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The Daily Tar Heel

Office DJ: Why are girls in songs always 17?


Daily Tar Heel Community Engagement Director Elizabeth Egan poses with Rameses in the UNC Student Stores during a visit to UNC's campus when she was 17, on March 8, 2019.

Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Egan.

Why are girls in songs always 17?

This is a question that Dylan Minnette asks in the Wallows song “1980s Horror Film.” And it's a great question. 

I realized that a lot of songs I love feature girls who are 17. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA comes to mind first, but “I Saw Her Standing There,” by the Beatles, “Cigarette Daydreams” by Cage the Elephant and “Betty” by Taylor Swift all fall in that category. Others mention being 17 in general, such as “Girls” by The 1975, “Seventeen” by MARINA and “Made in Hollywood” by LANY.

So what is it about the age of 17 that makes it worthy of mention in so many songs?

I don’t have a good answer for that.

What I do know is that recently I have been feeling increasingly similar to the way I did when I was 17. At 17 years old, I was a senior in high school trying to figure out where I would go to college. Now, I am a senior in college, looking toward my next steps after graduation.

Thinking about 17-year-old Lilly is something that has been bringing me comfort lately. She was feeling uncertain about the future, just like I am now, and turned out okay. So I know I will too. She was unsure if she wanted to come to UNC but took the leap of faith, and it has been incredibly better, harder and more full of life than she ever could have imagined. I am so proud of 17-year-old Lilly.

And I know she would be proud of me too. 

Sometimes when I doubt myself, I remember that so many parts of my daily life would amaze senior-year-of-high-school Lilly. Even being on the management team of a student newspaper of over 200 staff members is something she would marvel at. 17-year-old Lilly was much more shy than I am now, and I know she would be proud of how much more comfortable I have become with sharing my thoughts, standing up for myself and just meeting and talking to new people on a daily basis.

I don’t know exactly who the future versions of me will be. But I do know that the past ones will always be there for me to lean on and learn from, and we will all make it through together.

So, while I try to grab hold onto of as much of the last of my college experience as I can, I have compiled a playlist of songs about being 17 — as well as ones I loved my senior year of high school just as much as I do my senior year of college. 

To my 17-year-old self, girls who have been, are or will ever be 17 and anyone facing uncertainty right now: this one’s for you.


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