi-platinum hit couldn’t quite translate the same way overseas that it did in its native New Zealand, it’s endlessly replayable and a damn near perfect pop song.
1. “Mutt” – Blink-182
Despite marking the moment where the movie’s already questionable ethics go completely off the deep end, if there’s one track that truly encapsulates the misplaced energy and hedonistic mantra of this over-the-top sex comedy, it’s “Mutt.” Less than a month removed from the inescapable pop punk smash Enema of the State, Blink-182 were the perfect choice for this tale of raunchy, teenage indulgence. They were already preaching the gospel of American Pie long before the movie was in the works, so it was only fitting that they would gift the soundtrack its most memorable song. In fact, they match the atmosphere so well that they even make a tongue-in-cheek cameo in the movie as a local garage band who watch Jim and Nadia during their mortifying webcast.