Nine Hit Songs That Endorse Statutory Rape

You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re his

"Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean." No, Beatles, what do you mean? To be fair, the UK's age of consent is 16, making this song's 17-year-old subject fair game for the Liverpool lads. But here in California, she'd be jailbait. This list is tongue-in-cheek, of course; pop music is aimed at teenagers, and as such, songwriters presumably assume the role of high school boys when singing about their under-18 sweeties (e.g., The Stray Cats' "Sexy and Seventeen"). But when taken in context of the age of those songwriters, especially those who don't even pretend that they're younger than they are, the songs themselves are kind of creepy.

  1. "Seventeen", Winger, 1988. This is late '80s hair metal sleaze, so it's no surprise that this flash in the pan band would crank out lyrics like, "She's only seventeen, still she gives me love like I've never seen... She's only seventeen, daddy says she's too young, but she's old enough for me".
  2. "17", Rick James, 1984. Rick James was legendary for his oversexed lyrics and debauched lifestyle. Yet in "17" he seems downright conflicted: "Seventeen years old, sexy, sexy... This young girl, this sweet thing, I just can't wait - No, I shouldn't do this, she's almost jailbait!" Almost, Rick? Anyway, it's never revealed in the song whether the horny 36-year-old James finally gives in to this temptress less than half his age, but I think it's safe to assume that he does.
  3. "Let's Go", The Cars. The girl in this song "won't give up, 'cause she's seventeen". Whether this nightlife-loving adolescent is the "one desire" of the song's 32-year-old singer Benjamin Orr, or of 30-year-old Cars songwriter Ric Ocasek, remains unclear.
  4. "Sixteen Candles", The Crests, 1958. Sample lyrics: "Blow out the candles, make your wish come true/For I'll be wishing that you love me, too". Innocent enough, especially as The Crests' lead singer Johnny Maestro (what a name!) was only 19 at the time. But still fishy, even more so when you realize that the girl is only just now turning sixteen.
  5. "Sweet Little Sixteen", Chuck Berry, 1958. The Beach Boys ripped off the melody and lyrical structure of this song for their later hit "Surfin' U.S.A." but Berry's ode to a sixteen year old girl who "all the cats wanna dance with", while technically chaste, is still pretty lecherous, especially when you picture the then-31-year-old Berry, one of rock's most legendary rakes, slobbering over the girl's "tight dress and lipstick".
  6. "You're Sixteen", Ringo Starr, 1974. This was a #1 hit for the former Beatle, who sang "You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine" when he was 33. It was first recorded by Johnny Burnette in 1960 (when Burnette was 26), shortly after being written by Robert & Richard Sherman, who were 25 and 22, respectively.
  7. "Christine Sixteen", KISS, 1977. Flagrant statutory rape rocker includes lyrics like "She's hot every day and night, there is no doubt about it..." and "I don't usually say things like this to girls your age, but when I saw you coming out of the school that day... I knew I've got to have you".
  8. "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen", Neil Sedaka, 1961. Sample lyrics: "Tonight's the night I've waited for, because you're not a baby anymore..." Another lyric, "When you were only six I was your big brother", confirms that Sedaka is singing to somebody younger than he is. He was 22 when he wrote (with Howard Greenfield) and performed this jailbait hit.
  9. "Louis Quatorze", Bow Wow Wow, 1980. Women sang songs about sex under the age of consent too. Usually it was bummer stories like Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves", where the 16-year-old narrator gets knocked up by a 21-year-old Southern boy who then leaves her. But Bow Wow Wow was notorious worldwide for the Svengali-like Malcolm McLaren picking 14-year-old beauty Annabella Lwin to front this rhythmic New Wave band, singing suggestive lyrics while proudly reminding listeners of her young age. This song featured some of the more brazen lines: "With his gun in my back, I start to undress. You just don't mess with Louis Quatorze. He's my partner in this crime of happiness, 'cos I'm just fourteen!" Annabella is 43 now.