45 songs about growing up

There’s no denying that getting older sucks but these musicians have perfectly captured the road to adulthood. There are those reflecting on a youth gone by and others documenting feelings of first love, escaping your hometown and dreaming of something more in real time. Whatever stage you’re at in life, here are forty-five of the best songs about growing up. It happens to the best of us.

1. Tame Impala – ‘Patience

That old parental mantra: “When are you gonna grow up and get a proper job” seems to be at the heart of this track which also grapples with the band’s own anxiety about the trajectory of their success.

Coming of age lyric: “They would ask me all the time/Every time the show’s up/”So what you doin’ with your life”/It ain’t givin’ up/Just growin’ up in stages.”

2. Supergrass – ‘Alright’

Is there a better anthem for the joys of youth?

Coming of age lyric: “We are young, we run green/Keep our teeth nice and clean/See our friends, see the sights/Feel alright”

3. John Mellencamp‘Jack and Diane’

No growing up list would be complete without the nostalgic rust belt romance from Heartland rocker John Mellencamp and his tale about teenage sweethearts whose best years may already be behind then.

Coming of age lyric: “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone”

4. The Jam – ‘When You’re Young

A depressing ditty, this time about the inevitable crushing of youthful energy and rebellion. 

Coming of age lyric: “Why the world is your oyster but your future’s a clam”

5.  Chance the Rapper – ‘Nostalgia

Memories of childhood innocence, SpongeBob and the Simpsons are juxtaposed with the adult reality of young men dying young either from drugs or violence in Chance’s song about looking back.

Coming of age lyric: “Round here we lose best friends like every week/I like to think we playin’ a long game of hide and go seek”

6. Clairo – ‘Bags’

A song about mustering the courage to tell your friend you like them, worrying that it will cause them to leave forever. Something that gets easier with age.. a bit easier, anyway.

Coming of age lyric: “Can you see me? I’m waiting for the right time/I can’t read you but, if you want, the pleasure’s all mine “

7. The Ramones – ‘I don’t Want to Grow Up

Let’s face it. Who the hell does…. particularly if follicular challenges lay ahead.

Coming of age lyric: “I don’t want to grow up/I don’t want to have to shout it out/I don’t want my hair to fall out”

8. 1975 – ‘Give Yourself a Try

A call for a little self love not loathing. Own your shit, admit your past failings but ultimately give yourself a try.

Coming of age lyric: “And what would you say to your younger self?/Growing a beard’s quite hard/And whiskey never starts to taste nice.”

9. The Cure –  ‘In Between Days

The Goth’s got it right. There’s nothing to be cheerful about. It’s bloody depressing and miserable getting old. 

Coming of age lyric: “Yesterday I got so old/I felt like I could die.”

10.  New Order – ‘True Faith

Another song about childhood innocence and friendships lost to adult addiction

Coming of age lyric: “To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear”

11. Blink 182 – ‘What’s My Age Again

When your idea of fun is prank calling your girlfriend’s mum to tell her that her hubby’s been arrested for sodomy… perhaps it’s hardly surprising?

Coming age lyric: ”Nobody likes you when you’re twenty three”

12. Oasis – ‘Fade Away

A track about adult disappointment and the way in which childhood dreams so rarely amount to anything.

Coming of age lyric: “When I was young/I thought I had my own key/I knew exactly/what I wanted to be”

13. Bronski Beat – ‘Smalltown Boy

Coming of age lyric: “You leave in the morning with everything you own in a little black case/Alone on a platform, the wind and the rain on a sad and lonely face”

The struggles and loneliness of growing up a gay teen in a small provincial town are keenly described in this breakthrough hit for a band which included in its ranks that vicar off the telly.

14.  The Specials – ‘Too Much Too Young

Amazingly this song warning of the perils of teenage pregnancy and growing up too fast was actually banned by the BBC. How times have changed.

