Yesterday my lovely niece, Tala, who is also my goddaughter, turned 16. Since I am 3,000 miles away and cannot join in the festivities, I decided to pester her with postings on her Facebook page. I wanted to find 16 songs about being 16, but could only find about a half dozen goods ones. I rounded up to 10 with a few I frankly regard as pretty weak. I thought I’d post these for your consideration and if you could help me with any forgotten gems, I’d appreciate it. Not that I’m in a hurry, my next goddaughter doesn’t hit the mark for another eight years.
Counting down in order of my preference, here are:
The Top Ten Songs About Being Sweet 16
10. Sweet 16 by Billy Idol. Not quite as creepy as White Wedding, but equally macabre. Not sure what he means by “Someone’s built a candy brain And filled it in,” but Billy’s lament is full of teenage angst. Hey, not everybody gets a happy childhood.
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9. Sweet 16 by Destiny’s Child. Beyonce’s gotta be happy she left these chicks behind. Sweet, yes. Dull, oh, yes.
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8. 16 Today. And now a word from our sponsor. Yeah, the song’s nothing more than an infomercial for a party-planner, but it still places higher than Billy and Beyonce. Passable as a father/daughter dance song if no one can find a Mills Brothers CD (“Daddy’s Little Girl”).
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7. Sweet 16 by Hilary Duff. Formulaic, uninspired and overproduced. But perky. Very perky.
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6. When You Were Sweet Sixteen by The Fureys & Davey Arthur. Sweet, heartfelt and nostalgic. Yes, it’s an old fogey song, sung by an old fogey to an old fogey, but I’m getting closer to Fogeyville every day. Planning to take up permanent residence very soon.
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5. Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry. Not as hard-driving as Johnny B. Goode, and doesn’t sound quite as fresh, but still a toe-tapper, and captures the age and attitude of girls delighting in finally enjoying the freedom of being (almost) all grown up.
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4. Only Sixteen by Sam Cooke. Another lament, but infinitely sweeter. I quite remember being the callow soul singing this tune. Yes, I grew up with Dr. Hook’s version, but given the choice, gotta go with Sam Cooke.
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3. Happy Birthday, Sweet 16 by Neil Sedaka. Undoubtedly the most flamboyant song on the list. Also the most joyous. Doesn’t even bother me that Sedaka sings soprano.
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2. You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine by Ringo Starr. Between the Beatles and the All-Starr Band, Ringo managed to reel off a few Top 40 Hits, and you know that don’t come easy. (Photograph was my favorite.) This is campy, corny but joyous.
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Now for those of you who felt cheated on the Dr. Hook decision, or the inclusion of the infomercial, I give you the original version of You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine, by Johnny Burnette.
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1. 16 Candles by the Crests. I never realized the lead singer is Johnny Maestro, one of my favorite doo-wop front men, who recorded one of the great pop laments of all time, “The Worst that Could Happen.” (So good I forgive the unfortunate grammatical error that makes the object of the lament comically ambiguous, but I digress….) I actually bought a 45 of this song at an oldies record store for my sister Eileen’s 16th birthday. She got all dolled up to go out with her friends, so as she descended the stairs to the first floor living room, I played it loudly on the stereo to accompany her entrance. In her inimitable style she got to the foot of the stairs and yelled at me, “Can you turn that down, I’m trying to talk!” Without further ado, the best song ever about being 16 years old:
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Now, what did I miss?