The future of music

45 Best Songs About Growing Up

December 11, 2023
Songs About Growing Up

I’ve picked out the best songs about growing up, each one weaving a tale of the joys, challenges, and pivotal moments of coming of age.

This article is a musical journey through tracks that resonate with the universal experiences of growing and evolving.

Table of Contents

Top songs about growing up

  • Garbage – “When I Grow Up”
  • Kim Wilde – “Kids In America”
  • The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”
  • The Killers – “When You Were Young”
  • The White Stripes – “We’re Going To Be Friends”
  • 21 Pilots – ”Stressed Out”
  • Alessia Cara – “Growing Pains”
  • Ludacris – “Growing Pains”
  • Dua Lipa – “Boys Will Be Boys”
  • Olly Murs – “Grow Up”

1. Garbage – “When I Grow Up”

The awkward transitional years can bring a lot of internalizing, you can feel like you’re a loose cannon who says or does the wrong thing. It is tricky to fit in, often we pretend and sometimes our emotions get the better of us.

Shirley sings unashamedly about her youthful behavior with a sentiment we have all had…

“When I grow up I’ll be stable”

2. Kim Wilde – “Kids In America”

Kim’s debut smash hit that has been used over many a montage scene about adolescence.

The lyrics express the need to go out and enjoy life whilst you are young. Kim gives it the energy it needs to get the message across. It tells of nights out on the town, the attraction, the rush, and the heartache that is a part of coming of age!

“The young ones are going
(Downtown) the young ones are growing”

It is one of the ’80’s most memorable songs about maturing.

3. The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”

On the subject of ‘memorable’ coming of age songs “Teenage Kicks is a tune in equal stead.

The title is a tasteful euphemism and the lyrics are still relatable in modern times because they express something we have all been through.

“I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night”

One of the best songs about growing up and undoubtedly The Undertone’s biggest single.

4. The Killers – “When You Were Young”

When we are young we have ideas about what our lives will be like when we are older. Some of us have our plans clearly laid out and go for our goals and succeed some of us change paths entirely.

Many little girls imagine their wedding days with rosetinted youthful eyeballs. When you Were Young, is a song that reflects on the idea of the man she was going to marry.

“He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus
But he talks like a gentlemen
Like you imagined when you were young”

5. The White Stripes – “We’re Going To Be Friends”

There really is no end when it comes to songs about childhood centered around school.

We honestly could have picked just about any but this one stood out and stole a spot because it has a real innocence about it. It reminds us of how much easier it seemed to make friends and hang out without the pressures of adult life there isn’t any real conflict.

“all is here, hear the yell
Back to school ring the bell
Brand new shoes, walking blues
Climb the fence, books and pens
I can tell that we’re gonna be friends”

6. 21 Pilots – ”Stressed Out”

Of course, childhood seems like a simpler time upon reflection as a stressed-out adult.

This one is super-reflective, one of those ‘walk down memory lane’ songs. They make for some of the best growing-up songs because everyone has childhood memories.

“Wish we could turn back time
To the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep
But now we’re stressed out”

7. Alessia Cara – “Growing Pains” 

Of course, that transitional period is no bed of roses.

Alessia Cara sings about the trial and error process of it all. The real focus of it is how tricky it is to make mistakes as a ‘now-adult’ with no parent to come to help you clean up the mess you have made.

“You’re on your own, kid”.

8. Ludacris – “Growing Pains”

In a track with the same title, Ludacris reminisces on his youth.

One of those rap songs about life and growing up that is chock-full-of references that will take anyone of the same age and background back in an instant.

His chorus speaks of solidarity through thick and thin, because everyone was in the same boat and experiencing the same “Growing Pains”.

9. Dua Lipa – “Boys Will Be Boys” 

Possibly a stretch, but on-trend, and an important song about boys growing up to talk about is Dua Lipa’s “Boys Will Be Boys”.

The intention of the song is to highlight the way in which girls become women into an adult world where there are some very real dangers.

“put your keys between your knuckles when there’s boys around”

She makes the suggestion that it is down to the way societally the behavior of men can has been much more excused as the well-known idiom suggests.

10. Olly Murs – “Grow Up”

We can find it difficult to let pettier things go when we are young. It is only once we mature that we realize the insignificance of something that was once the be-all and end-all.

Sadly this often affects relationships. If we have an immature argument or break-up sometimes it is unrecoverable if we can’t grow up.

Olly Murs tells the world he’s grown-up enough in this one pointing the blame on the other person’s immaturity.

11. NF – “When I Grow Up” 

NF treats us to some personal song lyrics about growing up as he shares his dreams and goals with the world.