Coming of age lyric: “You’ve done too much, much too young/Now you’re married with a kid /When you could be having fun with me”

15. Pet Shop Boys – ‘Being Boring

A personal bittersweet song about sorrow and success. Speaking in 1993, Neil Tennant described it as being “about a friend of mine who died of AIDS, and so it’s about our lives when we were teenagers and how we moved to London, and I suppose me becoming successful and him becoming ill.”

Coming of age lyric: “When I look back upon my life/It’s always with a sense of shame”

16.  Beabadoobee – ‘I wish I was Stephen Malkmus’

A song about idolising musicians (and sometimes getting to live your dreams).

Coming of age lyric: “I sit at home, cry to Pavement/I wish I was Stephen Malkmus”

17. Lorde – ‘Tennis Court

A song about knowing great things are to come and savouring youth before everything changes.

Coming of age lyric: “Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane/I’ll see the veins of my city like they do in space”

18. Sinead O’Connor – ‘Never Get Old

Yep, growing old sucks but at least the music keeps on playing. A cause for celebration given some of the golden oldies on this playlist.

Coming of age lyric: She moves with the music/`Cause it never gets old/It’s the only thing/That never gets old

19. Fontaines D.C. – ‘Big

In a lyric which swaggers with the arrogance of youth, the singer rejects his Dublin roots, confident that his break out and success are a dead cert. 

Coming of age lyric: “My childhood, it was small/But I’m gonna be big”

20. My Chemical Romance – ‘Teenagers’

“It’s ok to not follow the herd” is My Chemical Romance’s mantra and this song perfectly sums up the plight of the teenage outcast.

Coming of age lyric: “The boys and girls in the clique/The awful names that they stick/You’re never gonna fit in much, kid”

21. The Smiths – ‘There Is a  Light That Will Never Go Out

Perfectly encapsulating that sense of teenage isolation and alienation from home and family. 

Coming of age lyric: “Oh, please don’t drop me home /because it’s not my home, it’s their home/and I’m welcome no more”

22. Pulp – ‘Disco 2000

A nostalgic trip tinged with sadness and telling a tale of unrequited teenage love.

Coming of age lyric: And I said, ‘let’s all meet up in the year 2000/Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown?

23. PJ Harvey – ‘It’s You

A song about the obsessive nature of first love next to which religious and parental devotion come a pale second. 

Coming of age lyric: “When I was younger/I spent my days/wondering to whom/I was supposed to pray”

24. Foals – ‘Birch Tree’

Ages in stages, layered a bit like an onion.

Coming of age lyric: “And when we age shed our skin and grow/ We shed our layers, spread our wings and go”

25. The Smashing Pumpkins – ‘1979’ 

A lyrical expression of that old adage “youth is wasted on the young”. This nostalgic track manages to capture a sense of the thrills, tedium and restlessness of youth.

Coming of age lyric: “June bug skipping like a stone / With the headlights pointed at the dawn / We were sure we’d never see an end to it all”

26. Kojaque – ‘White Noise

Hard hitting lyrics full of social commentary about the experience of growing up in poverty and violence and learning to navigate the Dublin streets.

Coming of age lyric: “I’m just a north side, DC baby/ Me mammy raised me by the horse ridin’/Council housing, crisis, crazy”

27. The Killers – ‘When You Were Young

And sometimes you close your eyes/And see the place where you used to live/When you were young

Well they do say home is where the heart is.  In the case of Brandon Flowers this was Las Vegas, so hardly surprising it made a big impression.

28. Go Betweens –  ‘Cattle and Cane

From the Nevadan desert to an Australian cattle ranch, in this poetic evocation of wasted memories and regret.

Coming of age lyric: “I recall, a schoolboy coming home, through fields of cattle and cane/To a house of tin and timber, and in the sky, a rain of falling cinders”

29. Childish Gambino – ‘Hold You Down

The struggle to belong for a biracial kid who was made to feel a perpetual outsider… black but not black enough.

Coming of age lyric: “But n**gas got me feelin’ I ain’t black enough to go to church”

30. St Vincent – ‘Teenage Talk

Teenage memories associated with an unspecified sense of guilt.

