Tunes for the teen in us all
Fact is, about half the rock'n'roll songs ever written are about being a teenager -- whether they explicitly say so or not. Adolescent energy fuels rock music & always has. But a billion-song list would wear thin, wouldn't it? So for this top 10 -- in no particular order -- I'll rein myself in & stick to songs that actually use "teen," "teenager," or a specific (teen) age in the title.
Whether you're a teenager now, like my twins who turned 13 last year (this page is for you, guys!) or just remember having been one at some hazy point in the past, these songs about teenagers will plug you into that exquisite combo of angst & exhilaration that is adolescence. Turn it up!
"Sweet Little Sixteen" - Chuck Berry, 1958
A megahit in its day on both the Billboard and R&B charts, this song still brings the heat.
"Only Sixteen" - Sam Cooke, 1959
"She was too young to fall in love / And I was too young to know" -- sung in one of the silkiest voices in music history. Sigh.
"Thirteen" - Big Star, 1972
Achingly gorgeous Big Star classic, later covered rather beautifully by Elliott Smith, the Posies, and these 3 cute Mumfords-in-training with funny ties-- and (imho) less successfully by Garbage. Wisely included by Rolling Stone in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
"Teenage Riot" - Sonic Youth, 1988
First hushed and moody, then straight-up rocking, this kicks off the band's masterpiece double album Daydream Nation -- an obsessive listen for my early 20s self and, 20 years later, exciting to revisit live at Pitchfork Music Fest. Sonic Youth, "Teenage Riot"
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana, 1991
The song that sent "alternative rock" into the mainstream, for better or worse. Miss ya Kurt.
"Teenage Lobotomy" - Ramones, 1977
Speaks (yells!) for itself.
"I'm Eighteen" - Alice Cooper, 1970
I was 14 when this came out & endlessly annoyed by it. But how could I leave it off the list? Besides, who among us has never felt saddled with "a baby's brain and an old man's heart"?
"Seventh Dream of a Teenage Heaven" - Love & Rockets, 1985
Like a time-machine straight back to my college dorm room. From the awesome album of the same name -- atmospheric psych-rock by 3 guys from Bauhaus.
"Sixteen Again" - Buzzcocks, 1978
Fast & furious was how these influential punk rockers liked it. This song's a perfect example.
"A Teenager in Love" - Dion and the Belmonts, 1959
I confess I had to look up who recorded this, but it's a '50s classic. Dare you not to sing along with the chorus.
More songs about teenagers...
Fun read with some great picks (I hadn't heard of The Beatlettes!):
"50 All-Time Teenage Classics" -- Jon Savage, Observer Monthly via guardian.co.uk
More of a current pop-song focus, from Huffington Post:
And here's a nice compilation of "Songs About Being Young & Confused" (yep, sounds about right ;)
Like my list? Ticked off on behalf of Katy Perry or Janis Ian? Speak your mind here! And thanks for stopping by :)
Niktravelfit on July 03, 2014:
Nice one, thanks for sharing.
anonymous on April 10, 2014:
Cools lens, I enjoyed
Leroy J Dayhoff from Scottsboro, AL on October 22, 2013:
Just knew you would have Nirvana on here. Good call. Opinions may vary on if it fits here or not, but "18 and Life" by Skid Row would be an excellent addition to this list.
Mary (author) from Chicago area on July 14, 2013:
@lionmom100: I know ... if only we could have all the music & discovery without the hormonal angst ;)
lionmom100 on July 12, 2013:
OMG. Take me back.
StaceyWrites on May 29, 2013:
Great list; I'd add "Baba O'Riley" by The Who.
xtianfriborg13 on December 11, 2012:
Teenagers by My Chemical Romance!!!!!!!!!!!
anonymous on February 12, 2012:
"I'm Eighteen" has to be the best song for teenagers I have ever heard. Can still remember what I was doing when I heard that some for the first time. :)