The Evolution of Degrassi Opening Themes
Let's take you back to school with a look at every single Degrassi theme song!
Degrassi has been running in Canada since 1979, and in that time it has had a lot of different opening themes. I mean a lot. Have you seen those compilations on YouTube? They run upwards of fifteen minutes! You can put that thing on loop for hours and have some solid jams.
Even if we haven’t had any new Degrassi since Degrassi: Next Class on Netflix, a friend of mine and I were comparing the new opening sequence to the older ones and it became a two hour conversation. What does each opening say about the series? What is it trying to convey? Is it effective? I know this is a lot of thought to put into a Canadian teen drama, but the thing has been on for over 35 years! This is a franchise on the level of Star Trek. Oh yeah, I went there. Why not pick it apart and really get into the nitty gritty?
Just so you all know, I’m not going to cover all the “special” openings for one off specials. I’m also not going to cover the Degrassi Talks opening, as much as it might be my favorite thing ever. Seriously, Degrassi Talks is so legit and that opening is my new inspirational jam. Where’s my 2019 remix?
The Kids of Degrassi Street
AKA Murder on Degrassi Street
Let me let you all in on a little secret. I’ve never seen The Kids of Degrassi Street. I know! I’m not a true Degrassi fan.
But come on, these aren’t even in continuity with the main series (and since I just talked about continuity in relation to a teen drama you know I’m THAT kind of fan). Still, I was kind of excited to see the opening. Maybe it would blow my expectations out of the water. After all, an opening theme should get you excited about a show. It should make you want to stick around for half an hour. It should tell you everything you need to know (so basically, screw you modern TV openings).
So… is Kids of Degrassi Street about the rapture? With all the images of abandoned playgrounds you’d think so. That giant group shot could easily be a missing persons photo.
read more: 10 Great Back to School Movies and TV Episodes
What is this show about? Is it about all those kids? Who are they? Yeah, I know The Kids of Degrassi Street was more of an anthology but come on. Do something funky! Something more representative of childhood then images that look like they came out of a slasher movie.
If I turned this on I would have no reason to stick around. It looks boring! Ugh, so many kids. I am never going to learn all of their names. Okay, that isn’t fair to say for a show that was shot on a budget of five dollars but you get my point. This is not something that gets an audience hyped for a show. Plus the length. What was I just saying? Ten seconds is not enough to get an audience interested in your show.
Degrassi Junior High
AKA Pure ’80s Cheese
In case you weren’t aware, I’m 24. I only bring this up because I’m probably the only Degrassi Junior High fan under the age of 30 on the planet. This opening should be the antithesis of cool to me.
Ugh, what a cheesy song. It’s so after school special! Ugh, this is for babies! What is that font? What are these clothes? This is so dated!
I love it.
It perfectly nails the tone of the show. What it lacks in polished visuals it more than makes up for with a catchy song. A song that invites you into this world. A song that lets you know these random 80s-riffic kids are about to face some hard times, but friendship will get them through it all.
If it stopped there, it’d be fun but not really all that noteworthy. But it’s the last set of lyrics that speak to me.
Everybody can succeed all you need is to believe, be honest with yourself, forget your fears and doubts, come on give us a try at Degrassi Junior High.
This is my jam! It’s inspirational! I’d totally put this on my workout playlist.
It’s where the song shifts from talking about what’s going to happen at Degrassi and focuses on you. Come on, you can do it. This show will give you all the tools you need. Come on; sit down with us for half an hour so we can show you why getting pregnant in middle school is a SUPER drag. For a show that’s all about slice of life and dealing with big problems, it’s perfect.
So what about the visuals? Well, all the kids are alive, so we’re already miles ahead of The Kids of Degrassi Street.
The big problem here is that the shots tell you next to nothing about the characters. Oh sure, they seem like they’re energetic and adorable but we’re going to be following all of these kids? The opening needs to be a little cheat sheet to all of them. Give us a little clue to their personality. Here we’ve just got some random smiling and a set of twins that are ALWAYS in the same shot together. Seriously, do they ever get to do their own thing?
read more: The Best Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes
And yeah, the show is now being shot for ten dollars but it unexpectedly works really well. The low budget of Degrassi makes the school and the characters feel real. This looks it could be in your school! This could be your life!
