The transition from our teens to becoming a young adult is said to be the best of our lives, which is why so many artists across different genres reflect on significant ages in their music. Khalid fans wake up on their eighteenth birthdays and jam-out to "8TEEN." Girls entering high school listen to Taylor Swift's "Fifteen" and daydream about their first love. Maybe you've struggled to find a song you like to fit your age. Aside from the more well-known, there are many unappreciated songs describing certain years. Here are my favorite songs to celebrate ages:
1. "Fifteen" by Taylor Swift
As mentioned before, this song deals with teen relationships, set during Swift's freshman year of high school. The singer-songwriter, still in her country phase, recounts a true story of her best friend's heartbreak. This song acts as a reminder to young girls that first love may not always last. But if you're lucky, you may find a true friend who always has your back.
2. "Sixteen" by Thomas Rhett
The country singer opens with his fifteen-year-old self, telling his Dad he's no longer a kid, and telling himself life will get better at sixteen—"What I wouldn't give to be sixteen, wild and free/ Cruisin' up and down Main in my F-150." A nostalgic Rhett recalls how, at each age, he couldn't wait to be older. But in the end, all he can think about is waiting to be sixteen.
3. "Sixteen" by Real Friends
Short, but not-so-sweet, this pop-punk ballad depicts a deeper side to one's teenage years—feeling lonely, keeping distant and struggling to figure everything out. Not everyone has a good experience at age sixteen, and that's okay. Such songs are important to show we're not alone in how we feel. Besides, everyone needs a little emo jam session now and then.
4. "Sixteen" by Ellie Golding
This pop song reflects on being young, dumb and in love at age sixteen. Sometimes, being sixteen means being innocent and naïve, looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. "We're still counting stars like we were sixteen."
5. "Seventeen" by Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara wishes she could "freeze the time at seventeen." For the singer-songwriter, who began her career at a young age, growing up and facing reality are common themes in her lyrics. In this pop song, Cara discusses how, as a kid, she didn't fully grasp the concept of growing up. Now, all she wants is to slow down time so she can enjoy being young.
6. “Seventeen” from Heathers: The Musical
For all the theater geeks out there, this song is from one of my all-time favorite musicals. Heathers: The Musical is based on the 1989 film Heathers, a dark comedy about a dangerous teen couple—Veronica and JD—who go a little too far in confronting the bullies and cliques at their high school. Like a much darker yet equally funny Mean Girls, the storyline addresses issues of teen suicide and mental health. In this haunting duet, Veronica begs JD to change his ways, turn a cheek to the ones who hurt them and just enjoy being young: "Can't we be seventeen?"
7. "Seventeen" by Stone Cold Fox
This song is an anthem for a downhearted, indie-music fan. The singer, struggling with his love-life, remembers being seventeen, without a love to lose—"I was a happy kid when I was seventeen."
8. “At Seventeen” by Janis Ian
Featured in the soundtrack for the Netflix mini-series "The End of the Fxxxing World," this soft ballad makes for great background music for studying or working from home. The lyrics sing of outcasted girls looking for love, but always losing to the popular and pretty—"I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was meant for beauty-queens."
9. "17" by Landon Cube and Lil Skies
For rap and R&B fans, this song reflects on old and faded love. A couple, who'd been in love at age 17, reconnects years later. She wishes everything was the way it used to be, whereas he has moved on to "big and better things." For him, their love is just a memory: "I ain't seen you in years, girl, we ain't 17."
10. “Seventeen” by MARINA
This song tells a more personal story, about Marina's father trying to control her life and career. But surely, any girl at seventeen can relate to the broader meaning—at seventeen, we're all just looking for a little independence and trust from the adults in our lives.
11. “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks
This song is one of my all-time favorites. According to Genius Lyrics, the inspiration for the title came from Tom Petty and his wife, Jane Petty. Jane said the couple met at "the age of seventeen," but Nicks thought she said, "edge of seventeen." The song doesn't say much about the seventeen-year-old experience—although it might be a good confidence-booster as you're walking down your high school hallway. This powerful, dramatic rock ballad discusses death—the deaths of both Nick's uncle and John Lennon, which occurred within a close time period. Nicks sings about the confusion which occurs after the tragedy, but also the way we move on for the sakes of those we lost.
