Musical Homonyms: Battle Nineteen


I am always intrigued when I discover I’ve collected songs of the same name performed by different artists. I’m not talking about covers — the songs are completely different with the exception of their title. But I always feel like their shared appellation begs for comparison. Because a song title usually suggests a theme, right? So it’s interesting to compare how different artists tackle the same theme, right? OK, so maybe it’s just interesting to me. If nothing else, I think it’s fun to hear how dissimilar songs of the same name can sound.

Paul Hardcastle – “19” (1985)

This blatantly anti-war track blends drum machines, keyboards, and narration from the ABC documentary Vietnam Requiem to comment on the supposed young average age of soldiers who fought in Vietnam. It spent five weeks at the top of the charts in the UK and topped the dance charts in the United States in 1985.

Phil Lynott – “Nineteen” (1986)

Also attributed to Thin Lizzy as well as Phil Lynott’s subsequent solo project Grand Slam, this song was released weeks before Lynott’s death from sepsis caused by drug use. Coincidentally, the song was produced by Paul Hardcastle though it does not resemble Hardcastle’s “19” in the least. Lyrically, Lynott’s “Nineteen” expounds on how badass he is. You want tough? He’s tough. You want mean? He’s totally mean. He’s 19! Also, he does not dance.

Buck-O-Nine – “Nineteen” (1997)

Buck-O-Nine is a ska punk band that achieved some mainstream success with their 1997 album Twenty-Eight Teeth, from which their “Nineteen” contribution comes. Buck-O-Nine have the three-minute punk-pop formula down pat — they attack a song and get out quickly before it drags. The song is about looking back at how the narrator viewed the world at nineteen and realizing how big the world is. He says, “Anything is possible / Yeah, anything and everything.”

The Old 97’s – “Nineteen” (1999)

I’ve been hearing songs from The Old 97’s since I was a teenager because a local radio station featured them pretty regularly since they were based near where I grew up. They’ve always been a little too alt-country for my taste, but they do crank out a catchy song now and then and “Nineteen” is one of them. The song laments a love lost because of being, well, nineteen and foolish.

Smog – “Nineteen” (2000)

Like all of Smog’s songs, “Nineteen” relies heavily on images and how Bill Callahan delivers the lyrics in his rumbly baritone rather than a clear narrative. But there’s a definite sense of looking back at a memory of spending a day with a woman and wishing for what he had then.

Tegan and Sara – “Nineteen” (2007)

Canadian duo Tegan and Sara follow Smog and The Old 97’s lead — their “Nineteen” also talks about saying goodbye to a great love. But the parting feels unwelcome by both parties, so there’s less regret and more longing in Tegan and Sara’s version.


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