AKA Why The Butt?
While on the surface this is just an updated version of the Junior High theme, there’s a little more going on here. The visuals are more amped up. Bigger things are happening! Bullying, unwanted kissing, car accidents, fights, interracial romance, and those twins looking pretty damn concerned. All the characters are growing up and their problems are getting bigger!
The lyrics are still just as inspirational but they kinda suck now. I mean, they had to change the whole song just to make the rhyme at the end work.
Everybody can succeed, in yourself, you must believe, give it a try at Degrassi High.
It just sounds awkward. The whole flow is off. But let’s get to the real issue here. The second biggest reason why I wanted to write this article (the first is because of the new opening theme, SPOILER).
The opening ends with the logo coming out of a trophy because uh… Degrassi is a winner? Sure, okay, but then we zoom in to a super tight close up on a girls butt and the logo gets all huge.
read more: Rock n’ Roll High School vs. Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park
To this day I struggle to understand the decision here. Is it because jeans are cool? Butts are a thing in high school? Are they trying to sexualize this girl? Is it a commentary on how dudes are always checking out girls butts? Whatever the reason, it comes off pretty pointless and hella creepy. This is a teenage girl’s butt we’re looking at. We don’t need this. But hey, I guess the butt was such a hallmark of the series they felt the need to bring it back.
Degrassi: The Next Generation Seasons 1-2
AKA Degrassi is Back and So is The Butt
Right off the bat this opening is letting you know that THIS AIN’T THE ’80s ANYMORE. Check out this dope computer! (How much you wanna bet Emma totally owns Quake III on that thing?)
We’ve got e-mail! 21st century, YEAH! Thankfully, we aren’t totally obsessed with the new century. Besides JT’s totally not dated flame shirt. Pour one out for JT’s flame shirt. And JT.
We’ve got a pretty neat (albeit faked) tracking shot that follows some magical e-mail that flies around the school akin to the butterfly in the Reading Rainbow opening. We see shots of our entire main cast. We finally know who we’re supposed to care about. No more random shots, this whole sequence was specifically created to get you into this world. While some of the shots are more effective than others (Manny’s doesn’t say much, Paige’s says EVERYTHING) it’s still engaging. It’s different. They’ve got a real budget now. It looks better than Degrassi ever has.
read more: The 27 Meanest High School Girls in the Movies
It sounds better, too. While I love the Degrassi Junior High theme, its age shows. This one is more timeless. The instrumentals have changed but these base lyrics have pretty much stayed with the show to this day. You can see why. The song is an anthem not only to the characters but the audience as well and it says it all with the first line.
Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through.
That’s it. It’s the perfect message for a teen drama that claims to put its characters through “real life situations.” While the opening doesn’t reflect all the struggles these kids will go through, it doesn’t need to. It gives you just enough to bring you in. We don’t need to see Manny getting an abortion (although how ballsy would that be to put in an opening sequence?). These are our friends and we want to root for them. You want to go on this journey right by their sides.
You also wonder why this chorus of kids is practicing in the same room as the basketball team and are way chill about it.
You ALSO wonder why that creepy butt shot is at the end. Oh yeah, cause it’s “iconic.”
Look guys, I know this is called “The Next Generation” but don’t you remember how awful it was when early Star Trek: The Next Generation tried to harken back to the TOS days? Yeah, it blew. “The Naked Now” sucked (this is for all five of you who are Star Trek AND Degrassi fans). Forge a new path for yourself. Having Snake in the opening is totally fine and adorable. The Butt Shot was not. Let it die.
Side note, never listen to the full theme. Rap interludes are a no.
Degrassi: The Next Generation Seasons 3-5
AKA SO MANY OLD PEOPLE
Oh thank god, the Butt Shot is gone. If it had stuck around for another season we would be in serious danger of it becoming “the thing we have to do or the fans will get mad.” Can you imagine fifteen seasons of Butt Shots? We’re thankfully spared this and get the Back Shot. Zooming in on a kids back is about five billion times less creepy and I applaud the abandonment of the Butt Shot. Let it never be seen again.
What we haven’t abandoned is the reliance on Degrassi’s past. Look, I’m a big fan of the old characters. To this day I will yell at my buddy Ashley that I want more references to the classic series. But the opening theme is the wrong place to put them.
