Oh, the years of first crushes, locker room gossip, queen bees, wannabes, detention, rebellion, acne and first-period algebra class—those were the days. OK, well, maybe not the acne and algebra, but you get the point. Youth is wasted on the young, am I right? Well, it seems as though some pretty awesome music is wasted on the young too. Here are some of our favorite songs about adolescence.
“Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry
Remember those days of trying to get out to that special show on a school night and hoping you’ll be back before your curfew? In this jam, Chuck Berry tells the story of a girl who wants to go out, have some fun and get back so she can be in class the next morning.
“Baba O’Riley” by the Who
Here’s a classic anthem of disillusionment and youth. No one could forget this classic tune and the epic chorus that had us all, at one point or another, singing, “It’s only teenage wasteland!”
“School’s Out” by Alice Cooper
In this song, Alice Cooper illustrates every kid’s dream: for their school to be “blown to pieces.” Take that, biology homework.
“F**k School” by the Replacements
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and the number of expletives in the chorus alone (nine, if you were wondering) is enough to land you a week in detention.
“Only Sixteen” by Sam Cooke
Here’s one that will bring you back to those days of young love—and by that, we mean the short, fiery loves and inevitable heartbreaks. Hey, call us cynical, but love is already complicated enough—and it’s not any easier when you’re 16.
“Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth
What’s adolescence without a bit of anarchy and rebellion? Here’s a song that imagines just that.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
Of course we had to have this one on the list. It’s hard to forget the video—the dim-lit high school auditorium where it looks like something between a pep rally and a riot is occurring. Smells like a teen anthem to us.
“I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper
Being a teen can be pretty confusing, and turning 18 comes with a bunch of pros and cons—you’re legal and out of high school, but you still can’t drink and have to start figuring out your life. When Alice Cooper sings, “I’m 18 and I don’t know what I want,” it’s pretty easy to relate.
“Sixteen Again” by the Buzzcocks
Sure, being 16 was OK, but we’re not sure if we’d go through it again. This Buzzcocks song recalls the age with a bit of somber reminiscing.
“Creep” by Radiohead
OK, so this song may not be aimed toward teenagers in particular, but it sure as hell feels like it. The self-deprecation, the gloominess, the insecurity—this song undoubtedly has a place on the soundtrack of our adolescence.
“At Seventeen” by Janis Ian
So remember how we were just talking about the self-deprecation and insecurities of youth? Well, here’s another one about just that. The speaker, who calls herself an “ugly duckling,” gloomily recounts learning “the truth” upon turning 17: Sometimes, adolescence can really suck.
“Sweet Sixteen” by Iggy Pop
Loneliness, tears, heartbreak and a good pair of leather boots—this song’s got everything. Oh, and a “funky bar.” We hope they’re not carding…
“Teenage Angst” by Placebo
C’mon, there’s teenage angst in the title! There’s no way we could’ve left this one off the list. They said “angst,” and they definitely delivered. Dark, depressing and angsty—just like we like it.
“High School Confidential” by Jerry Lee Lewis
Here’s something a bit more upbeat for all those boppers and shakers—something to get you moving out of that teenage angst because—you heard the man—“Jerry Lee is going to rock away all his blues.”
“Summer ʼ79” by the Ataris
Not so much for today’s young’uns, this jam is definitely one for folks who were around to enjoy that summer of 1979. With images of drive-ins and roller rinks, the song gives off a refreshingly nostalgic “Grease” vibe. Oh, and the shout-out to “We Are the Champions” is also a nice touch.
“Sixteen Blue” by the Replacements
It’s easy to be blue at 16, as the Replacements proved in this song. You’ve got all this sexual confusion, all these hormones jumping around—that’s why they so wisely sing, “Your age is the hardest age.”
“We are Young” by fun.
You’re at a bar, there are drinks and things flying through the air, people kissing and fighting, people going through romantic drama—but hey, it’s all part of being young, right? In this catchy tune, fun. celebrates all the glory and messiness of youth.
“Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways
Here’s another fun, popular tune with that Runaways edge that will remind you of that one fun, crazy “wild girl” who caught your eye.