Birthday Party Playlist: Music to Celebrate Milestones and More

Celebrating a birthday soon?


While I always get giddy when I start to plan a birthday party—How will I decorate? What will I serve? What’s their favorite flavor of birthday cake?--it took me quite a few years to realize that even if the décor, food and drink are wonderful, the event isn’t complete without this missing ingredient.




If you’re lucky enough that live music is an option, go ahead and book that band or singer now. For the rest of us, a party playlist of birthday-inspired tunes can be exactly what our celebration needs to add a fun, festive vibe.


In the post below, I’ll share my go-to songs for a birthday party and offer strategies for selecting songs that can make the playlist more personalized.


Keep reading or jump to a particular section by clicking below:


Top 10 Tips for Making a Birthday Party Playlist 

Building a playlist for a birthday party can be a lot easier if you keep these tips in mind!

1. Build your playlist a few weeks before the party. It’s a fun task, but much harder to do when you are pressed for time.

2. Select a variety of happy, upbeat songs across genres, decades, singers for greater interest.

3. Consider whether there will be dancing at the party. If so, be sure to include songs (Dancing Queen for instance) that always have people racing to the dance floor.

4. The order of songs in a playlist can help create or change the mood at a party. Uptown Funk may not be a great choice to welcome your guests with, but it’s great when you are trying to encourage people to get up and move.

5. Keep your audience in mind. If it’s a younger crowd, adjust the songs to include some contemporary favorites. If it’s an older crowd, you may want to swap some rap songs for classic rock.

6. Include some favorite songs of the birthday person.

7. Assign one person to tend to the music. Though it’s not hard to connect an iPhone to a speaker, let someone else be responsible for doing so. The more party tasks you can delegate to others the more you can enjoy the party!

8. Depending on how many songs you choose for your playlist, you may want to set the playlist to repeat so you’re never without music.
9. Turn off any notifications on devices so that your guests don’t have to hear an annoying “ping” every time a message is received.

10. Remember to hit pause on the playlist when it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday.’ No one wants to compete with John Legend’s glorious voice!


People dancing at a birthday party - Birthday Butler

Save Time by Using My Playlist for a Birthday Party

Creating a playlist can be a blast, or you can end up falling down the rabbit hole and spend hours listening to songs you haven’t heard in a while (or maybe that’s just me?1)


If you’re looking for a playlist, feel free to copy/paste my collection of birthday party songs. You’ll find some pop favorites, classics and tunes that will make you want to get up dance.


Think of this list as your starting point. Review the songs, keep the ones you like and replace the ones you don’t like (more on that coming up!).


My Go-To Playlist for Birthday Parties


Unforgettable – Nat King Cole


Celebration – Kool & the Gang


Happy Birthday – Stevie Wonder


Forever Young – Rod Stewart


We Are Family – Sister Sledge


Birthday – The Beatles


Good Vibrations – Beach Boys


Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac


Hey Ya! - Outkast


Birthday – Destiny’s Child


Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO


Birthday – Katy Perry


Stand By Me – Ben E. King


Birthday Party – AJR


Happy - Pharrell


Stayin’ Alive – The Bee Gees


We Are Young - Fun


All of Me (Tiesto’s Birthday) – John Legend


Dancing Queen - Abba


I’m Yours – Jason Mraz


Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen


What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction


Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus


Everybody Talks - Neon Trees


You’re Beautiful – James Blunt


Don’t Stop Believing - Journey


I Got a Feeling - Black Eyed Peas


Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO


You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet - Bachman Turner Overdrive


Macarena - Los Del Rio


Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond


We Are the Champions – Queen


Ain’t No Mountain High Enough - The Temptations


Bust a Move - Young MC


Whistle - Flo Rida  (Note: get the clean version or have some explaining to do to younger party guests! )


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Why We Like the Music We Do

Research has shown that our favorite music tends to include songs that we listened to during our high school years and into our early 20’s.