This opening is supposed to sell kids on your show. You know what kids don’t want? Five adults in your opening. One or two is fine. Snake is always welcome.
But when you’ve got four chilling at a picnic table at the school? No. This is not their show anymore. Even if they do show up in the episodes, do not take this opening away from the kids. They are and should always be the focal point.
read more – Complete Guide to Marvel and MCU Easter Eggs in Spider-Man: Homecoming
The way they focus on the kids is the strongest part, actually. We get a nifty framing device where Ellie is filming everyone and we see them either reacting to the camera or just going about their regular activities. This opening doesn’t just invite you into Degrassi, it puts you there. You are in the halls of Degrassi amongst its students.
It does the same thing the last opening did in giving you little snippets of these characters and they’re again a mixed bag. Manny’s is bland. Spinner’s is great. Hazel’s would be bad except it actually sums up her entire purpose on the show, to support other characters. We’ve got so many people now it’s a little hard to give everyone a real chance to shine. It’s a shame that’s the case, but you can’t make the thing three minutes long.
Degrassi: The Next Generation Seasons 6-7
AKA The Ones From The Seasons Nobody Liked
As the show struggled to find a direction, so did its opening theme. I praised the last theme for inviting the viewer into Degrassi. Being a part of it. This opening puts you at arms length. What am I watching? A generic soap opera? Where did the lyrics go? What is this?
I’m not going to say this is the worst Degrassi theme (The Kids of Degrassi Street, amirite?) but it doesn’t say anything about the show. I guess I do like the inclusion of clips from the episodes but you can barely see what’s going on. You’d need a wiki to figure this all out.
No surprise, fans hated this opening. It even got a mention on one of the Degrassi commentaries. It was hated that badly. I get what they were going for. They thought the little kids chorus was too immature and didn’t mesh well with the more serious episodes of the show.
read more: The Sailor Moon/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Connection
I agree on the part of the little kid’s chorus. For the first three seasons I’d say it was fine but as the kids got older the song needed to change with them. The visuals were just fine, though.
This is just an example of Degrassi trying to rebrand itself through its opening theme. This was a failure. The next time this happens it’ll be a different story.
But hey, at least most of the adults are gone except for Snake and Spike. Oh Spike, you did nothing in these later seasons.
Degrassi: The Next Generation Seasons 8-9
AKA ZOMG Skateboarding
After the backlash, they returned to form with another “camera following everyone” opening. The big problem here is that a bunch of the characters don’t even go to Degrassi anymore. They’ve got to shoehorn a reason for them to even be in the opening. Oh yeah guys, I totally bring my new hot college boyfriend to my old high school for funsies!
read more: The Best DC Comics Moments From Smallville
The shots do communicate a lot about the characters, more so then previous years. I mean really, the Holly J shot when she slides into frame? Flawless. I mean it isn’t subtle, but it works. This isn’t high art. They save that for the artsy promos. Remember the Shark in the Water promo? I’d kind of love an opening on that level, but this works perfectly fine.
Oh yeah, they also switched singers between the seasons. Season 8’s Damhnait Doyle is pretty bad. It sounds a little too country? Season 9’s is far better. Studz for life! Plus it introduces my boy Declan. Declan the Vampire for life!
Degrassi Seasons 10-10.5
AKA The Best One
So the openings are all fairly similar at this point but I’m going to go on record and say 10.5 is my favorite. At least of the “camera following everyone” years.
The background extras are on point. Look at that dude reacting to the skateboarder. He’s losing his mind! Those shots of Clare and Eli are perfect! OTP! The energy here is really good, the cuts are all fantastic. Adam’s stoic walk down the hall is the closest thing we’ve had to subtle in any of these openings. Alli gets the Back Shot! But let’s talk about the greatest shot in all of Degrassi history. The cheerleader shot.
read more: Memorable Improvised Moments on Scripted TV
It’s flawless. The way the claps are timed perfectly to the song. The hands in the air. The smiles on everyone’s faces! I love it! Degrassi has yet to top this shot.
Oh yeah, they also stopped playing around and dropped the “Next Generation” subtitle and it’s just “Degrassi” now. Good, the show has been on for ten seasons now. They’ve firmly stepped out of the shadow of the original series.
Degrassi Seasons 11-12
AKA ZOMG PARKOUR!
