Your birthday is the perfect excuse to do whatever you have in mind, regardless the circumstances. You can celebrate it with your friends and loved ones, you can be depressed, you can drink to death or you can just forget about it by removing the date from Facebook.
On each of these occasions, we have the perfect birthday song for you. Discover your own favorite in our Top-20 countdown!
- 1 20. 50 Cent – In Da Club
- 2 19. Weird Al Yankovic – Happy Birthday
- 3 18. No Doubt – Six Feet Under
- 4 17. The Smiths – Unhappy Birthday
- 5 16. R Kelly – Happy Birthday
- 6 15. Katy Perry – Birthday
- 7 14. The Sugarcubes – Birthday
- 8 13. Selena Gomez – Birthday
- 9 12. Sufjan Stevens – Happy Birthday
- 10 11. Rihanna – Birthday Cake
- 11 10. Pet Shop Boys – Birthday Boy
- 12 9. Destiny’s Child – Birthday
- 13 8. The Beatles – Birthday
- 14 7. Elton John – The Greatest Discovery
- 15 6. B. B. King – Happy Birthday Blues
- 16 5. Carly Simon – Happy Birthday
- 17 4. Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach – Tears At The Birthday Party
- 18 3. Leslie Gore – It’s My Party
- 19 2. Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday Mr. President
- 20 1. Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday
20. 50 Cent – In Da Club
“In da club” is a sexy and on-the-verge-of-being-offensive radio hit (just go through the lyrics), which was nominated for two Grammy Awards back in the day. It’s also one of the most popular rap songs of all time. And yeap, it’s actually true; it is often used for wishing someone “Happy Birthday”, because, you know, Dre is a genius and he produced the intro: “Go, shorty, it’s your birthday / We gon’ party like it’s your birthday / We gon’ sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday / And you know we don’t give a fuck it’s not your birthday”. A post-troll bday hymn for the social media era, recorded 15 years ago? Yes, please.
19. Weird Al Yankovic – Happy Birthday
When it comes to comedy and parody, you can count on Weird Al. This 1983 release is one of his debut songs, but probably his least popular one to date. The weirdest thing, apart from me writing about a Weird Al birthday song, is that Grammy award-winning Rick Derringer produced the song, as well as the whole album. It’s not the best musical choice for a bday party, but it certainly is the cultiest you can find.
18. No Doubt – Six Feet Under
I think it’s really special for someone to celebrate the day he/she was born, while at the same time the same person can celebrate the day he/she will be buried six feet underground. Gwen Stefani had been wise way before she was a 00’s pop star, writing some deep shit (pardon my French, but it’s my birthday today). Dedicate this 18-year-old song to your grandparents or the teacher you can’t stand or even yourself, mentioning though that you mean well… “Today is my birthday and I get one every year / And some day, hard to believe, but I’ll be buried six feet underground / I’ll be dead and gone, no longer around”.
17. The Smiths – Unhappy Birthday
An anti-birthday song from The Smiths? If not Morrissey in the 80’s, then who? In fact, this is normal and totally expected, so feel free to dedicate this song to everyone you think does not deserve life at all. I know, it’s quite deathly and obscure, but who am I to defend human life after all? “I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday / ‘Cause you’re evil / And you lie / And if you should die / I may feel slightly sad (But I won’t cry)”. You may feel slightly sad. So, maybe you’re not a monster.
16. R Kelly – Happy Birthday
When you wish Happy Birthday to someone via an R Kelly song, make sure this person is actually an adult. Otherwise, you will probably end up behind bars. Anyhow, the chorus “Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday (woo, shake!)” is a perfect club banger for your drunk friend’s birthday celebration, an ideal excuse for your misbehaving, as well as the last thing you can remember before you two guys hooked up last night. In the top-20 songs for the “Best walk of shame” list, this one is a top-5. For sure.
15. Katy Perry – Birthday
It’s all about the song’s official video. Katy Perry plays the characters of five party entertainers, appearing in five different bday parties, where its participants are actually unaware of the singer’s presence. Katy knows how to have fun and her sense of humor is always dominant throughout her work. This birthday song is another pop-disco anthem of hers and it’s an homage to her favorite comedians. You may find it… well, cheesy. And maybe you’re right. What about adopting these costume ideas though and pranking your friends on their birthdays? That’s cool enough for me.
14. The Sugarcubes – Birthday
Someone would think that an Icelandic birthday song from Bjork’s band, The Sugarcubes, would sound like an iceberg having sex with an elf οn a train from Reykjavík to the clouds. This birthday song is not Bjork enough to be weird, so you might as well enjoy it or even dedicate to your loved ones. They may get a bit confused reading between the lyrics’ lines, but that’s the song’s charm; no one understands whether it’s the old man’s birthday or the little girl’s.
13. Selena Gomez – Birthday
This is a Selena Gomez song. So, it could be pop-oriented, teen-sweet or even Bieber-esque. But it’s not. It’s a dark, electro-trap, provocative track about partying hard and having sex. It was originally announced as a single, but was never officially released. In fact, the video has been deleted from YouTube for unknown reasons. If you’re having sexual fantasies about a guy or a girl and a birthday is on the way, get ready for some action. Or a rejection.
