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22 songs about being 22

| Monday, April 25, 2022

Christina Sayut | The Observer
Image sources: Pitchfork, Wikipedia, Hypebeast.com

Somewhere down the line, we decided that certain ages are inherently more important than others. You always hear about 16. Legal systems around the world love 18 for some reason. And on one fateful day in 1976, ABBA changed the legacy of 17 forever. 

But where’s the love for 22? 

It’s a big year. It’s when most will graduate from college, when many will begin living on their own for their first time and arguably the real beginning of your “twenties.” In other words: 22 is when sh*t gets real.

The Observer has shown some love to other eventful years over the years — 17 and 21, to be exact — so I figured it’s time to add to our ever-expanding canon of age-inspired soundtracks. In celebration of the class of 2022, here are 22 songs that encapsulate early adulthood’s most underrated year.

You can listen to the full playlist here:

1. “22 (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift

Duh. 

Is there anything I can say about this song that hasn’t been said already? I’ll just say this: Thank you, Taylor, for giving 22 the anthem it deserves. Here’s to everyone currently feeling “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.”  

2. “Hello Cold World” by Paramore 

Former emo kids, rise up! 

As a band coming to fame and coming of age at the same time, Paramore’s discography includes plenty of diatribes against the horrors of growing older. With classic pop punk guitars and angsty breakneck lyrics, “Hello Cold World” attempts to narrate the cruelty and confusion of newfound adulthood. 

“Twenty-two was like, the worst idea that I have ever had / It’s too much pain, it’s too much freedom / What should I do with this?” 

My middle school self really thought he related to this song. Little did he know.

3. “The Man with the Axe” by Lorde 

To all the former gifted kids who feel washed up and burned out in their senior year of college: This one’s for you. 

“I thought I was a genius / But now I’m twenty two.” 

Ouch. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean you have to say it, Lorde.

4. “Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift

For better or for worse, the sad pop girlies have really been fixating on the number 22 recently. 

“How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22?” 

5. “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” by Bon Iver

As the class of 2022 knows (but maybe pretends not to), 22 is often a year of many endings. In this introspective, ambient track, Bon Iver reflects on the past before tiptoeing into acceptance. 

“It might be over soon, soon, soon.” 

6. “Flight 22” by Kali Uchis 

That’s enough sad songs — all aboard Flight 22. 

Sure, 22 is often a year of gaping unknowns and heart-wrenching goodbyes. But as we venture into the world and experience all it has to offer, the year can also be one of adventure and discovery. 

“Nowhere in this world can compare, boy that’s the truth / To wherever we’re going on Flight 22.” 

7. “Class of 2013” by Mitski 

This one goes out to all my other seniors who still have no idea what they’re doing after graduation. 

“Mom, I’m tired / Can I sleep in your house tonight? / Mom, is it alright / If I stay for a year or two?” 

Too soon? 

“Mom, am I still young? Can I dream for a few months more?” 

8. “Twenty-Somethings” by Judah & The Lion

We’ve now entered the “20-something” portion of the list. 

22 is where I think the phenomenon of being a “twenty-something” truly begins. 20 stands out because it’s the first, and 21 is special in the U.S. — so it’s 22 that begins the descent into a decade of shapeless, sometimes indistinguishable ages. 

But hey, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. 

“Running scared / Running free / Full of light / Got no money / Yeah, that’s us / Twenty-somethings.” 

9. “20 Something” by SZA

With emotionally conflicted lyrics laid over beautiful, simple strings, SZA admits that one’s twenties can’t really be clearly defined — it’s a million different things rolled into 10 long years.

“Stuck in them 20 somethings / Good luck on them 20 somethings / But God bless these 20 somethings.”

10. “Twenty Two and Some Change” by Stephen Day

For the final song of our “20-something” segment, we have some classic 20-something catastrophizing. Are you even an adult if you haven’t fallen into a spiral worrying that you’ve lived your life all wrong? 

“When you get to a certain age / You miss what you could’ve had / But don’t really want it back / And hope that you’re right on track / For twenty two and some change.”

11. “We’re All In This Together (Graduation Mix)” by High School Musical 3: Senior Year Cast Ensemble 

Yes, I know this song is about high school graduation. But Ashley Tisdale was 22 during the filming of “High School Musical 3: Senior Year,” so I’m counting it. 

Plus, who can resist all this Disney Channel Original Movie optimism?

“We finally figured out / That our all dreams have no limitations / That’s what it’s all about.” 

12. “Ribs” by Lorde

Here’s another song that’s technically about one’s teenage years. Lorde wrote this song when she was 16, but I think it serves as a universal soundtrack of existential angst — all ages welcome. 

“This dream isn’t feeling sweet / We’re reeling through the midnight streets / And I’ve never felt more alone / It feels so scary getting old.” 

13. “22” by Taylor Swift 

Sorry, I’m just running out of songs at this point. Don’t stream this version, please. 

14. “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore

Thank you, Paramore, for continually reminding us that adulthood is a cruel mistress.

“You’re not the big fish in the pond no more / You are what they’re feeding on.” 

15. “100 Years” by Five For Fighting

I played this song for my mom a few weeks ago and she immediately started tearing up. So this one’s for the parents, I guess? 

“I’m 22 for a moment / And she feels better than ever / And we’re on fire / Making our way back from Mars.” 

16. “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield 

Cheesy, I know — but hear me out. This song oozes 22. 

“Reaching for something in the distance / So close you can almost taste it.” 

This is one of those songs you listen to a million times and never think anything of it, but then hear it one day and it all makes sense. Natasha was really onto something.

“Today is where your book begins / The rest is still unwritten.” 

17. “On the Bound” by Fiona Apple

Natasha wasn’t the only one to use a book as a metaphor for one’s life. 

“All my life is on me now / Hail the pages turning / And the future’s on the bound.” 

This song is unhinged in the best way possible — perfect for the existential crises of your 20-somethings.

“I don’t know what I’m doing / Don’t know, should I change my mind? I can’t decide, there’s too many variations to consider.” 

18. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

Here’s another universal anthem for anyone experiencing angst about aging. Just have the tissues ready.

“Can the child within my heart rise above? / Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides? / Can I handle the seasons of my life?” 

19. “Getting Older” by Billie Eilish

Billie’s only 20, but somehow she gets it.

“I’m getting older, I think I’m aging well / I wish someone had told me I’d be doing this by myself.” 

20. “The Gambler” by fun. 

This one’s for the ring-by-spring crowd. Here’s a beautiful, simple song about finding your soulmate early, and picturing the long life you two have in store together. 

“We’ve got fifty good years left to spend out in the garden / I don’t care to beg your pardon / We should live until we die.” 

21. “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend your twenties agonizing over the thought of losing your impeccable good looks. It’s only natural.

“Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful? / Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?” 

22. “brutal” by Olivia Rodrigo

Yes, I know this song was written about the experiences of a 17-year-old. But God, it’s still brutal out here.

“If someone tells me one more time / ‘Enjoy your youth,’ I’m gonna cry.” 

Some things never change. Here’s to all the 22-year-olds who still can’t parallel park: I see you. I hear you. I stand with you.

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About Evan McKenna

Evan is a senior at Notre Dame from Morristown, Tennessee majoring in psychology and English with a concentration in creative writing. He served as The Observer’s Managing Editor for the 2021-2022 term, and is currently rekindling his relationship with the Oxford comma. Reach him at [email protected] or @evanjmckenna on Twitter.

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