Coming of age lyric: “How do you see me now/Now that I’m a little bit older, older?/And now remind my albatross/Smouldering on my shoulder, shoulder”

31. Joni Mitchell – ‘Circle Game

Growing up is like being trapped on a giant hamster wheel.

Coming of age lyric: ”We’re captive on the carousel of time/We can’t return we can only look behind”

32. Oasis – ‘Just Getting Older’

Hmm… the answer to the below, is maybe a bit of both?

Coming of age lyric: “Am I cracking up/Or just getting older?”

33. Father John Misty – ‘So I’m growing old on magic mountain

I wanna grow old on magic mountain with Father John Misty.

Coming of age lyric: ”These days the years thin till I can’t remember/Just what it feels like to be young forever”

34. Sunflower Bean – ‘Twentytwo’

Described as a folk rock anthem about faded youth, this song feels imbued with a sense of fight and determination not to surrender to darkness and depression. 

Coming of age lyric: “I do not go quietly/Into the night that calls me

35.  Slowthai – ‘Northampton’s Child

The struggles of growing up poor and the love and gratitude he feels for his mum. He actually has a tat saying ‘sorry mum’ on his chest.

Coming of age lyric: “Northampton General, 1994/Mixed race baby born/Christmas well a week before/Mum’s 16, family’s poor”

36. Laura Marling – ‘Failure

A song about growing up and becoming disillusioned with the things once revered when young.

Coming of age lyric: “And his songs were pathetic/And he’s a failure now”

37. Dua Lipa – ‘Boys Will Be Boys

How girls are forced to grow up faster in order to protect themselves from a world of male violence

Coming of age lyric: “Boys will be, boys will be boys/But girls will be women”

38. They Might Be Giants – ‘Youth Culture Killed My Dog

According to John Flanders this is a true story about his dog Iggy who bit a lady in the supermarket when ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ came on the tannoy. While definitely hoping Iggy got to RIP an alternative reading is that this it’s about growing up and struggling to fit in with the cool kids.

Coming of age lyric: ”Bacharach and David used to write his favourite songs/Never, never, never would he worry, he’d just run and fetch the ball/But the hip hop and the white funk just blew away my puppy’s mind”

39. Sam Fender – ‘The Borders

A story about understanding and the way in which hardship and a troubled childhood set two boyhood friends on very different life paths 

Coming of age lyric: “We were like brothers/Everybody said we looked the same”

40. Lily Allen – ‘Alfie’

An apology to her brother for being a bit of a dick growing up.

Coming of age lyric: “I don’t know why I felt the need to keep it up for oh so long/It’s all my fault I’m sorry you did absolutely nothing wrong”

41. Wolf Alice – ‘Bros’

A celebration of enduring friendships, the kind you make when you’re young.

Coming of age lyric: “Forget our mothers and past lovers, forget everyone/Oh, I’m so lucky, you are my best friend”

42. Billy Bragg/Jamie T – ‘A New England

Billy Bragg was 21 years when he wrote this song about growing up and wanting better than settling for both himself and his country.

Coming of age lyric: “People ask me “When will you grow up to be a man?”/But the girls I loved at school are already pushing prams”

43. Phoebe Bridges – ‘Garden Song

An acknowledgement that there’s more to life than social media.

Coming of age lyric: “And when I grow up/I’m gonna look up from my phone and see my life”

44. Mahalia featuring Little Simz – ‘Proud of Me

Lyrics expressing a determination to grow up the mistress of your own destiny.

Coming of age lyric: “Think of me as a blank sheet of paper/My life is mine, I am the creator/you don’t own me, you’re not my commentator”

45.  Arcade Fire – ‘Wake Up’

With characteristic fire and brimstone this song about the transition from childhood seems to warn against emotional repression.

Coming of age lyric: “Somethin’ filled up/My heart with nothin’/Someone told me not to cry”

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