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Top 40 Songs About Being 16

Sixteen is a great age and one that, for most of us, is already a long way behind. However, it’s a time that generally holds great memories, and not surprisingly, it’s also a common source of inspiration for musicians. 

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If you’re thinking of taking a trip down memory lane, I’ve put together some songs about being 16 for the journey. So, let’s get to it and take a look at the first song about being 16.

Songs About Being 16


Top 40 Songs About Being 16

1 Sweet Sixteen by Destiny’s Child

This came out in 1999 when the girls from Destiny’s child could only have been a few years from 16 themselves. Furthermore, Beyonce Knowles was born in 1980, so she’d have still been a teenager. That makes me feel so old.

The song was never released as a single. Although it did come out as a track from the alum, The Writing’s on the Wall. It sold 13 million copies globally, which no doubt had a lot to do with the inclusion of their monster hits “Jumpin’ Jumpin’,” “Say My Name,” and “Bills, Bills, Bills.” 

Beyonce had her name on the credits for writing all of these hits, as well as “Sweet Sixteen.” Interestingly, she wasn’t the lead singer for this particular song. So, maybe the fact that it never got released as a single wasn’t a coincidence.

Compared to the #1 hits released off the album… 

“Sweet Sixteen” was musically less impressive. The song isn’t particularly bad, it’s just that it never seems to go anywhere. Lyrically, I’d also have to say that it could be stronger.

It’s about a girl that lives at home because she feels alone and unloved in her own house. She searches for love and finds it in the arms of an older man. Subsequently, her new man treats her badly and abuses her emotions and trust.

It’s all a little simplistic, though; in fairness, it is supposed to appeal to a younger audience. So, on reflection, maybe I’m being a little hard, and it’s all a case of the job done. It’s a perfectly decent song about being sixteen years old.

2 Sixteen by Ellie Goulding

I can remember over ten years ago when Ellie Goulding was the big thing. You couldn’t switch on the TV or listen to the radio without seeing or hearing her. She released her debut album, Lights, in 2010 and her second album, Halcyon Days, in 2012. 

I comment on this because at the time these albums were released, she’d have been 24 and 26. Frankly, this would have been a better time to release “Sixteen.” Instead, she waited until 2019, when she was 33.

So, what’s the problem?

In some ways, you could argue there isn’t one. That’s because the song looks back to her teenage years, which can be appropriate for any age. However, the main issue is that the lyrics are frankly awful and over-simplistic 

Furthermore, songs about being 16 are not the kinds of things you should be writing in your 30s. I gave Destiny’s Child a pass for their lyrics to “Sweet Sixteen” due to their ages. But I can’t extend the same courtesy to Ellie Goulding.

Another problem I have… 

Although it’s produced and packaged as a Dance Track, it has none of the high intensity and hard beats you expect for a piece of EDM. 

Additionally, the use of autotune completely kills the song. It’s so overdone and bad that anyone could have been singing the song because the human voice was completely unrecognizable.

I think they got this badly wrong. However, there were still some people who were crazy enough to buy it. Incredibly, there were so many that it got its Gold disc certification in both the US and UK. So, what do I know?

3 Only Sixteen by Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke was a legendary Soul and Gospel singer. He was born in 1931 and, during his short career, wrote some of the most well-known and successful songs of all time. These included “Chain Gang,” “Cupid,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” “Wonderful World,” and “Bring It On Home to Me.”

“Only Sixteen” was released in 1959, and although it got to #13 and the R&B Billboard charts, it didn’t have the same impact as the songs I’ve just listed. It could be because it was released as a stand-alone single and was never included on an album.

Sam Cooke wrote the song when he was 28… 

It is a reflection of how naïve he’s been in matters of the heart as a teenager. Something I’m sure we can all relate to. He felt that his feelings and emotions of the time would last forever and the realization that this was not the case came as a shock.

The situation for his love interest was the same as he looked back and conceded that she was also too young for a serious relationship. It’s all kind of a wistful but nostalgic revisitation of his youth. One that he hints left him feeling more guarded for the future.

Sadly, Sam Coke died at the age of just 33; he was shot through the heart by a motel manager.

4 Sixteen by No Doubt

No Doubt and Gwen Stefani were two of the best things to come out of the 90s. The album, Tragic Kingdom, was also one of the best things to come out of the 90s. The buying public also agreed since 16 million of them went to their record shops to buy a copy.

“Sixteen” was a song from the album, though it was never released as a single. However, it was still in good company since their best-selling single, “Don’t Speak,” was included on the album. This went to #1 in the US and UK, selling five million copies worldwide.

“Sixteen” has much more of a Ska and Punk feel to it than most of the other tracks. Its high energy and high tempo hardly give a pause for breath throughout the whole song. Possibly very fitting for a song about someone who is 16.

The main theme concerns the difficulties of growing up… 

It describes how at sixteen, it feels like you have your feet in both camps of childhood and adulthood. It’s about trying to shake off the shackles of constraint before entering the adult world. It feels rebellious and angry, which is just how it should sound.

5 Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp has gone by a couple of aliases in his long career. He first started as John Cougar, then John Cougar Mellencamp, before reverting to his actual name. 

“Jack and Diane” is a little complicated since the writer is attributed to John Mellencamp, but the single was released in 1982 under the alias of John Cougar. I’m glad we’ve got that straight.

Let’s move on…

The single was in a long line of Top 10 hits through the eighties. “Jack and Diane” got to #1 on the US Billboard charts and became his biggest-ever hit. The album it was taken from, American Fool also made it to #1 in the US and sold in large numbers.

Over his long career, which started in 1976 and is still going on today, he has sold close to 32 million albums. The bulk of these, 28 million, were sold in the US. Only 60,000 albums have been sold in the UK. 

This, therefore, makes him mostly unknown outside of the US, despite his long career and commercial success.

Let’s get back to “Jack and Diane”…

It’s a quintessential American Rock song and also is very typical of John Mellencamp. It is a song about 16 year old growing up as a working-class American in a rural community. 

The song is about coming to terms with and managing expectations of life. It’s about hanging on to those younger years for as long as you can and not letting go. It’s a great song.

6 Sweet Sixteen by B.B King

B.B. King was one of the greatest Blues singers, songwriters, and guitarists to ever live. His contribution to Blues music and music generally was monumental. He helped to define the very nature of The Blues and became a true legend amongst his fans and peers.

He was born in 1925 and was performing at just sixteen years of age right up to his death at the age of 89. Along the way, he played numerous gigs and sold seven million albums. But the numbers genuinely don’t come close to reflecting his influence.

“Sweet Sixteen” was written in the late 50s and released in 1964 by B.B. King. The song is very significant in his career as it appeared alongside the song “Rock Me Baby” on the album of the same name, Rock Me Baby. This became the first of his songs to make it onto the Billboard Top 40.

So, what was “Sweet Sixteen” about?

It’s a song about a guy who’s in love with a sixteen-year-old girl. He’s besotted with his partner, but this is not reciprocated, and she treats him badly. Consequently, he has a bad case of the blues. You can feel the pain in his singing and guitar playing.

It’s a wonderful Blues song, but before I close on this one, remember that this was written in the deep south during the 50s when relationships and marriage between teenagers were commonplace. No angry comments or letters, please.

7 Sixteen by Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop is one of my all-time favorite artists. He is hugely talented, but for whatever reason, that talent has never transferred to major record sales. On the other hand, throughout his career dating back to 1970, he’s received massive critical acclaim.

“Sixteen” was never released as a single but was included as the second track on his most popular album, released in 1977, Lust for Life. If the name of the album sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the name of the same title lead track that featured in the 1996 classic British movie, “Trainspotting.”

