"Teenage Dirtbag"
Teenage Dirtbag.jpg
Single by Wheatus
from the album Wheatus
ReleasedJune 20, 2000 (2000-06-20)
Songwriter(s)Brendan B. Brown
  • Wheatus
  • Philip A. Jimenez
Wheatus singles chronology
"Teenage Dirtbag"
"A Little Respect"
Music video
"Teenage Dirtbag" on YouTube
Alternative cover
UK single cover
UK single cover

"Teenage Dirtbag" is a song by American rock band Wheatus. It was released on June 20, 2000, as the lead single from their eponymous debut album (2000). The song was written by guitarist and vocalist Brendan B. Brown and was inspired by a childhood experience of his.

The song was successful in Australia, spending four weeks at number one, being certified 3× Platinum, and becoming the second-best-selling single of 2000. It also reached number one in Austria and Flanders while peaking at number two in Ireland, Germany, and the United Kingdom, where it was certified 2× Platinum in 2018. It has sold 5 million copies worldwide as of 2014.[4]


"Teenage Dirtbag" is about a childhood experience that guitarist and vocalist Brendan B. Brown had. In a 2012 interview with Tone Deaf, he said:

It came from the summer of 1984 on Long Island, when I was 10 years old. That summer in the woods behind my house, there was a Satanic, drug-induced ritual teen homicide that went down; and the kid who did it was called Ricky Kasso, and he was arrested wearing an AC/DC T-shirt. That made all the papers, and the television, obviously; and here I was, 10 years old, walking around with a case full of AC/DC and Iron Maiden and Metallica [songs] – and all the parents and the teachers and the cops thought I was some kind of Satan worshipper. So that's the backdrop for that song.[5]

Brown also added that the song's sing-along chorus remains an act of defiance: "so when I sing: 'I'm just a teenage dirtbag', I'm effectively saying: 'Yeah, fuck you if you don't like it. Just because I like AC/DC doesn't mean I'm a devil worshipper, and you're an idiot.' That's where it comes from."[5] In the same interview, regarding the possible reasons for its continued success, Brown recalled his father's words: "Every teenager has to go through that 'being an outsider' thing, at least a little bit. So that story is still the same for people, even if it's thirty years after I went through it."[5]

The song's vocals are all performed by Brown, including a segment in falsetto. When the group arranged a joint tour with MC Frontalot, MC Frontalot contributed a nerdcore rap verse to the song, as did MC Lars.

Critical reception

Ayhan Sahin of Billboard magazine reviewed the song favorably, calling it a "gritty, on-the-edge track" and saying that its "keen melody, inventive production, and cool lyric about those who have felt like underlings during high school will entice listeners who prefer hanging out behind the gym with a smoke to Latin club." He went on to say that it "stands strongly on its own as an emphatic anthem and a song many teens will be proud to push hard from their car speakers."[6] In June 2013, Australian radio station Triple J ranked "Teenage Dirtbag" as number 82 on their "Twenty Years of Triple J's Hottest 100".[7] The song was ranked number 69 on the "Top 100 Greatest Pop Songs of All Time" countdown by British music channel The Hits.[citation needed]

Commercial performance

In the United Kingdom, the song peaked at number two, staying there for two weeks and kept off the top spot by Atomic Kitten's "Whole Again". It spent four weeks at number one in Australia and also topped the charts in Austria and Flanders. Despite being a huge success in the UK, Europe and Australia, it failed to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking only at number seven on the Alternative Songs chart. In March 2011, the song returned to the UK Singles Chart at number 43 and climbed to number 35 the following week,[8] nearly 11 years after its initial release. Bigtop40.com suggested that this was due to a promotion on iTunes.[9] In April 2012, it re-entered the UK Singles Chart again, this time peaking at number 36; and then once again in March 2013, where it entered at number 46. The track has sold five million copies worldwide as of 2014.[4]


The second verse of the song originally began with, "Her boyfriend's a dick/He brings a gun to school". Radio edits usually omitted the word "dick" or edit it so that it sounds like the less offensive "prick", but most modern versions of the song have the words "gun to school" covered by scratching sounds. Some versions also edit the lines "And he'd simply kick/My ass if he knew the truth", to remove the word "ass". When asked why "gun" is frequently censored, Brown stated that it is because the day he presented the song to the band's record label was around the time of the first anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.[10]

Music video

The music video for "Teenage Dirtbag", directed by Jeff Gordon,[11] is based on the 2000 film Loser, which the song features in, and tells a different story from the film based on the song's lyrics. Jason Biggs plays a nerdy character and Mena Suvari is the love interest who unexpectedly invites the protagonist to an Iron Maiden concert, and in the end scene they dance together on prom night.

In some cases, the beginning and the end of the video were deleted: The full version of the video begins with Jason falling asleep while doing his homework and ends with a large glitter ball falling from the ceiling and striking him on the head. He then wakes up, revealing his brief romance with Suvari to have been all a dream. The video was nominated for Best Video at the Kerrang! Awards.[12]

Track listings



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[54] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[55] Platinum 50,000*
Belgium (BEA)[56] Platinum 50,000*
Germany (BVMI)[57] Platinum 500,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[58] Gold  
Sweden (GLF)[59] Platinum 30,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[60] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[62] 3× Platinum 924,964[61]
Worldwide 5,000,000[4]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Release history

Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
United States June 20, 2000 (2000-06-20) Alternative radio Columbia [63]
June 26, 2000 (2000-06-26) [64]
August 1, 2000 (2000-08-01) [65]
United Kingdom February 5, 2001 (2001-02-05)
  • CD
  • cassette


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