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).
Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday
From Stevie Wonder’s acclaimed Hotter Than July, “Happy Birthday” was written in tribute to the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday as part of the campaign to make it a national holiday.
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 and was covered rather memorably by The Ting Tings on Yo Gabba Gabba.
The Crests – 16 Candles
Sweet 16 is still an important milestone today, but it was an especially big deal in the 1950s and 60s. Neil Sedaka had his own rendition for 16th birthday celebrations called “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen,” but the most popular one of that era for this age group was “16 Candles,” a tune that later went on to become the title song of the 1984 John Hughes film.
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. If your Johnny left with a Judy, you should feel free to cry.
Katy Perry – Birthday
Party planners were reputedly hired to help produce the video for this Top 40 hit from Katy Perry’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 a birthday celebration 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.
Drake – Ratchet Happy Birthday
Drake knew that opening a song with the line “It’s your f—in’ birthday/It’s a f—in’ celebration” was going to get a bit of attention. He was right. It’s now firmly a modern b-day classic.
Rascal Flatts – My Wish For You
Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish For You” can be used for just about any special occasion, given the general nature of its inspirational lyrics. For someone trying to send a heartfelt birthday message, it works every time.
The Tune Weavers – Happy, Happy Birthday Baby
Holidays and special days are the hardest for the broken-hearted. This tune is a melancholic break-up song, sung from the vantage point of someone writing a note to their former significant other. Sample lyric: “Hope I didn’t spoil your birthday, I’m not acting like a lady/So I’ll close this note to you with good luck and wishes too.”
Taylor Swift – Never Grow Up
Any great singer-songwriter has plenty to say about aging and birthdays. And so it is with Taylor Swift. Her best is the inspirational ode, “Never Grow Up.”
the bird and the bee – Birthday
the bird and the bee employ slick electropop for this lovely, personal birthday song that crescendos with, “I will love you on your birthday/I will love you better than them.”
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 a b-day song, 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
Sufjan Stevens – Happy Birthday
This early tune from Sufjan Stevens isn’t exactly a happy birthday song, 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. Just about the only lyric we can reprint here is: “You kiss me so sweetly (taste just like Hershey’s).” Special R&B for special a special birthday playlist.
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.”