20 Birthday Songs to Sing Instead of “Happy Birthday to You”

By Etan Rosenbloom, ASCAP Director & Deputy Editor  •  February 13, 2020

With all due respect to sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill (the reputed writers of “Happy Birthday to You”), there are tons of other great songs to celebrate the anniversary of your birth. In honor of the anniversary of ASCAP’s founding, here are 20 alternative bday songs to sing in our repertory, whatever your birthday mood.

+When you're done here, solve our birthday crossword puzzle (consider it a little party favor)

50 Cent - "In da Club" // ASCAP writers: 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Mike Elizondo

Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo’s production on this #1 hit is so good, it probably woulda been a smash if 50 Cent were rapping about plate tectonics. But the minute he tossed off “Go shorty, it's your birthday,” a club (and birthday) classic was born.

CHOICE LYRIC: “I'm that cat by the bar toasting to the good life / Moved out the hood now you trying to pull me back, right / When my joint get to pumping in the club, it's on / I wink my eye at your chick, if she smiles, she gone”

Lorde – “Still Sane” // ASCAP writers: Lorde, Joel Little

Though Lorde hadn’t yet reached her 17th birthday when her debut album Pure Heroine was released, she expresses a balance of confidence and self-awareness that a songwriter twice her age could envy. Birthdays are great opportunities for reflection on where you’re at, where you’ve been and what’s to come, no?

CHOICE LYRIC: “Today is my birthday, and I'm riding high / Hair is dripping, hiding that I'm terrified”

Carly Simon – “Happy Birthday” // ASCAP writer: Carly Simon

Sure, you can read mournfulness into this tale of former lovers, celebrating a birthday long after they’ve grown up and moved on. But there’s also acceptance, biblical allusions, social critique, even a microwave - everything we’ve come to expect from a writer as nuanced as Carly Simon.

CHOICE LYRIC: “We've given up caffeine and sworn off desserts / I don't try to seduce you, we don't even flirt / We're too good to be happy, too straight to be sad / So just blow out the candles”

Drake – “Ratchet Happy Birthday” // ASCAP writers: PARTYNEXTDOOR, Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels, Dalton “D10” Tennant

On this hypnotic track, Drake swivels from celebration to lovelorn longing to existential brooding, often from one line to the next. Placed midway through Scorpion’s second half, it’s a deep cut, and a deep song, too.

CHOICE LYRIC: “To be, to feel, and fill / That emptiness inside you / Petty bullshit shouldn't excite you / On your birthday”

Stevie Wonder - "Happy Birthday" // ASCAP writer: Stevie Wonder

Stevie recorded this jubilant ditty in 1981 to promote the push for a national day honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. And it worked! Two years later, President Reagan signed the holiday into law. Play this one for the freedom fighter in your life on his or her birthday.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Because it should never be / Just because some cannot see / The dream as clear as he / That they should make it become an illusion”

the bird and the bee - "Birthday"// ASCAP writers: Inara George, Greg Kurstin

This one's sleek, classy and catchy, just like everything else that Inara George and Greg Kurstin do together as the bird and the bee.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Who knows your birthday? / Who knows your number? / Who knows your color? / Who knows your hands? / Who knows the sum of all your parts?”

Jeremih - "Birthday Sex" // ASCAP writer: Jeremih

Could a song called “Birthday Sex” have been anything but an R&B slow jam?

CHOICE LYRIC: “We grinding with passion (‘cause it's your birthday) / Been at it for hours (I know you thirsty) / You kiss me so sweetly (taste just like Hershey's) / Just tell me how you want your gift girl…”

Lesley Gore - "It's My Party" // ASCAP writers: John Gluck, Wally Gold

There’s never been a better summation of the dark side of funtimes than “It’s My Party.” Fun fact: Quincy Jones produced this original version, and pretty much all of Lesley Gore’s huge hits in the mid-’60s.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Judy and Johnny just walked through the door / Like a queen with her king / Oh what a birthday surprise / Judy's wearin' his ring”

Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach - "Tears at the Birthday Party" // ASCAP writers: Elvis Costello, Burt Bacharach

According to “It’s My Party,” the birthday girl is the only one allowed to cry at her own birthday bash. Not so, according to “Tears at the Birthday Party.” This elegant tearjerker features a party guest about to break down as he watches an old flame celebrate. Leave it to Elvis and Burt to dress up heartbreak in a suit and tie.

CHOICE LYRIC: “But now I see / I see you share your cake with him / Unwrapping presents that I should have sent / What can I do?”