The song and the movie scene became iconic and resulted in more interest being shown in Iggy Pop and his music. I’d say it was about time. Although Iggy Pop didn’t become a music superstar, it did help to promote the album. 

This meant that more people listened to “Sixteen”…

This is a raw song that’s delivered in an uncompromising way that I think, in some ways, sounds similar to an angry David Bowie. Not surprising, given that they were such good friends.

Lyrically, it’s pretty harsh. The main topic is the lust for a young girl that the singer feels is inappropriate. It’s his battle of understanding that this is wrong, and he has to squash the emotions and temptations. It’s a battle that he frankly appears to be losing.

8 I’m Sixteen by Dolly Parton

I’ve saved what I think is the best for last on this list of songs about being 16. Dolly Parton is a prolific songwriter, and despite being in the business for 60 years, her enthusiasm for singing and writing songs has never diminished. 

She has written world-beating songs like “I Will Always Love You” in 1973, which was most famously covered by Whitney Houston in 1994. However, we don’t have to go back very far for “I’m Sixteen,” which was penned in 2016.

The song never came out as a single, although it was included on her 45th studio album, Pure and Simple. Yes, you got that right, her 45th studio album. Frankly, that’s remarkable. She should send a tweet to bands like Tool to give them a few tips on how to get busy. 

The album was very well received both critically and commercially… 

It was recorded in Nashville and is a Country album through and through. It went to #1 in the US, making it her first #1 on the album charts in over 25 years.

“I’m Sixteen” is a touching song and different from the rest on the list. That’s because all the others have been songs about being sixteen, whereas this is a song about feeling like you’re still 16.

It was written for her sister and her sister’s husband… 

Both had been through tough relationships. Following the fallout, they were lucky enough to meet each other and get married. 

Now, they are blissfully happy, and Dolly Parton can see that they act like carefree sixteen-year-olds around each other. It’s a beautiful song.

9 Sixteen Candles by The Crests

10 At Seventeen by Janis Ian

11 Sixteen Saltines by Jack White

12 Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen by Neil Sedaka

13 Sixteen Forever by The Dictators

14 Sixteen Bars by The Stylistics

15 Sixteen Military Wives by The Decemberists

16 Sixteen Days by Ryan Adams

17 Sweet 16 by Billy Idol

18 When I Was 16 by George Jones

19 Sixteen Days in September by Athlete

20 Sixteen Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six by Tom Waits

21 Sixteen Years by Tina Turner

22 Sixteen Reasons by Connie Stevens

23 Sixteen and Save Me by Dave Matthews Band

24 Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls by Dixie Chicks

25 Sixteen Reasons Why I Love You by Carla Thomas

26 Sixteen by Echosmith

27 16 @ War by Karina Pasian

28 Sixteen Tons by Tom Jones

29 Only Sixteen by Randy Newman

30 Sixteen Going on Seventeen by Julie Andrews and Charmian Carr (from the movie The Sound of Music)

31 Sweet Sixteen by Billy Idol

32 Sixteen Innocent Children by Tom Waits

33 Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust by Blur

34 Sweet Little Sixteen by Jerry Lee Lewis

35 16 Psyche by Chelsea Wolfe

36 You’re Sixteen by Ringo Starr

37 Sixteen on Center by Flatfoot 56

38 Sixteen Hundred Men by Tracy Bonham

39 16 Days by Whiskeytown

40 Sweet Little Sixteen by Jerry Lee Lewis

Want to Find More Great Music?

Well, check out our thoughts on the Best Throwback Songs, the Best Songs About Life, the Top Songs About School Life, the Top Songs About Home, and the Best Songs About Falling In Love for more incredible song selections.

Also, you’ll want to listen to them. So, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Hip-Hop, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, and the Best Sound Quality Earbuds you can buy in 2023.

Songs About Being 16 – Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed turning back the clock and maybe reconnecting with your inner teenager. 

I hope that one or two of the songs about being sixteen struck a chord and brought back some happy memories. I’ve had a blast putting the list together, and hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it too.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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