12. "Dancing Queen" by ABBA
You've probably heard this one. "Young and sweet, only seventeen"—a girl's go-to Instagram caption for her seventeenth birthday.
13. “18” by One Direction
Although the famous boy band sings about a romance at age 18, a former "Directioner" might hear this song and recall her pre-teen years, gushing over her favorite British heartthrobs. But whether you were swept up in the One Direction craze or not, you can still enjoy this soft, sweet and nostalgic love song.
14. “18” by 5 Seconds of Summer
In this phase of 5 Seconds of Summer, the band resembled an edgier, Australian version of One Direction—a closer product of All Time Low and other pop-punk artists who emerged in the early 2000s. The boys started out in 2011, when the oldest member, Ashton Irwin, was only 17. In this song, a boy in love with an older girl dreams of turning 18, so he can finally pursue her.
As a bonus: the song "Social Casualty," also on the band's debut album, includes the line, "Just a girl, turned 18/ She ran away to chase her dreams."
15. “Eighteen” by Pale Waves
This song describes a perfect romance and first love at age eighteen. The upbeat pop sound perfectly captures the head-spinning, crazy emotions resulting from love.
16. “18” by Landon Cube
The alternative/indie singer-songwriter is solo in this song, about a kid chasing his dreams, and hoping his parents and the ones he loves will support his leaving home. "I'm just tryna be who I pictured I'd be at the age of 18, couple months to 19."
17. “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper
Here's your "can't-go-wrong" classic-rock jam, about being eighteen and wanting a little freedom.
18. “8TEEN” by Khalid
Probably the most popular for the current generation, Khalid's song depicts being 18, navigating life and love while still living at home, having fun and trying to stay out of trouble.
19. “19 + You and Me”
The country music duo confirmed they came up with the title after they wrote the song. The title "19 You + Me" has no set meaning, and the group wishes for listeners to interpret the song however they want. Nineteen could be a year, a place, or of course, an age.
20. “19” by Landon Cube
"I know all good things gotta come to an end/ But I'm 19 swearing that it's all pretend."
After leaving home to chase his dreams, the singer feels foolish, making mistakes and struggling through young adulthood.
21. “19” by FV
This song discusses being in love and leaving home. Like the 1975 and many other alternative bands today, what distinguishes this song is not the lyrics, but the cinematic vibes, perfect for a nighttime drive through the city (The video is set in the band's home-city, Philadelphia).
22. “Nineteen” by Teagan and Sara
This breakup song describes saying goodbye at age nineteen. A slower cover by Hayley Williams has a more melancholy, softer sound than the original.
23. Bonus: "Perfect Places" by Lorde
The singer Lorde was only 19 when she released her album Melodrama. The final track "Perfect Places" features the lyric "I'm 19 and I'm on fire."
24. “Twenty-Somethings” by Judah and the Lion
"We don't know where the road is, but we're having fun" The optimistic indie band perfectly sums-up life in one's twenties. The mellow sounding yet positive anthem describes adulthood as a journey of confusion and slip-ups, but also excitement and adventure happening along the way.
25. “Twenty One” by Khalid
"Twenty One" opens with the line, "You just turned twenty-one/ So you've been drinking." The song is a less-positive contrast to "8TEEN" as it alludes to the pressures felt by one entering adulthood. However, as common in the young artist's music, there's a positive resolution—he urges the listener, "Hold on tight."
26. “Twenty One” by Greyson Chance
He's all-grown-up. The singer, who went viral in 2010 with his piano performance of Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" at his sixth-grade talent show, sings about living in the moment and living life to the fullest. He makes the message in this song quite clear—"We only got one year to be 21."
27. “22” by Taylor Swift
This song needs little introduction. Shifting out of her country-pop phase, Swift celebrates her transition from teen to adulthood in this song, written on her twenty-second birthday. Anyone can relate to this pop anthem about having some reckless fun with good friends.
28. “What’s my Age Again” by Blink 182
The pop-punk band put it best, "Nobody likes you when you're 23"—probably the reason there aren't many songs written about the age.
Click the link below to access the full playlist "For The Ages" on Spotify:
for the ages open.spotify.com