The lyrics keep it real and show that he has a sensible head on his shoulders, stating he could study but he’d get in debt, and in spite of plans being on the grandiose side, success seems to be on the cards.

When I grow up, I just want to pay my bills“- Don’t we all, and all the better if we are doing something we love!

12. Lukas Graham – “7 Years”

A song that took the UK by storm, then-newcomer Lukas Graham shared an emotional journey into his past, present, and future in his debut tell-all story song.

“Soon I’ll be 60 years old, my daddy got 61
Remember life and then your life becomes a better one”

One of those songs about youth and growing up that resonates with just about anyone.

13. LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge” 

As we grow older we tend to second guess and judge ourselves more, we feel less in the loop and down with the kids. As LCD Soundsytem asks with this one of their more personal tracks, you can wonder if you are losing your edge.

“I was there when Captain Beefheart started up his first band.
I told him, “Don’t do it that way. You’ll never make a dime.”
I was there.
I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids.
I played it at CBGB’s.
Everybody thought I was crazy.
We all know.
I was there”.

14. Macklemore and Ed Sheeran – “Growing Up

There is nothing like becoming a parent yourself to snap you into adult reality. Ryan Lewis, Macklemore, and Sheeran present the case with this one and lyrically it’s very revealing.

Although you now have to adopt the parent role and teach your kid to grow up; you yourself are still growing in wisdom.

15. Kygo ft. Ellie Goulding – “First Time” 

This catchy love song reminisces on young love and how in our youthfulness we are a little more reckless. Goulding tells of wilder times going down the ‘wrong’ path but resolves that she would “do it all again” regardless.

She mentions a fair few rights of passage-like tropes, however ‘inappropriate’. Such as smoking your first cigarette, which shouldn’t be encouraged but is a strong transitional memory for any smoker.

16. Avicii –  “Wake Me Up” 

We are all to some extent on a life-long journey of finding ourselves and our place in this world.

We go through a period of being too old for the things we once spent our weekends doing but not quite old enough to be taken seriously for the next phase of life. Sometimes the journey is difficult.

This grown-up song puts it very simply with its hook that is almost an adolescent plea!

“So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost”

17. Tame Impala – “Patience” 

We spend so long waiting to grow up that we don’t notice it happens in stages and is actually a constant process. When we achieve goals we see how far we have come but what if life is a bit stagnant?

“Just growin’ up in stages
(Lay down, low down)
Livin’ life in phases
Another season changes
And still my days are shapeless”

Tame Impala summarises the feeling of time fleeting as you wait and you wonder if you’re actually any older or any wiser at all!

18. Lily Allen – “Alfie” 

We don’t always make the best decisions when we are still finding our way into the unchartered territory of adulthood. This throwback was written by Lily as a very personal serenade to her then-unknown brother Alfie Allen who has since become arguably more famous than the singer for his role in Game of Thrones.

Her tongue-in-cheek tune describes her pot-head brothers‘ antics and has a motivational edge.

“You need to get a job
Because the bills need to get paid
Get off your lazy arse
Alfie, please use your brain”

19. Pulp – “Disco 2000”

In one of the group’s most popular tracks, they look towards the future, making plans as everyone does when they are young and wide-eyed.

There is nothing like a reunion to make you truly aware of just how the years have slipped you by!

20. The Smashing Pumpkins – “1979”

This 1996 hit titled “1979” is another growing-up song chock-full of nostalgia. The video centers around the ‘cool kids’ driving in a dodge charger and helps tell the narrative of the hedonistic and observational lyrics.

It expresses the carefree side of youth, as well as the conflicted feelings you have as the cynicism starts to creep in and replace the hope.

21. Blink 182 – “What’s My Age Again”

Regardless of how many candles you blow out on your birthday cake each year, you never really ‘feel’ any older.

This can leave you in a limbo of immaturity if you aren’t careful. Maybe that is what is at the heart of this Blink 182 hit that light-heartedly addresses the protagonist’s childish ways.

“Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three
And are still more amused by TV shows
What the hell is ADD?
My friends say I should act my age
What’s my age again?”

22. Green Day – “Welcome To Paradise”

We all desire to grow up when we are young believing in the freedoms that will come with it. The reality is the responsibility can hit like a tonne of bricks!

Billy Joel sings in an honest but amusing way about leaving his childhood home and the safety of being in his mothers’ nest as it were. No matter how old we feel heading out into the world, we are never truly ready.

“It’s been three whole weeks
Since I left your home
This sudden fear has left me trembling
‘Cause now it seems that I
Am out there on my own
And I’m feeling so alone”

23. John Mayer – “Stop This Train” 

Mayer gets pretty candid discussing the worries that begin to flood your mind as you age. He touches on the fear of losing his parents and being only “one generation’s length away from fighting life” solo.