Trap Beckham – “Birthday Chick” // ASCAP writers – Ernest “Tuo” Clark, Marcos “Kosine” Palacios

Beats, booties and birthdays: that’s what this 2016 club banger is all about. That pure ‘n simple trap beat is brought to you courtesy of Da Internz, who also crafted Rihanna’s entry on this list.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Yeah, you the birthday chick / It's time to do some birthday s**t / I wanna see that birthday cake / Lil' bae g'on and birthday shake”

Katy Perry - "Birthday" // ASCAP writers: Henry “Cirkut” Walter, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Katy Perry

This addition to our list is an effortlessly fun disco romp with some bawdy double entendres about birthday celebration. Of course, Katy knows a thing or two about throwing an excellent party - remember “Last Friday Night (TGIF)?”

CHOICE LYRIC: “But when you're with me / I'll give you a taste / Make it like your birthday everyday”

Uriah Heep - "The Magician’s Birthday" // ASCAP writer: Ken Hensley

The title track from Uriah Heep’s 1972 album, this song is the epitome of ’70s prog rock: a 10-minute suite drenched in shifty instrumental passages, blistering solos and a fantastical narrative about sphinxes and forests and magic. And some of the finest kazoo work in rock history (seriously).

CHOICE LYRIC: “Let's all go to the magician's birthday / It's in a forest but not so far away / Much to do and so much to say / While we listened to the orchid orchestra play”

No Doubt - "Six Feet Under" // ASCAP writers: Tony Kanal, Gwen Stefani

Well, this is a refreshing change! This peppy number counters the joy of celebrating your birthday with the crushing despair of knowing that you’re one year closer to death. Yep, we’re all gonna die. No doubt about that (see what we did there?)

CHOICE LYRIC: “Today is my birthday / And I get one every year / And some day… / Hard to believe / But I'll be buried six feet underground”

Rihanna - "Birthday Cake" // ASCAP writers: Ernest “Tuo” Clark, Terius “The-Dream” Nash, Marcos “Kosine” Palacios

Rihanna straight-up admits in the first verse that “it’s not even my birthday.” So yes, this song is more about sexual come-ons than celebrating the anniversary of her birthing. But with all the references to icing, candles and especially cake, you gotta respect RiRi's commitment to the birthday conceit.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Cake / Cake / Cake / Cake / Cake / Cake / Cake / Cake…”

The Ting Tings - "Happy Birthday" // ASCAP writers: Michael Anderson, Bryan Keegan, Gerard McElhone, John McElhone

We can think of no acid trip more appropriate for children than this Yo Gabba Gabba! clip of the Ting Tings covering a birthday song by Scottish new wave band Altered Images.

CHOICE LYRIC: “If they were me and I was you / Would you like a present too?”

Matt Nathanson - "Birthday Girl" // ASCAP writers: Joby Ford, Matt Nathanson

The singer-songwriter behind “Come on Get Higher” offers up a metaphor about the way that love can lead to spiritual renewal - or rather, rebirth.

CHOICE LYRIC: “C'mon and lift the fog, my birthday girl / The rains came, turned all the hills green / Turned the dirt to flowers, birthday girl”

Destiny's Child - "Birthday" // ASCAP writers: Beyoncé, LaTavia Roberson, Kelly Rowland, D’wayne Wiggins

This slow-grooving R&B jam finds Destiny’s Child suggesting “You don’t have to do nothin’” and “leave your problems up to me.” Birthday fantasy, or ode to slackers? You decide. We’re content just listening to Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland sing so sweet.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Im sendin’ out invitations / To let all your friends know that (it's your birthday) / But all that I really wanna do / Is wrap you up and get in the groove”

Fiona Apple - "Love Ridden" // ASCAP writer: Fiona Apple

While it’s not a birthday song proper, this haunting ballad opens with a birthday-oriented lyric too breathtaking not to include.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Love ridden, I will look at you / With the focus I gave to my birthday candles / I've wished on the lidded blue flames under your brow / And baby, I wished for you”

Sondre Lerche - "Happy Birthday Girl" // ASCAP writer: Sondre Lerche

This song from our favorite Norwegian singer-songwriter was an appropriately epic final track for his 2006 album Phantom Punch. He reminds us that birthdays can symbolize both endings and beginnings.

CHOICE LYRIC: “And while I'm barking at the moon / You sing your heart out to a tune / Hoping you'll never grow old”

Waylon Jennings - “MacArthur Park” // ASCAP writer: Jimmy Webb

Granted, the “cake” that someone left out in the rain in this Jimmy Webb classic could’ve been baked for any occasion. But we like to imagine Waylon Jennings, standing in the rain at lil’ Shooter’s birthday party, furiously shaking his fists at the sky.

CHOICE LYRIC: “Someone left the cake out in the rain / I don't think that I can take it / 'Cause it took so long to bake it / And I'll never have that recipe again”

It's our birthday too, yeah. Try your hand at our birthday crossword puzzle: www.ascap.com/crossword