Isn’t it ironic that when we are young, we are itching to grow up and do adult stuff? But when we’re at that adult age, we just want to go back to our childhood days and remain young forever.
For some, the growing-up years are very memorable. Experiences that shape us happen in this period of life. We meet and keep friends, we have crushes, and perhaps some go through a rebellious stage. In short, these years are filled with things that fall between downright comical and embarrassing.
Songwriters also find growing up an endless source of their masterpieces. Here, we’ve compiled 13 of the best songs about growing up, with all its trials and challenges. You might find some that remind you of your teenage years or several that you didn’t know before! In any case, have fun reading!
1. “Landslide” By Fleetwood Mac
This 70s classic from Fleetwood Mac is a relaxing acoustic journey. The singsong melody and soft guitar, strummed like a trickle of water in a forest brook, lull the listener into a false sense of safety and comfort. In reality, the lyrics are talking about the apprehension of changes over time.
Singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks penned the lyrics after being inspired by her shifting career and relationships. The song talks about changes and challenges. One particular line stands out from the rest. “Can I handle the seasons of my life?”
This question has probably resonated with a lot of people, young or old. We just hope that growing up does not discourage us from enjoying life in general.
2. “Changes” By David Bowie
Changes are the only constant in the world. Understandably, getting out of our comfort zone and facing reality can be scary. If you’re looking for something to give you strength, check out David Bowie‘s “Changes.”
With a distinctive vocal rhythm on the chorus, “Changes” is easy to sing along to. The lyrics are imaginative and full, with a thick texture on top of the piano, saxophone, and drums that accompany the words.
The lyrics reflect someone’s desire to step out on his own. The chorus goes, “Turn and face the strange changes.” Those are just the right words for anyone who’s still doubting himself.
3. “It Was A Very Good Year” By Frank Sinatra
In four verses, “It Was a Very Good Year” describes an old man looking back on his life with all the fond memories of his youth. This is one of those songs that do not need deep analysis because the message is pretty straightforward.
Frank Sinatra sings of a man’s bittersweet recollection starting when he was 17. This refers to a time of romance and friendship. The next verse sings about another milestone in the man’s life: 21. From the lyrics, you can tell that he’s already living on his own.
The third verse recounts his experiences when he was 35. It seems that he is more stable at this age. The last verse finds the man in his old age. He remarks upon the changing landscape in front of him and how life seems to go by so quickly in retrospect.
4. “Wide Open Spaces” By The Chicks
This song hits right home for people leaving the life they’ve known to venture out and be independent. The Chicks are able to capture the feeling of someone making a life of her own after high school with “Wide Open Spaces.”
The small-town girl in this song embodies how many of us feel when young. Ambitious and restless. Though she might be slightly clueless as to what the world holds, she’s determined to find out, even if it means making some mistakes along the way. That’s part of growing up.
An ode to following one’s dreams, this remains one of the Chicks’ most popular songs. Strong vocals and tasty fiddle licks punctuate a rambling, easy bluegrass feel.
5. “The Circle Game” By Joni Mitchell
Poetic, vibrant, and bittersweet, Joni Mitchell portrays the steady passage of time in this folksy anthem. It’s from the 1960s, so it’s more subtle and less emotionally intense than some of her later songs.
Nevertheless, there’s plenty of poignancy in “The Circle Game.” It talks about a child becoming an adult. The carousel in the lyrics is a metaphor for the circular loop of seasons and years passing. A line says, “We’re captive on the carousel of time.” It means we can look back, but we cannot go back to the past.
With each loop of the carousel, the child grows up until he’s 20. He has new dreams to attain before the year is over.
6. “Cat’s In The Cradle” By Harry Chapin
Get some tissues ready when you listen to Harry Chapin‘s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” The song is able to show the reality of some father-and-son relationships.
The father watching his son grow up provides a unique perspective to the coming-of-age story. Here, the father realizes that their connection weakens every time their quality time is interrupted by work obligations.
This is one of the songs that mentions growing up in the lyrics. A line says, “He’d grown up just like me/My boy was just like me.” You’d think the father should be proud of it. But the fact is, his son becomes another version of himself: someone who’s busy with a career that he barely has time for his own children.
7. “Somewhere Only We Know” By Keane
This is another song about reflecting on one’s younger years. English Indie-rock band Keane strikes everyone with nostalgia with their single, “Somewhere Only We Know.”
The narrator of the song is in his old age, and he goes through places and experiences with someone. His companion could be a friend or a lover. While he goes around, he reflects on where the time has gone.
He also knows that his years are numbered, as told in the line, “This could be the end of everything.” So he realizes that now is the time to go visit the places he’d been and talk about the past.
8. “I Won’t Grow Up” By Mary Martin
An example of a song with growing up or grow up in the title is Mary Martin‘s “I Won’t Grow Up.” Broadway fans will be familiar with this song from the stage musical Peter Pan.
The story of a boy who doesn’t want to become an adult is a thematic plot point of the original folk tale, as well as the Broadway version. The lyrics reflect this, where the character sings, “I won’t grow up/I won’t grow up.” Then he goes on to say that he doesn’t want to go to school or work.
Onstage, Mary Martin sang the role for the original Broadway recording. Lyrical and playful, “I Won’t Grow Up” is easy to sing along to and inspires a naive and youthful attitude in anyone who hears it.
9. “Stop This Train” By John Mayer
Shedding his rock-star persona, John Mayer assumes an introspective one on “Stop This Train.” He turns philosophical when thinking of generations passing and his parents letting him go. Though undeniably sad, there’s also a feeling of optimism in his musings.
In the song, he is asking for the train to stop. The train is a metaphor for the speed at which his younger self hurtles toward adulthood. It’s too fast, but at the song’s end, he realizes he doesn’t want to stop the train.
A calming guitar pattern melds with soft percussion brushes and gentle piano tinkles to create a lovely lullaby. It doesn’t sound anything like the anxiety he portrays with his words. It’s as if he’s resigned himself to the momentum.
10. “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” By The Ramones
The 90s gave us this punk-rock anthem, complete with lots of attitudes. The Ramones wear black leather and sunglasses to project a too-cool demeanor. This is while fighting against grownup life and mundane tasks.
To add to the juvenile theme, the music video uses a montage of animated cartoon characters. It’s hard to tell whether they’re making fun of their boring parents or themselves. They eventually give in to adulthood despite their best efforts.
Colorful, fun, and rebellious, this song embodies resistance to adult responsibility in a way that punk does best.
11. “Young” By Kenny Chesney
We’ve all been at a young age, so we can relate to the message behind Kenny Chesney‘s “Young.” The song jumped to #2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart when it dropped in the early 2000s.
In the song, Chesney reminisces about the things he did, most probably at high school. He speaks of fashion choices, idleness, and figuring out girls. Generally, he talks about the confusion and awkwardness of being a teenager.
At some point, he complains about how time goes by fast. At the same time, he wishes that he and his friends are older.
12. “In This Diary” By The Ataris
Another song that mentions growing up in a nostalgic way is The Ataris‘ “In This Diary.” This track is a must-listen for any punk fan who misses the good old days of being a kid.
Energetic and bittersweet, it uses a classic electric sound to replicate the attitude of youth. You can almost see the mosh pit and feel your ears ringing, even if you are just listening to it at home.
The song centers on the experience of growing up in the 80s. There were no cell phones or the Internet then. “In This Diary” acknowledges that “being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up.”
13. “For Youth” By BTS
This list wouldn’t be complete without a song from singers who spent their teenage years in the music industry. Which group has experienced this more than BTS?
The Korean superstars released “For Youth” in 2022 as part of their anthology album. Though the song was a tribute to their fans, some lyrics in the song pertain to their experiences when they were younger.
You can say that “For Youth” is a tribute to the moments of younger years. It includes the people you meet along the way. The group wonders what would have happened if events had unfolded differently. This echoes our questions when we look back on the changes we experienced throughout the years.
Summing Up Our List Of Growing Up Songs
Whether pop, rock, punk, or country, there is no shortage of music about growing up. This period is full of vivid imagery and some of our fondest memories.
We hope you enjoyed listening through this list and found new favorite songs. Maybe you’ll even find the inspiration to write your own!
After all, no two teenagers have the same experience. There’s always something new to learn. The best we can do is hope to grow up as a smarter and stronger person.