Music is dope. A song can immediately elicit emotions or memories that had long been locked away in the darkest recesses of your brain. Whether it reminds you of that high school crush that broke your heart or the party in college you swear you’ll never top, music has a way of taking you back to that time, if not for just a couple of minutes.
But there’s another type of trigger that songs have. It’s not the kind where you think of your middle school P.E. teacher every time you hear “Kung Fu Fighting” because he insisted on playing it every time you stretched before class started. No, it’s the kind of trigger that takes you back to a time in your life through lyrics. And perhaps there’s no age as pivotal as one that songwriters continually reference to trigger those memories—17 years old.
It’s the age in which you feel like you know everything, but have hardly learned a thing. It’s the age in which you have to start making big decisions that may affect the rest of your life, but you technically aren’t even considered an adult yet. When you’re 17, you think you know what love is and your favorite beer is whatever you could get your hands on. At the peak of teenage angst, 17 was likely a mix of the best and worst memories growing up, but they are memories nonetheless.
I could write an article titled, “The Mt. Rushmore of Songs That Trigger My Favorite Memories,” but no one cares about why “Candy” by Mandy Moore takes me back to my crush on my sister’s softball teammate when I was eight years old. Those types of memories and songs are completely unique and subjective and absolutely no one would have the same four answers. But songs that tell the story of life at age 17 and conjure up relatable experiences? I ACCEPT YOUR CHALLENGE.
Let’s make no mistake—this ain’t easy. There are LOTS of songs that are set at age 17 and it would be impossible to list them all or remember them all, so be prepared to be offended because I forgot your favorite obscure song that mentions the word seventeen once. In fact, my one guideline is going to be that the song has to mention 17 more than once (which sadly eliminates iconic sing-alongs, “Something Like That” by Tim McGraw and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett). So here goes nothing:
“Paradise By The Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf feat. Ellen Foley
The lyric: “Ain’t no doubt about it we were doubly blessed, ‘cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed.”
Monumental because: This is one of those songs that needs no music video because it tells the story so vividly… and Meat Loaf doesn’t cut corners. It’s eight minutes and 28 seconds of glam rock perfection, complete with a baseball announcer interlude to mimic two 17-year-old coeds making moves in the back of a car. From “will you love me forever?” to “praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you,” this song encapsulates pretty much everything about being 17 years old, but honestly it’s just too iconic not to include on this list.
“Strawberry Wine” by Deana Carter
The lyric: “It’s funny how those memories they last like strawberry wine and seventeen.”
Monumental because: Love or hate your ‘90s country ballads, this is one you know everyone is belting once it hits the chorus. The song is about your typical American girl losing her innocence, having her “first taste of love” and using strawberry wine as a metaphor for her “bittersweet” experiences at that age. It’s almost too cliche, but it’s also perfect in that sense and absolutely deserves its spot on the Mt. Rushmore.
“Springsteen” by Eric Church
The lyric: “When I think about you, I think about seventeen, I think about my old Jeep, I think about the stars in the sky.”
Monumental because: Full disclosure: Eric Church is my favorite artist and Springsteen continues to be one of my favorite songs. I also had an old Jeep when I was seventeen. Call me biased all you want, but this is the George Washington of our Mt. Rushmore here. I could have just pasted the lyrics of this song into a word document and used it as the intro to this article. Beyond the brilliant lyrical nods to Bruce Springsteen’s music throughout the song, it just takes you back to your younger self. “To this day when I hear that song, I see you standing there on that lawn.” YES, ERIC. YOU TOOK ME THERE AND NOW YOU’RE ON MY MT. RUSHMORE BECAUSE OF IT.
“Dancing Queen” by Abba
The lyric: “You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.”
Monumental because: There was some stiff competition for the fourth and final spot (“Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks was too dark and Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year” quickly moves away from age 17), but how can you not love “Dancing Queen”??? Okay, I get that maybe disco is dead and the fact they found a way to use “jive” in the chorus shows you just how intensely ‘70s ABBA was, but it’s still iconic in its own way. The story of going out to find a place where you can have a good time dancing while hopefully catching someone’s eye is a typical 17-year-old activity. Set it to some cheesy disco music, and we’re all “having the time of our lives.”
This list is indisputable, but what songs belong on your Mt. Rushmore?