It is hard to feel prepared for what will come when you have no idea what it will entail.

“I’m so scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young”

Aren’t we all?

24. Tom Waits – “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” 

This anarchistic teenage tantrum was a hit for The Ramones and other punk groups of the era. But with his inimitable gravelly voice and the entertaining music video that sees him playing a teeny-tiny toy guitar on a stage too small for his comparable giant stature Tom Waits takes the spot!

In his list of things he doesn’t want to do, Tom lists, combing his hair and shining his shoes as well as getting a loan, getting married, buying a house, and so on!

25. Bob Dylan – “Forever Young”

This one is a close-to-heart song about sons growing up. Dylan wrote it in Tuscon as a lullaby for his son Jesse. It is a song that lists a father’s hopes for his child, many a parent has sat and gazed at their sleeping kid imagining a great life for them.

Dylan keeps it relatively straightforward with the highlight being upon the youthful exuberance and appreciation of the world that a child naturally has.

26. The Maccabees – “Grew Up At Midnight” 

Another coming-of-age song worth remembering is this sweet nostalgic tune from the underappreciated Maccabees.

The lyrics tell of a par that would sneak out and stay out together no matter how wet and rainy, each telling the other’s parents they were elsewhere safe.

Although never really confirmed, the idea of ‘growing up at midnight’ insinuates that the two youngsters mentioned in the storyline of the song probably slept together.

“We grew up at midnight
We were only kids then”

27. Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”

Stevie’s introspective lyrics are in truth about romance and career struggles, they even touch on her relationship with her busy father but also reference the child within her.

We all have an inner child that never truly goes away, Stevie’s child clearly had other ideas about how love and life were going to be.

28. Westlife – “I Wanna Grow Old With You”

From the boybands’ 2001 album this tender tune touches on the heartache of missing someone when you’re in a long-distance relationship. Sometimes the absence really makes the heart grow fonder and in this case, the protagonist’s realization is pretty serious with some of the hyperbolic lyrics being a little OTT!

“I want to grow old with you
I want to die lying in your arms”

29. Florida Georgia Line – “Grow Old”

Everybody’s favorite country song about growing up!

This one has a similar sentiment to the Westlife track, it is again about growing old with the one you love, but it is far less corny. The lyrics are far more realistic and give an honest portrayal of the road ahead as the narrator discusses raising their kids together until their full-grown.

“We’re gonna lose a lot of sleep and learn to eat out of a microwave
You know we’ll probably never have it all
But that’s part of building up the walls
Strong enough to stand up through the rain”

30. Mary Hopkin – “Those Were the Days”

Another stroll down memory lane with Mary Hopkin reflects on how ‘sure’ you feel when you are younger and the world is yet to have hardened you!

Mary’s story is set in a tavern full of memories, she revisits in verse 2 finding her own reflection difficult to accept, and finally, in verse 3 her lyrics honestly reveal that they haven’t changed that much since the youth.

“Oh my friend we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same”

Perhaps age really is just a number?

31. Kenny Chesney – “There Goes My Life” 

We briefly discussed how parenthood can be a real kick up the backside in terms of growing up, so it is unsurprising to see it as a common theme in grown-up songs.

The lyrical turnaround on the sentiment of the title words in this country track is actually pretty clever. Initially, the narrator states “there goes my life” as he is sure it is over now he has to be a dad!

“Hell I’m just a kid myself
How ‘m I gonna raise one”

But, fast forward a “Few thousand diapers later” this papa’s little girl is the life in question when the singer belts out “There Goes My Life”- Nice!

32. Miley Cyrus And Billy Ray Cyrus – “Ready, Set, Don’t Go”  

“She’s at the startin’ line of the rest of her life”

A twist on the familiar ‘ready, set, go’ Billy Ray gives the last instruction in the negative as he tries to sum up the feelings of a father having to watch their adolescent kid go out into the adult world and do their own thing.

“She’s waitin’ on my blessings
Before she hits that open road
But baby get ready, get set, don’t go”

33. Thomas Rhett – “Growing Up”

Thomas Rhett gives us some honest insight that probably rings true for many, he describes his transition with his focus becoming less about the things he wants and more about the things that he needs.

He is also humble throughout, reluctant to toot his own horn;

“Ain’t come a long way, but I’ve come a little
Hangin’ out somewhere out in the middle”

A sweet country song about growing up with a music video that features real photographs.

34. Ray Williams – Growing Old (I’ll Never Grow Old)

For a sad song about growing up, hear Ray Williams croon over a beautifully soulful slow-dance track.

