The bat mitzvah playlist: a tradition as old as DJs and as significant as the meaning of your Torah portion. The music you chose to enter into womanhood told the world who you were as a person. It was a deeply political question: Were you team Britney or Christina? Backstreet Boys or N’SYNC? Destiny’s Child or solo Beyoncé? You also needed to know your audience. Did songs have to be censored so as not to offend elderly relatives? Could you grind or line dance or both?
Most importantly, did you get to wear a shiny plastic fedora?
Your choices could make or break the vibe of your party. If that party took place in the early to mid-2000s, you may remember the following 13 songs as the epitome of bat mitzvah music. Go ahead and just try not to dance.
1. Cotton Eyed Joe, Rednex (1995)
It’s a mystery to me how a song about a girlfriend-stealing cowboy (by a band literally called REDNEX) snuck its way into bat mitzvah parties all across the USA. I may or may not have twisted my ankle while over-enthusiastically hopping to this old chestnut.
2. Cha Cha Slide, Mr. C the Slide Man (2000)
Was my Hebrew school class the only one that really liked line dancing? I won’t lie, 12/13-year-old me loved this song and requested it at multiple parties #noshame
3. Aaron’s Party (Come Get It), Aaron Carter (2000)
With a name like Aaron, you could fool your older relatives into thinking this was a nice Jewish role model instead of a poorly behaved bad boy with a penchant for crazy house parties.
4. Independent Women, Destiny’s Child (2001)
Every girl needed Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle’s help to announce they are women. Bonus points if you tried to recreate their dance moves with your friends.
5. I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman, Britney Spears (2001)
Ain’t it the truth, Britney.
6. Hero, Enrique Iglesias (2001)
In my pre-teen mind, becoming a woman mostly meant getting to wear bras and kiss boys. You know, woman stuff! I desperately wanted my first kiss to happen with this song playing in the background. Of course that plan inevitably failed. Full disclosure: I had braces and a unibrow for the majority of 2001, so it’s not altogether shocking that my first kiss took a few more years.
7. She Will Be Loved, Maroon 5 (2002)
Adam Noah Levine gave hope to millennial Jews everywhere that it is possible to find a sexy Jewish rock star who your bubbe would approve of.
8. Hot In Herre, Nelly (2002)
Shouting, “I am getting so hot, I’m gonna take my clothes off” in front of your family was another rite of passage unto itself.
9. Hey Ya, Outkast (2003)
After you painfully pieced together what your Torah portion meant to you, you needed to answer the really important questions like, “What is cooler than being cool?” and, “How do you shake it like a Polaroid picture?”
10. In Da Club, 50 Cent (2003)
This song was a game changer in that its slow beat gave even the most awkward kids an opportunity to dance. Plus the lyrics were racy enough to offend parents and relatives in case you needed to liven things up.
11. Ignition Remix, R. Kelly (2003)
[Ed note: We will not be including a YouTube video of this one. Sorry not sorry.]
We know now that R. Kelly is indisputably human garbage, but this song was (and is) an early 2000s classic.
12. Leave (Get Out), Jojo (2004)
Jojo captured the drama of being a 13-year-old so well.
13. The Hora
If you didn’t dance awkwardly in the middle of the circle in front of everyone you knew, were you really even bat mitzvahed?
If you want to relive the glory days, check out Alma’s very own ’90s Bat Mitzvah playlist, available on Spotify.