Part of being young is figuring out who you want to be when you grow up. The songs below are perfect for navigating the tumultuous journey into adulthood.
1. ‘Farther We Go’ by Walk Off the Earth
If you haven’t heard of this indie sensation, this single of theirs is a perfect introduction. The song talks about facing the complicatedness of adult life, while also knowing that you’ll be able to figure it out. It’s refreshingly relatable in its message that everyone goes through this when they’re young.
2. ‘Hero’ by Family of the Year
Best known for its featuring in the beloved film Boyhood (2014), this gem is all about not aspiring to be everyone else’s hero, and marching to the beat of your own drum. It’s your life, so why live it trying to please the rest of the world?
3. ‘Carrying On’ by Mini Trees
A more somber tune about identity, this melodic piece meditates on the idea of past trauma, and what happens when it feels hard to move on. Can we get better, or will we choose to let it define us?
4. ‘23’ by Wallice
This banger by the up-and-coming genius is not only about the apprehension we have when taking on the responsibilities of being a grown-up, or the reflection on easier times when we were children, but ultimately looking forward to the future, and the great person we’re setting out to become.
5. ‘Wizard’ by Dora Jar
This electric track from the amazing Dora Jar is a triumphant ode to those who are able to shed their shy, introverted shells, in favor of becoming the more confident, fulfilled people they’ve aspired to be.
6. ‘When Will My Life Begin’, performed by Mandy Moore (from the Tangled soundtrack)
This opening number from one of Disney’s most acclaimed and popular animations of the last decade or so is a lush, speculative number about wondering when your life as an independent, free-thinking adult will begin. We all know that feeling, but thankfully, most of us haven’t been kept in a tower for our whole lives like Rapunzel.
7. ‘Bad Guy’ by Billie Eilish
Chances are, you’ve probably heard this one on the radio eighty gajillion times- and danced around to it every single time. As one of Billie Eilish’s best-known songs, this is an incredibly catchy, mocking, feminist song about letting everyone else have their assumptions of you, if that’s all they want to see.
8. ‘Where You Are’ from the Moana soundtrack
The introductory musical number from Moana touches on a concept that is likely relatable for many: struggling to decide between following your parents’ wishes for your career, and following your own dreams. Toss in some irresistible lyrics by Hamilton star/creator Lin Manuel-Miranda, and you’ve got a recipe for a great song.
9. ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman
This crown jewel from the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman is a powerfully simplistic ballad about not letting the fear of society’s judgment keep you from being yourself, no matter how ‘different’ you might be.
10. ‘Everyone is Dark’ by Snow Canyons
This mostly-instrumental, fairly bare-bones piece from Snow Canyons is great if you’ve been through hard times. Singing about that difficult pull between carving a more hopeful path for yourself, and giving into your fears of becoming defined by your hurt, it’s sure to give you the push to overcome your adversities.
11. ‘Still Learning’ by Halsey
As we grow up, we never stop learning things about ourselves, or what may happen on the path to achieving our dreams. Halsey’s compassionate, fast-paced rhythmics and lyrics will boost you up whenever you’re feeling daunted by life’s unpredictability and obstacles.
12. ‘Most Girls’ by Hailee Steinfeld
With a super ironic title, Hailee Steinfed’s jazzed-up song is actually about not conforming to being like most girls, and more about the fact that everyone is unique. In that sense, everyone’s the same.
13. ‘Bright Screens’ by Della Memoria
Another underground smash, this one is more about how we’ve become a generation glued to our screens, rather than one that connects to the people around us.
14. ‘Hello’ by Adele
Still standing as a modern classic among this Brit’s repertoire, ‘Hello’ speaks beautifully to that desire to literally revisit your past self, and letting that former self know that your trials no longer hurt you.
15. ‘Both Sides Now’ cover by Emilia Jones (from the CODA soundtrack)
This song has existed for decades, and been performed by various singers, but rising star Emilia Jones’ luminous cover from the Best Picture-winning CODA (2021) perfectly captures its meaning, about being able to look back and see a difficult situation from both sides.
16. ‘Follow the Sun’ by Caroline Pennell
Anyone who hasn’t heard Caroline Pennell’s voice and lyrics at this point is simply missing out. This song of hers, which preaches the importance of continuing to move forward in life, believing firmly that there’s a brighter day ahead for everybody.
17. ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ by The Smiths
Tackling more the identity of the music industry, this favorite from the classic band takes a stab at the system lead singer John Morrisey feels trapped in, and at its tendency to get up-in-arms and offended when called out. Don’t forget to give it a listen.
18. ‘Surface Pressure’ by Jessica Darrow (from the Encanto soundtrack)
This original selection from Disney’s Encanto (2021) is about, put simply, the pressure to live up to the impossible expectations people might set for you. It’s also a cautionary tale that, if you don’t take some time for yourself, you’ll burn out. A dire, but hopeful, warning.
19. ‘Hair’ by Lady Gaga
This effervescent and vibrant single by the great Lady Gaga is not just about hair, it’s about self-expression altogether.
20. ‘Youth’ by Shawn Mendes