So we’ve got the “camera following everyone” style without the actual camera. It kind of defeats the purpose behind it, but it’s still effective so I’ll let it go.
There are some differences between seasons 11 and 12 but they’re all basically the same minus a few cast members. That one shot with the four hockey players is a bit much, I can barely figure out who’s who!
The most important addition is the change in the ending, especially season 12’s. We’ve still got the Back Shot, but this time it isn’t just one person. It’s Clare surprising Alli, laughing to the camera, and walking toward the school as the logo comes out of Clare’s back. While it communicates Clare and Alli’s friendship, it also represents how friendship is such a key part of the show. By placing it as the stinger on the opening, it really sells how important it is. I love it.
read more: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episode Roadmap for Beginners
Season 11 had Drew smoldering at you before the Back Shot. Really? That’s who you want? Okay, if you’re a 15 year old who likes boys, probably. Clare and Alli is the better choice. It’s fun and inviting, not trying to get you into bed. Yeah Drew, I know your games. (Just kidding, love you Drew!)
The song has now switched back to a female singer and it perfectly reflects how much the show has shifted to a female driven series. It was subtle over the years but the more recent seasons have put the girls in the spotlight and having a female lead singer is perfect for that.
Degrassi Seasons 13-14
AKA ZOMG Nooooooooo
Guys, no. No. No. No. Do not go back to the length of The Kids of Degrassi Street. Do not fall into the trap of modern openings being super short. You can’t get into the song! The opening is supposed to take me into the world of Degrassi. This is just a very short highlight reel that is too impossibly vague for me to get a reading on any of these characters.
Friendship? Kissing! Smiling! Eyebrow waggling! Dancing! Hugging! Dating? SCOWLING!
This also means we’re forced to sit through five minutes of on screen credits during the episode itself so we can list our fifty billion cast members.
read more: The Best Genre TV Heroines
So what’s worse, this opening or Seasons 6-7? Well first off, The Kids of Degrassi Street. Obvi. Oh yeah I’m so cool, picking on low budget TV.
Besides that, I’d say this one. As much as Seasons 6-7 was generic, it at least gave everyone some time to shine. Here it’s too fast. Too in your face. But hey, at least they kept the most important part of the lyrics.
Degrassi: Next Class (Season 1-4)
AKA A Bold New Start
Remember what I mentioned about Degrassi rebranding itself? This is rebranding done right. I may be calling it too soon, but this opening has a serious chance of dethroning Season 10.5 as my favorite opening sequence. It’s the most innovative thing they’ve done with the opening ever.
Gone is “camera following everyone” style. While certainly a hallmark of the series, I wouldn’t exactly call it unique. New Class has opted for something much more current and relevant. The whole thing is social media inspired, with Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat themes all over the place. We see quick flashes of everyone taking selfies and engaging in general silliness.
This looks like something a teenager could actually make in After Effects. It isn’t Degrassi trying to look relevant. It isn’t Degrassi looking at itself and asking, “This is popular, right?” It feels real.
It’s inviting you to come along on this ride with the characters. “Hey, come hang out in our world. It’s pretty fun! Join our social circle.” It’s like you’re one snapchat away from being at Degrassi.
But is this representative of the whole show? Not exactly, but the social media theme makes it work. It doesn’t represent the bad things because who posts a selfie of their horrible day? These kids are portraying themselves at their best. They’re being the best they can be. Oh, man…theme song synergy! The show itself is what’s behind the social media, what we don’t show to everyone.
read more: The Forgotten Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comic
You’ll get to the heartbreak when you watch the episodes. This opening, as all the best Degrassi openings have done, brings you into the world. Catches your attention. Degrassi: Next Class is a brand new start to the series and will be a jumping on point for viewers. This opening is a great peek into what they’re in for.
Will this social media style date the opening down the road? Probably, but no more so then fashions or that cheesy font in the Degrassi Junior High opening.
They’re also keeping the opening theme music, albeit slightly remixed. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Degrassi should keep this theme for as long as they can. Remix it as need be. Change the singer. But keep those lyrics. They’re really everything you need to know about the show.
So tell me, what’s your favorite opening from Degrassi? Your least favorite? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for more Degrassi coverage right here on Den of Geek!
Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter! Read more articles by him here!