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Birthday Songs
Image: Time Out/Everett Collection/Shutterstock

The 30 best birthday songs

We can do so, so much better than another chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’

Edited by
Matthew Singer
Written by
Andrew Frisicano
,
Ro Samarth
&
Andy Kryza
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Apologies to Patty and Mildred J. Hill, but on the list of the best birthday songs, ‘Happy Birthday to You’ is all the way down at the bottom. Sure, it’s claimed to be the most recognisable song in the English language, but it’s repetitive, the melody blows, and it doesn’t slap even a little bit. ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ isn’t much better. Way to uphold the patriarchy there, anonymous 18th-century French composer!

The good news is, we no longer have to be in thrall to these weak-ass jams on what’s supposed to be the most joyful day of the year. Over the last half-century, songwriters have been working to give us some actual bangers to commemorate our born days. From classic rock anthems to club-quaking hits, here are 30 awesome birthday songs that absolutely do not suck. 

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Best birthday songs of all time, ranked

 ‘Birthday’ by The Beatles
Image: Apple Records

1.  ‘Birthday’ by The Beatles

As if they weren't busy enough laying the groundwork for the next 60 years of pop music, the Fab Four also tossed off this bowtied b-day nugget on the White Album.

‘Happy Birthday’ by Stevie Wonder
Image: Motown Records

2. ‘Happy Birthday’ by Stevie Wonder

Stevie penned this birthday tune for Martin Luther King Jr., as part of the campaign to get the day recognized as a national holiday. And it worked! Everybody one for once.

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‘In Da Club’ by 50 Cent
Image: Shady Records

3. ‘In Da Club’ by 50 Cent

Truth be told, despite the famous opening line, the song is about partying like it’s your birthday, not on your literal birthday. But hey, as long as you’re of age, no one’s going to question the actual date on your ID when you order that bottle of bub.

‘It’s My Party’ by Leslie Gore
Image: Mercury Records

4. ‘It’s My Party’ by Leslie Gore

As Leslie reminds, it’s your birthday so do whatever you damn well please, even if it’s making the rest of the people at your party feel extremely awkward.

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‘Happy Birthday’ by Altered Images
Image: Epic

5. ‘Happy Birthday’ by Altered Images

This trippy '80s pop song is a perfect combo of a peppy tune, dreamy synth and catchy lyrics, making it the band’s most successful song and a fun one for celebrating.

‘Birthday’ by Destiny's Child
Image: Columbia

6. ‘Birthday’ by Destiny's Child

Save tune from Beyoncé & Co.'s 1998 debut for when it’s time to slow things down, post-cake and ice cream.

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‘Birthday’ by Twista
Image: Get Money Gang

7. ‘Birthday’ by Twista

The quick-tongued wordsmith breaks it down for your special day... we think. The guy raps really fast, so it’s sometimes hard to tell.

‘Happy Birthday’ by ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic
Image: Rock 'n Roll Records

8. ‘Happy Birthday’ by ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic

Nothing says ‘Happy birthday’ like a rambunctious polka about the end of the world from the guy who brought us ‘Christmas at Ground Zero.’

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‘Happy Birthday (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year)’ by Loretta Lynn
Image: MCA

9. ‘Happy Birthday (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year)’ by Loretta Lynn

Loretta wishes a happy birthday (and a fond farewell) to her ex beau. Efficient!

‘Birthday’ by Migos
Image: Capitol Records

10. ‘Birthday’ by Migos

Even though this banger by the Southern trap squad reveals itself to be about somebody pretending it’s their birthday, the chorus’s ‘Ay, who birthday? Put yo hand up’ is enough to place it next to ‘In Da Club’ as an anthem perfect for calling attention to yourself on your big night.

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 ‘Older’ by They Might Be Giants
Image: eMusic

11.  ‘Older’ by They Might Be Giants

‘You’re older than you’ve ever been / and now you’re even older.’ Happy birthday! Life is a fleeting blip in the universe!

‘Happy Birthday’ by Sufjan Stevens
Image: Asthmatic Kitty

12. ‘Happy Birthday’ by Sufjan Stevens

You might want to save Sufjan’s slowly-finger-picked b-day meditation for after everyone leaves the party.

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‘Birthday Cake’ by Rihanna
Image: Def Jam

13. ‘Birthday Cake’ by Rihanna

‘It’s not even my birthday,’ starts Rihanna, though we’re not entirely convinced... wait, this isn't about cake at all, is it?