12. Sufjan Stevens – Happy Birthday
Sufjan is a folk artist. He often writes about the mystery of love, death, his mother, his mother’s death, Christian faith, etc. At this point of his career, no one remembers his debut, “A sun came”, not to mention the song “Happy Birthday”. The thing is, Sufjan has a unique sense of humor I did not know up until now. The song’s lyrics contain this verse: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry / That life is anxious, life is mean / I’m sorry, I’m sorry / A pair of shoes is what you need”. Brilliantly ironic.
11. Rihanna – Birthday Cake
I cannot believe there are so many birthday songs about having spontaneous sex. I mean, OK, a person’s birth comes as a result of two people having sex, I get it. Listening to all these songs, it just seems that every time someone celebrates the day he/she was born, he/she is only thinking about having sex or having had sex or having a shower before having sex or having a shower after having sex or not having a shower at all, which is gross. At least Rihanna has the decency to call it a birthday cake and then singing with swagger “I’mma make you my bitch“. Touché.
10. Pet Shop Boys – Birthday Boy
Personally, I have never listened to a soft rock song by Pet Shop Boys. I have also never listened to their 2002 “Release”album. I guess it’s not a successful one. Nevertheless, this is a good song. And as you’re listening to its nice melody, you actually forget that the lyrics are a bit vague… “Birthday boy / Can’t explain / Christmas Eve / He’s born again / On the line / A broken train / Going nowhere / Endless rain”. It could be me trying to write poems after four glasses of rosé.
9. Destiny’s Child – Birthday
People say that if Aaliyah was still alive, Aaliyah would be Beyoncé, Beyoncé would be Rihanna and Rihanna would still be in Barbados. This is effortlessly ridiculous, but I just used it in order to place Destiny’s Child at No 9, instead of RiRi. Forgive me. This bday song by the soulful trio is the first in this countdown that’s actually sensitive enough to talk about candles, nice presents and spending time with your special someone. Bored. Back to RiRi.
8. The Beatles – Birthday
A birthday party anthem by The Beatles to dance with your friends? “Take a cha-cha-cha-chance” and say yes! The verse “They say it’s your birthday / It’s my birthday too, yeah” is the absolute hook for celebrating same birthdays with parents, grandparents, friends and loved ones in general. This bday song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney is the french fries of birthday songs; everyone loves it.
7. Elton John – The Greatest Discovery
In the year 1970, Sir Elton John released his debut, self-titled album in the United States and established his career during the “singer-songwriter” era of pop music. “The greatest discovery” from this particular album is a heartbreaking ballad, a beautiful poem, a soothing lullaby written by Bernie Taupin, which celebrates the actual birth of Bernie’s brother, Kit. Wanna make someone cry like a baby on his/her birthday? There you go.
6. B. B. King – Happy Birthday Blues
The king of blues is howling “Girls it’s me and you / Doing what we do / Just one way to lose / Those happy birthday blues”. All of a sudden, the happy birthdays around the world have their blues. It’s not common to find bday blues songs, unless you already are a dedicated blues lover. But when you do, it’s hard to accept the fact that birthdays indeed contain joy and love, as well as pain and loneliness. Preach.
5. Carly Simon – Happy Birthday
She sings “It’s all of our birthdays this summer / One number older, another year younger” in the opening verse and it feels like everything has been said about birthdays. It’s her voice and her guitar that make a simple song a great excuse to celebrate the day you were born… “But I’ll be your lover if you will be mine / We’ll go back to the garden and have a good time / And if I’m offered an apple, I’ll politely decline / And just blow out the candles / Happy Birthday”. Nough said.
4. Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach – Tears At The Birthday Party
Not all birthdays are happy, neither an excuse to celebrate. Some birthdays are just a reason to stay in, eat chips and watch “Funny girl” with Barbra Streisand. Twice. I think that Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach had this particular occasion in mind, when they wrote the lyrics “But now I see / I see you share your cake with him / Unwrapping presents that I should have sent / What can I do? / Must I watch you?”. “The way we were” is also fine. Or any Barbra movie, for that matter.
3. Leslie Gore – It’s My Party
It’s a pop classic, the first major hit for musician, producer and legend Quincy Jones, as well as a reason to dance on your birthday, while your Johnny has left you for someone named Judy. Though a complicated situation, the Grammy nominated song was a chart topper and continues to serve as one of the most iconic birthday songs in music history. You can cry if you want to, but trust me, this smart melody by Leslie Gore will always lift you up.
2. Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday Mr. President
It took a Hollywood legend, a couple of “Happy birthday to you” lyrics sung in a sultry voice, a “Mr President” addition and a dress designed by Jean Louis to create one of the most iconic live performances in showbiz history. Actress Marilyn Monroe died three months after this public appearance, but literally hundreds of actors, musicians and performers worldwide have paid their dues to her, including Madonna, Lana Del Rey, Jennifer Lopez, Uma Thurman, Geri Halliwell and Mira Sorvino. I myself don’t know a single person not being familiar with this.
1. Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday
Stevie Wonder is one of the most talented musicians the planet has ever known. He has recorded all time classics and has been awarded with numerous awards and recognitions, including 25 Grammys. It’s a strange paradox that “Happy birthday” is probably his most recognizable song worldwide, even though it’s actually a political song. As one of the main figures in the campaign to have the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. become a national holiday, he wrote it to make the cause known. This song never reached the Billboard Hot 100. Still, it’s the ultimate choice at birthday parties. Sorry, Stevie.
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