One of the saddest things about the live-action Jem & the Holograms movie is that Jem’s rival band, the Misfits, are nowhere to be found. That’s incredibly dumb—because the Misfits are an integral part of why the 80s cartoon was so amazing. And, if you believe the opening theme, their songs are actually better.
The Misfits were Jem & the Holograms’ nemeses from day one and popped up to taunt them, try to steal their glory, or kidnap, endanger, or otherwise commit criminal mischief in almost every episode. In each appearance, the show sets them up as the ultimate baddies and terrible examples of humanity in general. From episode 3:
A Misfit never asks for anything. A Misfit takes. Whatever we want.
We’re supposed to understand that this attitude is wrong, and if you have it, men will eschew you on sight and you will never reach the top of the Billboard charts. But there’s this uncomfortable truth about the Misfits: their self-confidence and take charge attitude are really appealing sometimes.
Last week while recording the JEMcast (a weekly podcast where we over-analyze every single Jem! episode for fun and profit), fellow guest Aleen Simms challenged me to make a list of my top 10 favorite Misfits tracks. When I set out to do so, I realized that most of the best Misfits songs and videos are not the ones where they’re taunting or torturing Miss Pink Hair and the Sing-alongs. The best tend to be ones where they unabashedly revel in how awesome they are (or, more often, how awesome Pizzazz is).
Yes, Jem and the Holograms sing about self-confidence, too. And about love and compassion and caring and how reading is awesome. But Jem never tells girls to be loud and brash and exuberant about how awesome they are. To crow about it. Because that’s not what girls are supposed to do. Unless they’re misfits.
I love Jem, but eff that nonsense.
So here’s my list of the best Misfits songs (11 of them, because I don’t follow anyone’s rules!). These are songs about rebellion, and not taking a backseat in life, and being true to yourself, and not being afraid to tell everyone within earshot that you are stunning.
Not only is this one of the best Misfits songs ever, the video is also one of their best. It’s a combination of the dance moves, the locations, and Jetta’s sax.
Best Lyric: No sweat, no strain, no ache, no pain/No rules to obey/No sir! No way!
Quintessential Misfits. This song is all about taking what’s yours and not being one bit apologetic about it. Even though Pizzazz totally yanks some guy’s burger almost right out of his mouth, the crowd loves the performance.
Best Lyric: Don’t expect no gratitude/The only thing I give for free is: Attitude!
Pizzazz reveling in her fame and good fortune. It does feel great to be adored. And it’s awesome to see them happy here and not bitter.
Best Lyric: How does it feel/To be as famous as you are?/It feels outta sight!/It feels like you’re a star!
Always loved this video because the ladies are just having fun, for the most part. The driving nature of the music is another big plus. I also like that the lyrics are all about how good they look, and that the Misfits aren’t afraid to boldly state that they are stunning. That kind of straightforward self-praise is thin on the ground in media made for girls.
Best Lyric: More than lookin’ good/We’re lookin’ stunning!
Jem & the Holograms are in this video—despite that, the song is amazing. Because it’s about how Pizzazz isn’t going to sit around waiting for what she wants to come to her, she goes out and gets the things she wants. She’s not going to be coy, she’s not going to be demure, she is going to make demands.
Best Lyrics: Other girls play helpless and coy/Moonin’ over this or that boy/Other girls feel hopeless and trapped/But me, I’ve learned to adapt
I’m a designing woman (I’ve got what it takes)/I’m a designing woman (I make my own breaks)/I’m a designing woman/And I’ve got designs on you!
The electric guitar and synth parts in this song make it work more than anything else, including the lyrics. Even though this does involve some Jem-taunting, I like that the song is mostly a command: Listen up! Pay attention!
Best Lyric: Listen up/You take heed/There’s no way I’m lettin’ you succeed!
Once again, a great song where the Misfits just celebrate their fabulousness. Also, they’re flying around LA on gliders; how badass is that?
Best Lyric: You outta hear the people cheer/When you are fabulous like us!
This is kind of a weird video, and doesn’t make much sense outside of the context of the episode. I have to say, I really enjoy the superband vibe going on, though it’s sad to see the Holograms and the Stingers looking so depressed. Still though, Pizzazz’s exuberance is infectious and reflected well in the pop-y music.
Best Lyric: They said that you would never break through/Oh yeah?/Well pardon me while I gloat!
What could be better than a giant Pizzazz rampaging around like King Kong and menacing Rio? I actually prefer the concert parts of the video. Watching the Misfits perform an actual concert is pretty rare on this cartoon, and it’s easy to see why they have many fans. The ladies give a great show.
Best Lyric: I am twenty stories tall/I am a giant/Towering above it all/Strong and defiant/I am a giant
This is the first appearance of Jetta, and I love, love, love the sax part. This is a hard-driving song in general and really captures the new energy the Misfits get once Jetta shows up.
Though this entire video is just a Holograms taunt, the synth here is really cool. Plus, the Misfits are dancing on roller skates! There’s nothing more fun than that.
Best Lyric: I’ll get the goods on you/My ear is to the ground/And once I’ve got the goods on you/I’ll see it gets around!
What’s your favorite Misfits video? Which one did I miss?
K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author, media critic, and fan of Jem since she was a tiny Tempest. She’s a frequent guest on the JEMcast, a weekly podcast discussing each and every episode of the show. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.