Lamenting the aging process with lyrics that are super simple and reflect on the days gone by and the desire to stay forever young!

The track is also known as “I’ll Never Grow Old” giving the melancholy track a fighting spirit undercurrent. The sentiment is from a rebellious ‘age is a mindset’ perspective.

35. “The Circle Game” By Joni Mitchell

In a nostalgia-driven song about boys growing up Joni’s silky vocals and fingerpicking warm hearts.

“The Circle Game” is the life cycle, her lyrics tell the tale of a young boy through the seasons and over the years which she refers to as “the carousel of time”. She notes that we can only look back to where we came from to see how far we have come.

She captures the magic of youth with talk of catching dragonflies and the fears we have like thunderstorms.

36. Cher – “Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves”

Although it may not jump to your immediate thoughts, “Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves” tells a cross-generational story if you listen to lyrics with attention. It is the story of a traveling family that makes money any way they can- sometimes a less than honest living.

The lyrics begin;

“I was born in the wagon of a travelling show
My mama used to dance for the money they’d throw
Papa would do whatever he could

However, in the last repetition ‘Papa’ becomes ‘Grandpa’ insinuating the girl has grown up and followed in her mother’s footsteps to make ends meet.

37. Bruce Springsteen – “Glory Days”

Bruce Springsteen looks back in reflection on the years gone by telling us about the people who have walked in and out of his life.

“Glory days well they’ll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye”

A catchy late seventies track about the prime of your life.

38. The Beatles – “When I’m Sixty-Four”

A looking to the future song that has a tongue-in-cheek look at the hands of time and relationships that stand its tests. A fun song about growing old together.

“When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now”

Our age starts to show on us physically and all we can do is have a sense of humor about it which the lyrics help maintain.

39. John Lennon – “Grow Old With Me” 

John Lennon’s personal ode to him and his wife growing old together is a little more cringe-worthy in the lyrics department;

“Grow old along with me
Whatever fate decree
We will see it through
For our love is true
God bless our love”

Pass us the sick bucket!

40. Rod Stewart – “Forever Young”

So you might recognize the title as we already discussed Dylan’s don’t grow up song for baby Jesse and you have every right to be thinking along the cover version lines.

Although it is a different song, Dylan shares rights as Rod was inspired by his original track. As the lyrics were written personally about his child, Rod decided he needed to rewrite the lyrics for his.

Stewarts’ rewritten rendition spins things a little as instead of praying his son will stay “forever young” the artist insists that in his heart he will stay forever young.

41. Cat Stevens – “Father And Son”

We can’t start wrapping things up without mention of one of the most famous songs about sons growing.

This one has a narrative style because it was originally written to be a part of a musical production set during the Russian revolution. It is like an open letter full of advice to the son in question and gives it a very different edge in comparison to most pop songs about children growing up.

42. Youth Lagoon – “17” 

A memory-driven track from Youth Lagoon in which the singer considers the wisdom her mother tried to impart.

The musical break shares characteristics with traditional folk in spite of its electronic genre.

“Oh, when I was seventeen
My mother said to me
“Don’t stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die”

43. David Bowie – “Changes”

When it comes to growing up we have to move with the times and accept a lot of changes. In one of the most memorable Bowie classics, he writes about breaking free of the pigeon-holing in the music industry at the time which he was clearly well ahead of.

Although the song was about measuring up and being able to play around with musical genres for many it became a youth-driven anthem.

44. Stevie Wonder – “I Wish”

A funky charismatic soul tune from the man himself, Stevie takes us through the childhood he had the way he was raised, the bad decisions, and the lessons learned on the way to growing up!

Although they are some of the hardest days many of us have moments in which we “wish those days could come back once more”.

45. Pink Floyd – “Time” 

One of the most poignant songs about growing up, when you are younger you can take time for granted you might;

“Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way

But then one day you find it has caught up with you, you have no idea where the years have gone and realize just how much you have never gotten around to doing because you always thought there would be ‘more’ time.

One of those classic songs for grown-ups with lyrics about mortality salience that hit home!

Final Thoughts

Teen years are tough, so it’s no wonder there are so many ‘coming of age’ songs. They can help get someone through the minefield that comes with getting to grips with adulthood.

Watching your offspring grow is another huge part of life, we rarely notice on a day-to-day basis it is only when we reflect. So again, the myriad of songs about kids growing up is no surprise. Likewise with the number of don’t grow up songs!

Maybe you want songs about kids growing up for slideshow memories for the background accompaniment of some embarrassing childhood photos, or maybe you are just looking to reminisce with songs about adolescence;

Whichever it is we hope we included the right song about growing up for you!

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Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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