You are only young once and recording artists are not an exemption. Many artists chronicled the prime of their lives in song, with some compositions reverberating enough to become youth anthems. While these songs don’t have shelf life as live performance pieces—ageists couldn’t imagine Ke$ha singing “Die Young” in concert at age 67—they are timeless tributes to the power and beauty of youth.
Here are just a few youth anthems, all great time markers of different generations.
- “Forever Young,” Alphaville
Brought to you by the band behind “Big in Japan,” “Forever Young” is a staple of wedding receptions and heard in gazillion movies, shows and ads. Even Alphaville’s contemporaries like Tiffany, Laura Branigan and Kim Wilde couldn’t resist covering this song. In 2009, Jay-Z sampled the song on his aptly titled single “Young Forever,” keeping the 1984 hit truly forever young.
- “We Are Young,” fun. featuring Janelle Monae
Millennials will always equate “We Are Young” to the summer of 2012 when the song held the airwaves hostage. Although the song had been pretty much available since 2011, the song really took off after Chevrolet used it in their Super Bowl spot. In retrospect, the band has truly accomplished what they set out to do in the song: Set the world on fire. It won the Grammy for Song of the Year eventually and while accepting, frontman Nate Ruess admitted he was “not very young.”
- “I’m Eighteen,” Alice Cooper
One of the most influential songs in rock history, Alice Cooper’s anthemic 1970 single has influenced everyone from The Ramones and Anthrax to Kiss. As the title proposes, the song portrays the inner turmoil of middle of adulthood and adolescence; being “a boy and a man” all at once.
- “Stay Young,” Oasis
Though never released as a single, “Stay Young” has been a favourite among Oasis fans. The public was not shut out from all the fun as the song made it to the soundtrack of The Faculty, a must-see sci-fi flick for adolescents in 1999.
- “Seventeen Forever,” Metro Station
‘Jailbaits’ strike fear into the hearts of adult men everywhere .This song tells the inner turmoil of wanting to date one so bad, Metro Station vocalist Trace Cyrus explained. His sister, Miley Cyrus, makes a cameo in the music video.
- “Fifteen,” Taylor Swift
Now here’s one musician obsessed with aging. Apart from pretty much naming an album after her birth year, Taylor has written songs about being 22 and 15. We could only wait with bated breath for her song-written thoughts on turning 50.
- “You Make Me Feel So Young,” Frank Sinatra
Baby boomers get the perfect assurance that age is just a number when they hear the world’s greatest crooner sing this. Originally composed for the 1946 movie Three Little Girls in Blue, the song has also been sung by Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald.
- “Live While We’re Young,” One Direction
For the YOLO generation, here’s just the song. The lead single of their sophomore album Take Me Home, “Live While We’re Young” made it to chart history as one of the highest debuts ever by a British act on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s a feat that One Direction will surely treasure well into old age.
- “Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry
Just the second of five singles by Katy that topped the Billboard Hot 100 one after the other, “Teenage Dream” has become something of a modern classic. Listeners barely recovered from the sugary beats of “California Girls” when Katy assaulted them again with this ode to a hormonally overloaded lover. This song is geared to 20-somethings, as Katy being 20-something herself when she released this but you know cougars can just as easily relate.
- “Dancing Queen,” ABBA