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Birthday songs to make or break your night

Sometimes it feels like some friend has a birthday every week, but it is the perfect excuse to gather ‘round in one big, shared experience that alternately warms the heart and slakes the sober tongue.

This week just happens to be my birthday, though, and in honor of this, I’ve compiled some songs that can either set the perfect tone for a birthday or destroy it completely.

The best

“Birthday Gal” – The Replacements

I’m always game to plug The ‘Mats whenever I can, but this song is truly the perfect way to cap off a birthday fated to be like all the others that aren’t your twenty-first or eighteenth. Singing with the shaky confidence of a man who’s seen a few too many birthdays himself, Paul Westerberg croons excellent, scene-setting lyrics like “Wax is dripping from the frosting of the cake / We sang off key, and now this is turning blue.”

Throw in a perfectly ramshackle guitar solo and some world-weary contemplation about growing up, and you’ve got yourself the perfect birthday song for me.

“Birthday” – The Sugarcubes

Or is this the perfect birthday song? I guess it all depends on how deep one is into their celebrating, as Bjork’s elastic vocal performance and the wonderfully Cure-like composition serves as an inspiring sing-along for everyone.

Of course it might be difficult to hit the notes she’s hitting, but who needs notes when you’ve got birthday sentiments as maudlin or cathartic as “They saw a big raven, it glided down the sky, she touched it. / Today’s a birthday, they’re smoking cigar”? Just … amazing. Explicit birthday wishes be damned.

Now, the worst:

“Birthday Sex” – Jeremih

Admittedly one has to admire a song that unabashedly celebrates a uniquely specific part of the best birthdays around. By delivering such an oddly sincere ode to an experience no one else would ever write a song about, Jeremih has ensured that his auto-tuned washed “Birthday Sex” will forever remain in some sad, lonely crevice of the birthday-having public.

Unfortunately Jeremih’s unnervingly melancholy delivery of lines like “Don’t need candles or cake / Just need your body to make” and “We grinding with passion cause it’s yo birthday” do little to capture the rock n roll birthday we all deserve.

“Birthday Song” – 2 Chainz feat. Kanye West

The only thing worse than a birthday song that completely misses the joyous beauty of birthdays is one that further aggravates Kanye West’s astounding slump of half-assed guest verses and lame G.O.O.D. Music collaborations.

2 Chainz is up front about his desire for “a big booty ho” to make his birthday dreams come true, but Kanye is frustratingly elusive about what exactly anybody’s birthday truly means to him. Tossing off a line like “Last birthday she got you a new sweater / Put it on, give her a kiss, and tell her to do better” is hardly what I had in mind when I heard you were releasing a birthday song, Yeezy!

“Happy Birthday”-Stevie Wonder

That damn tropical synthesizer. It takes Stevie Wonder all of five seconds to ruin birthdays forever, but with this song he reveals the true sadism behind his 40 year career. What other explanation could there possibly be for making this song just shy of six minutes long?

This was the song that started it all, folks. The one that made me wonder what birthday songs could possibly be worse than this one. The answer? None. Not one of them. Congratulations, Stevie: this is already the worst year of my life.


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