These songs tend to evoke strong emotions and result in remembrance—you can place where you were when you listened to the song.


Additionally, since so many life events happen from ages 14 to 25 (high school dances, football games, being able to drive, graduation, going to college, starting our first job and more), we’re more likely to remember this time period.


This finding resonated with me. Whenever I hear “Walking in Memphis” or “True Companion” by Marc Cohn, I can recall listening to the CD as a 21-year-old.


In a nanosecond, my mind flips to the memory of driving my light blue Honda Prelude (manual transmission!) up and down the East Coast as I made road trips to visit family and friends.


That period of my life was associated with so many firsts (first real job, first time living alone, first car....), that I can still taste the sweet memory of becoming a self-sufficient adult.


Make a Playlist for a Milestone Birthday Butler


Personalized Milestone Birthday Music Made Easy

Using this insight, it’s highly likely that the birthday person enjoys the music that was popular from the time they were aged 14 to 25. 


As that’s still a wide range, you can narrow it down even more by picking songs that were popular when they were in high school, or even focus on the year they graduated high school.


Not sure what year they graduated high school?  No problem! 


We offer two ways to do this: a formula so you can calculate the year they graduated in or tables that you can look the information up in.

Use this formula to estimate their year of graduation:

  1. Start with the year their milestone birthday occurs in
  2. Subtract the number of the milestone birthday
  3. This results in the year they were born
  4. Take their birth year and 18 to it. (Assume they graduated high school at 18.)
  5. The resulting number is the year they are likely to have graduated high school
  6. Grab the most popular songs from that year and use them on the milestone birthday playlist.


To see how this might work, let's use my sister's upcoming birthday.  In March of 2022, she'll be 50.

  1. The year she has a milestone birthday=2022
  2. The number of her milestone birthday=50
  3. Find the year she was born, 2022-50=1972
  4. Take her birth year (1972) and add 18
  5. The year she graduated high school is (1972+18)=1990


Use these Charts to Estimate their Grad Year 

The next two charts make it easy to find what music they likely listened to in high school. Simply:

  1. Find the calendar year of the celebration  will be in (2021 or 2022)
  2. Identify how old they will be on their milestone birthday.
  3. Find their likely high school graduation year
  4. Select songs from the year they graduated high school to make your milestone birthday playlist awesome!


Year of Celebration

Milestone Birthday

Likely HS Graduation Year


21 years old



30 years old



40 years old



50 years old



60 years old



70 years old



80 years old



90 years old



100 years old




21 years old



30 years old



40 years old



50 years old



60 years old



70 years old



80 years old



90 years old



100 years old



Locating the songs that were popular when they graduated high school is as simple as popping that question into Google, Siri or Alexa. 


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Add these Songs to Your 50th Birthday Playlist


You can do this for any milestone birthday, but if we continue with my sister’s upcoming birthday as an example...


For her 50th birthday celebration in March of 2021, I would include popular songs from 1990, the year she graduated high school. No doubt that adding “Pump Up the Jam” and “Nothing Compares 2 U” would be a throwback for her—and the other guests!


Billboard magazine’s Top 20 Songs of 1990

Chart position




Hold On

Wilson Phillips


It Must Have Been Love



Nothing Compares to You

Sinead O’Connor



Bell Biv Devoe





Vision of Love

Mariah Carey


Another Day in Paradise

Phil Collins


Hold On

En Vogue


Cradle of Love

Billy Idol


Blaze of Glory

John Bon Jovi


Do Me!

Bell Biv Devoe


How Am I Supposed to Live Without You

Michael Bolton


Pump Up the Jam



Opposites Attract

Paul Abdul and The Wild Pair



Janet Jackson


All I Want to Do is Make Love to You



Close to You

Maxi Priest


Black Velvet

Alannah Myles


Release Me

Wilson Phillps


Don’t Know Much

Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville