Like Christmas and the taxman, birthdays can be relied upon to come around once a year. Most of us can’t wait for them when we’re young, though perhaps we quietly begin to fear them as we get a little older. Whatever the circumstances, though, we’d certainly hope your birthday is a cause for celebration, so here are uDiscover’s Best Birthday Songs to soundtrack the celebration of birthday cards, frenzied unwrapping of presents, and the consumption of way too much cake (and, eventually, booze).
While you’re reading, listen to our Happy Birthday! playlist here.
Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday
From Stevie’s acclaimed Hotter Than July, “Happy Birthday” was written in tribute to the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday.
The Crests – 16 Candles
It’s still an important milestone to turn 16, but it was an especially big deal in the 1950s and 60s. Neil Sedaka had his own rendition for this age called “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen,” but the most popular song of that era for this age group was “16 Candles”: a classic hit for any teen turning sweet 16.
Leslie Gore – It’s My Party
OK, “It’s My Party” does admittedly examine a more melancholic side of what should be a special day but hey, it’s still a great song and it is your party, after all, so you can indeed “cry if you want to!”
Altered Images – Happy Birthday
This Scottish new wave band’s biggest hit from 1981 is still as bouncy, carefree, and celebratory as birthday songs come. It also featured in the quintessential birthday movie Sixteen Candles.
Katy Perry – Birthday
Party planners were reputedly hired to help produce the video for this Top 40 hit from Katy’s Prism album wherein viewers are treated to a number of creative birthday cakes throughout. Yum!
Madonna – B’day Song
Strangely, only a bonus track from Madonna’s MDNA, yet this exuberant track is perfect for birthday celebrants of any age.
The Smiths – Unhappy Birthday
Another one from the dark side of the birthday moon, Morrissey comes to wish you many miserable returns on your special day.
Don McLean – Birthday Song
Sentimental, yet passionate song of celebration from the much-celebrated “American Pie” hit-maker.
Loretta Lynn – Happy Birthday
Another birthday song with a sting in the tale, on “Happy Birthday,” country legend Loretta Lynn wishes a happy birthday and also a fond farewell to an ex-beau. Take that, feller!
They Might Be Giants – Older
“You’re older than you’ve ever been…and now you’re even older!” sing these US quirk-popsters, ramming the point home on this festive little number.
The Sugarcubes – Birthday
Ethereal Icelandic alt-pop may not spring so readily to mind when considering birthday songs, yet this mysterious indie-pop hit from 1987 was the first time the wider world got to hear Bjork’s remarkable voice.
Peter Hammill – Birthday Special
Probably the most oblique selection here, wherein the Van Der Graaf Generator frontman waxes lyrical about Hansel and Gretel and parrots in the pantry rather than cakes, candles, and party games. Great track for the discerning art-rock birthday bash, though.
Steppenwolf – At Your Birthday
Feeling the need for some gnarly acid rock as you cut your cake? No problem, try this wholesome slice cut from the band’s 1969 album At Your Birthday Party.
Destiny’s Child – Birthday
Sit back, relax, and let Destiny’s Child handle your special day. That’s the message from this sultry song from their 1998 album.
Selena Gomez – Birthday
Partying too hard? Selena Gomez has the answer. Just tell them it’s your special day. (They don’t know, so it’s okay.)
2 Chainz feat. Kanye West – Birthday Song
We won’t ruin 2 Chainz’s special birthday wish here, but let’s just say that this 2012 rap tune makes it very clear what he’s after.
The Beatles – Birthday
A highlight from the Fab Four’s ace The White Album and a staple for all decent DJs to fall back on when announcing birthdays on air. Let’s rock!
Sufjan Stevens – Happy Birthday
This early tune from Sufjan Stevens isn’t exactly a happy birthday tune, but like much of his catalogue, it has an emotional intensity equaled by few others.
Jeremih – Birthday Sex
The lead single from Jeremih’s debut album, “Birthday Sex” basically outlined the rest of his career. Special R&B for special occasions.
Twista – Birthday
Twista does incredible work on this birthday song by weaving each and every astrological sign seamlessly into the tune. No matter when you were born, Twista’s got you covered.
Weird Al Yankovic – The Birthday Song
Looking for one of the best punk renditions of the happy birthday song? Surprisingly, Weird Al Yankovic has a great one, complete with a ripping accordion solo.
50 Cent – In Da Club
Even though it’s not actually your birthday, according to 50 Cent, this 2003 hit song has become an anthem for partiers everywhere on the special date.
Trey Songz – Say Aah
Is it your birthday? Drinks are on Trey Songz in this 2010 pop rap hit featuring Fabolous.
New Kids on the Block – Happy Birthday To You
One of the biggest boy bands of the 80s knew a thing or two about ballads, and this birthday song sees the group slowing down to get personal in their birthday wish for the listener.
Rihanna – Birthday Cake
“It’s not even my birthday” sings Rihanna on this poppy li’l number. But we beg to differ. We bet there’s a cake loaded with candles hidden somewhere.
will.i.am feat. Cody Wise – It’s My Birthday
will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas knows how to party, and on this track inspired by A.R. Rahman’s “Urvasi, Urvasi” he proves it.
Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday Mr. President
The most iconic rendition of “Happy Birthday” of all time? Quite possibly. Marilyn Monroe sang this sultry version to John F. Kennedy in 1962. Kennedy’s alleged response? “I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”