Lots of things happen to you for the first time when you finally break into your twenties. You learn stuff, there are life lessons, you fall in love and experience heartbreak, you go on adventures and road trips, and you have successes and failures. Probably the best thing about being in your twenties though is having that unbridled sense of freedom. You get to move out! Credit cards! You can finally toss those fake IDs out the window! You can rent a car! No responsibilities! Dream big! Eat whatever you want! One thing a lot of us experience, though, is that thing where you come home from college for long breaks and on the weekend you go out until like 2 a.m. or something like that and your parents freeeeak out. Who do you think you are young man? This is MY house. But Mom I’m an adult, I stay out like this in college all the time, etc, etc.
Here are 20 songs from the past 77 years and across multiple genres that capture the magic, tragedy, and spirit of being in your 20s.
1. “Seventeen,” Ladytron (2002)
We’re all souped up about being in our 20s but actually being 17 is where it’s at.
2. “21 and Invincible,” Something Corporate (2003)
This song captures exactly what being 21 feels like. Nobody can stop you because you’re invincible! Until you get alcohol poisoning or something like that.
3. “What’s My Age Again,” Blink 182 (1999)
Nobody likes you when you’re 23!
4. “Sing, Sing, Sing,” Benny Goodman (1936)
I was at some party in New York when the DJ dropped this song and the club totally lost it. There aren’t any words, and it’s 77 years old but it came about in the swing period. You know this was probably the hottest song when it dropped. Kind of makes you want to toss somebody in the air, doesn’t it?
5. “Graduation,” Vitamin C (2000)
OMG DO YOU REMEMBER THIS SONG? DID THEY PLAY IT AT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, TOO? As soon as you kiss your high schools goodbye you stay up late talking with your friends about where you’re going to be when you’re 25 (omg sooooo old) and what your lives are going to be like. The reality is that you’re not planning on talking to these people ever again.
6. “Dance Disco Heat,” (1978) Sylvester
Party, party, party! I mean youth is like one big long party, right?
7. “Momma’s Place,” Roisin Murphy (2010)
This is a GREAT song on it’s own, but when you listen to the lyrics you see that it’s all about the cycle of life. It’s a bad ass song about a mother telling her young daughter that she thinks she invented being bad, but momma is all, Girl, bye. I invented being bad. She knows all the tricks. Our parents aren’t as dumb as we think.
8. “I Don’t Wanna Be Learned,” The Ramones (1976)
You’re young and you’re free and you know everything and you can’t be tamed! Adults don’t know what they’re talking about.
9. “The Modern Age,” The Strokes (2001)
The Strokes were so bad ass back in 2001. Julian Casablancas smoking a cigarette on stage? Wow! I remember I wanted to be bad like him.
10. “Kiss Me,” Sixpence None The Richer (1997)
One of my favorite words is “elucidate,” and I totally learned that shit from Dawson’s Creek. I don’t remember the exact context anymore, but I remember Joey was talking and she was all, “Elucidate” and I was like ooooooo that’s a good word. “Kiss Me,” which I also heard on Dawson’s Creek, is another song that I definitely listened to over and over.
11. “Yesterday,” The Beatles
This song is all about moments past, because things were always better yesterday than they are today. Today you get the bad news, but yesterday everything seemed fine. Your troubles seemed so far away — like your youth once you turn 40!
12. “Time To Pretend,” (2008)MGMT
I love this song because it’s sort of the “live fast, die young” anthem of our generation. Or one of them, anyway. Music, drugs, models — it all sounds great at the time. But even models have children and people get divorced and everything gets boring and you start to miss being young.
13. “22,” Taylor Swift (2013)
“We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time…I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 22.” Pretty much sums it up.
14. “Tutti Frutti,” Little Richard (1951)
Little Richard wrote this song when he was in his 20s, and it’s all about letting loose and having a good time. But you know how the song goes, “Tutti Frutti. Oh Rudy.”? Well, originally it was supposed to be “Tutti Frutti, good booty.” Perfect! Doesn’r everyone in their 20s think about booty at least 10 times a day?
15. “I Want Candy,” The Strangeloves (1965)
I can’t listen to this song without thinking about Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. “Romy you look so good with blonde hair and black roots it’s like not even funny.”
16. “You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morissette” (1995)
Because you’re going to have at least one angry, messy break-up with somebody you thought you were going to be with forever. This is your spirit song!
17. “Forever Young,” Alphaville (1984)
Forever young, don’t you want to be forever young? When you’re young you don’t have to worry about wrinkles or bill collectors or Sallie Mae and you’re just free, young, and without any responsibility. Savor it before depressing things like adulthood and receding hairlines set in!
18. “Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry (2010)
I am going to blast this song well into my 30s. I want people to tell me I’m pretty without any make up on too, damn it.
19. “I Love College,” Asher Roth (2009)
Because if you haven’t woken up with strange people in your house or sipped and/or guzzled liquids out of a red cup then you really didn’t do college right, did you?
20. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey (1981)
You’re been here all night, it’s time to go home for the night guys. Last chance to get those digits OR change your mind about going home with someone when the lights cut back on and you get to see what they really look like.