Now Reading
The ultimate coming-of-age albums of our generation

The ultimate coming-of-age albums of our generation

We see in the media we consume the most romanticized coming-of-age stories. From Perks of Being a Wallflower’s I feel infinite moment to Ladybird’s sexual and spiritual awakening. Or the whole anthology of The End of the F***ing World and Sex Education.

And true, our late teens to early 20s are arguably the most painful and confusing yet liberating and unforgettable years of our life. Happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time, as Taylor Swift would say.

While this era of breakouts, breakups, and breakdowns may pass, we always have the music that carried us through this experience. Those songs that when you hear feel like a morning commute to school or after-class hangout with your friends. Or albums that make you reminisce about your first drink, first kiss, or first fight with your parents.

Five ultimate coming-of-age albums

Ctrl, SZA (2017)

From “I could be your supermodel if you believe” to “Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?” SZA bared her soul on her debut studio album. By extension, we took her soulful and raw art into our lives and made it our own. 

Looking back, this project always seemed like a mourning and heartbreak album. But what made it relatable to our teenage selves were the layers of self-doubt, hatred, and insecurity. At a young age, it has become a universal experience to look down on ourselves because it is easier than blaming everyone and anyone. 

Sewn within the tracks like, Supermodel, The Weekend, Garden, and the cult classic Normal Girl were the doubts that “I will never be good enough” or “This is the best I can do.” And what ties it all up is the closer track 20 something, an ode to youth and failures, ending with “Prayin’ the twenty-somethings don’t kill me.” By the end, SZA reached a point of acceptance, of her faults and being, and by default, moved on to the next chapter.

It is a great coming-of-age soundtrack as it perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being alone and constantly questioning; what transitioning to adulthood feels like.

Blond(e), Frank Ocean (2017)

The level of relativity we feel with Frank Ocean’s music can never be described, especially in our more youthful years. But personally, the feeling I get every time I listen to Blond is always a familiar emotion of stupidity and clumsiness. It is never knowing what you are doing but doing it anyway, then regretting facing the consequences. This, specifically with songs Self Control, Ivy, Godspeed, and White Ferrari.

The lyrics “I’m sure we’re taller in other dimension, you said we’re small and not worth the mention,” never fail to conjure a perfect tableau of young lovers talking about the fragility of being, and the human condition in my head. 

Pure Heroine, Lorde (2013)

For Tumblr and alt teens, Pure Heroine by 16-year-old Lorde is the definition of coming-of-age music. From its lyrical content, production, and overall aesthetics it embodies what growing up as a teen in the mid-2010s feels like. 

For instance, 400 Lux although not exactly a relatable love song for a non-white and non-privileged listener, sure captures the feeling of first and innocent love. AN irreplaceable infatuation. Tracks Ribs and Buzzcut Season further explore the confusion of dealing with new feelings with the fading naïvité of being young. Much like the album as a whole, it is a question of existence, community, and society.

Overall, Pure Heroine personifies a night stroll with your friends, empty-minded, and nothing to worry about but the pains of growing.

See Also

Immunity, Clairo (2019)

When her second album Sling is closer to issues of adulthood, Clairo’s debut studio album Immunity explores the concepts of transition to adulthood.

Personally, Bags, alongside any Taylor Swift song from Fearless, perfectly describes what it feels like to adjust to changes and new feelings in terms of romantic relationships. According to Clairo, it is about her “learning to be comfortable in a place of the unknown and kind of just letting something be” —a solid description of growing up.

Bags and Sofia are a killer duo as an introduction to the project. In the same manner that the whole album does, both songs further on vulnerability and learning to deal with your emotions, and that everything will be alright in time. It is a familiar concept; the ideal coming-of-age arc.

Bury Me At Makeout Creek, Mitski (2014)

Past its evocative and emotional lyricism, Mitski’s third album sounds exactly what teenage angst and cries would, if it came from an Asian queer kid. The tracks Townie and Drunk Walk Home just scream refusal to adhere to growing up and getting better. While Francis Forever, First Love / Late Spring, and I Will lies on the other end of the spectrum that begs for happiness, for someone to scoop them out of the loneliness and the pains of growing.

In beautiful contrast, Bury Me At Makeout Creek captured the feeling of being hopeful and hopeless. It is representative of waving goodbye to youth, embracing growing up, and finding yourself regardless of other people’s standards.

These five albums may not be fitting of a coming-of-age soundtrack for you, but surely to someone, for a random person out there, it is. Maybe yours are jollier, more upbeat, or more devastating. Anyway, you get to pick what to mark your own experiences, what to get off them, and what to do with the lessons you learn from your own coming of age.

Scroll To Top