‘Birthday’ by Katy Perry
Image: Capitol Records

14. ‘Birthday’ by Katy Perry

The flirty pop queen didn't really exhaust herself overthinking the euphemisms here: ‘So let me get you in your birthday suit/It's time to bring out the big balloons.’ Wow, sounds like a great party. Will there be a bounce house as well?

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‘Birthday Song’ by 2 Chainz
Image: Def Jam

15. ‘Birthday Song’ by 2 Chainz

Totally relatable, unless you want something other than a big booty for your birthday.

‘Birthday Song’ by Don McLean
Image: United Artists

16. ‘Birthday Song’ by Don McLean

Mr ‘American Pie’ get expectedly sentimental when it’s time to blow out the candles, gifting an unnamed celebrant this exact song and making the rest of us feel thoughtless for just showing up with a card.

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‘Birthday Sex’ by Jeremih
Image: Def Jam

17. ‘Birthday Sex’ by Jeremih

An ode to the best kind of sex, behind ‘makeup,’ ‘angry,’ ‘post-breakup’ and ‘in the supply closet at work.’

‘Birthday’ by Blur
Image: Food Records

18. ‘Birthday’ by Blur

You might be surprised that the guys behind ‘Song No 2’ are also responsible for this somber b-day serenade.

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‘Birthday Dethday’ by Dethklok
Image: Williams Street

19. ‘Birthday Dethday’ by Dethklok

It’s the heavy metal b-day banger you've been waiting for all these years, courtesy of the Adult Swim shredders from Metalocalypse.

‘Happy Birthday’ by Tiny Moving Parts
Image: Triple Crown Records

20. ‘Happy Birthday’ by Tiny Moving Parts

This is the emo birthday song for all the emo kids who claim they don't actually do birthdays, ok?

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‘Birthday’ by Selena Gomez
Image: Hollywood Records

21. ‘Birthday’ by Selena Gomez

Like Selena says, even if it’s not your birthday, no one's gonna know! (This also works when you want a free piece of cake at the chain restaurant.)

‘B’day Song’ by Madonna
Image: Interscope

22. ‘B’day Song’ by Madonna

This MDNA bonus track sounds like the kind of thing an exuberant 5 year old might shout out at their party. Just proving Madge is perfect at any age.

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‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ by St. Vincent
Image: Loma Vista

23. ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ by St. Vincent

You don’t have to know anyone named Johnny to appreciate this wistful piano ballad from St. Vincent’s otherwise throbbing and synth-heavy Masseduction - just someone who’s no longer in your life, who you still think about longingly at least once a year. 

‘Birthday Boy’ by Ween
Image: Twin/Tone Records

24. ‘Birthday Boy’ by Ween

The twisted pop duo crank up the sweet-n-sugary on this birthday tune, which gets an extra-bitter callback on the later album Chocolate & Cheese. 

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‘Death For My Birthday’ by Say Anything
Image: RCA

25. ‘Death For My Birthday’ by Say Anything

Hopefully you’re having a better birthday than Max Bemis.

’Happy Birthday’ by New Kids on the Block
Image: Columbia

26. ’Happy Birthday’ by New Kids on the Block

Somewhere in the Midwest, a very excitable HR specialist is blasting this to celebrate turning 46 right now, and everybody else enjoying a Tuesday dinner at Chilis is all about it.

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‘Birthday’ by The Sugarcubes
Image: One Little Indian

27. ‘Birthday’ by The Sugarcubes

Before she was Björk, she was wishing you a happy birthday with this extremely Icelandic pop tune full of spiders, worms and ravens.

‘Birthday Song’ by Frankie Cosmos
Image: Greta Kline

28. ‘Birthday Song’ by Frankie Cosmos

As Frankie Cosmos, NYC songsmith Greta Kline sings masterfully about getting older and staying the same.

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‘Happy Birthday’ by the Ramones
Photograph: Ian Dickson/REX/Shutterstock

29. ‘Happy Birthday’ by the Ramones

It’s only a 15 second clip from The Simpsons, but it’s up there with Marilyn Monroe purring to JFK as the definitive version. If you don’t say ‘go to hell, you old bastard’ after your buddy blows out the candles, did you even grow up in the ‘90s?

‘Unhappy Birthday’ by The Smiths
Image: Sire Records

30. ‘Unhappy Birthday’ by The Smiths

Unsurprisingly, Morrissey isn’t super into birthdays.

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