There is a raging debate in my house over what makes a summer song a summer song.
“It’s the bassline,” I say, “ You have to feel the humidity in the bassline. Like Low Rider by War, that’s a good summer song.”
“No, that’s not a summer song!” My oldest declares, “That’s a beach song! They are totally different. A summer song is something you want to listen at full volume to while you are driving. You want your windows open and see the people who walk by jam to it.”
“How can you not want to listen to Low Rider while you are driving? That’s like the ultimate driving song,” I shake my head (feel free to listen to “Low Rider” by War here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mFxUIH5IaE)
While there is not agreement in my house on exactly what makes a summer song, there are a few qualities we all agree a summer song should have: it needs to be upbeat, simple, and fun. There is always a special summer song that ends up omni present, the earworm that somehow ends up on everyone’s lips, even with people switching over to online streaming services instead of radio.
My son agrees with the music industry in that there is one major summer song each year. I believe that some summer songs are timeless, that you hear them in the dead of winter and can feel the humid days of July and August, blowing you a kiss and promising that they will be back soon.
So, here’s a summer song playlist for you. Some of the songs are mine, some are my kids. But they all will be perfect listening to loud in the car, at the beach, at a barbecue (another category that my oldest came up with), or even as the snow starts falling and you need a little reminder of the sweet, sultry days of summer. The full playlist is here, with more additions than listed below: A warning, summer songs and their videos are often not appropriate. They can’t help it. Listener and watcher beware. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3ssmtFShl1xhqke90aHXWI?si=CF8p6GdWTIGYT2wyWJdhnQ
“Lovely Day”- Bill Withers: It could be argued that this is on my list because I love Bill Withers and this is one of my favorites of his, which would be fair. But this song gives you everything you want from a summer song. The first guitar line puts a smile on your face, and not in a quick, giggly way, but in a slow, spreading way like the sun warming you. The way you smile when you see those outrageous pinks and oranges of the sunrise over the ocean. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEeaS6fuUoA
“Stuck in the Middle”- Tai Verdes: This is my oldest’s summer song for 2020, and I completely agree that this is a perfect summer song. I would point out that it has my sultry bassline, but it’s crazy catchy and the kind of song that you want to turn the volume up and bring the car windows down to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPxMP_2A0Ks
“Say So (Remix)” Doja Cat ft. Nicki Minaj: Oh, hey TikTok, of course dance rages from you will be edging into every summer song list. I think because of distancing it’s the way many are finding new music. “Say So” by Doja Cat had summer song written all over it even before the remix. A catchy, steamy beat gives you no choice but to move your body, the remix just brings up a notch to make it a good contender for Song of the Summer 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=marAFsQo3VE
“Got to Give it Up” Marvin Gaye: There will be some of you giving me the side eye, here you go again, shoving your favorite artists into a summer playlist. But, I would argue, if you aren’t listening to Marvin Gaye in the summer then you aren’t doing summer right. There’s a lot of Marvin songs that work for the summer, but this one about coming out of your shell on the dancefloor is particularly perfect for summer and a reminder of good times to come post COVID. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhFNY9zW2F4
“Miserlou”- Dick Dale: Can you have a summer song list without some surf rock? I don’t think so. If you haven’t spent some quality time with some surf rock, you should. It makes you feel like you are at the beach even if you are in your home office looking longingly outside. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKpsuGMeqHI
“Havana” Camila Cabello: Camila Cabello’s music reminds me of when I lived in the Florida Keys and visits to Miami. Of course we can never truly have that same vibe here, but summer is the one shot that we have to try for it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ0mxQXmLsk
“Nights Like This” Loud Luxury, CID: Some summer songs are situational. I love this one because it’s the anthem for that crazy summer night that you still talk about years later. It’s the song that begs you to do one more of whatever you’re doing, that one thing that pushes that night from regular to epic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJhdfwLjaSI
“Blinding Lights” The Weeknd: This song is SO 80’s I love it. It’s like you are riding shotgun next to Crockett in his Ferrari Daytona from Miami Vice zipping through the streets at night. The synthesizer line is catchy and if we could go really go places, it would totally be omnipresent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NRXx6U8ABQ
“Magic in the Hamptons”- Social House, Lil Yachty: 2019’s Song of the Summer according to my children. It has all the right pieces, including a chorus that everyone wants to sing at the top of their lungs at the beach. Well worth having on your permanent list. Plus, as a parent, I always appreciate songs that encourage good behavior, in this song they encourage going to bed early and having your significant other meet your mom before you get too serious. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOVSYijTERQ
“Secondhand News” Fleetwood Mac: A real summer song list will throw out all convention, because there is no one genre that has a hold on a good summer song. This ultimate breakup song by Fleetwood Mac is catchy, upbeat and still captures those impetuous summer moments that we hope never go away. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLfcwDZ5GzQ
“Son of a Preacher Man” Dusty Springfield: This song embodies the whole concept of hearing humidity in the baseline and Dusty Springfield’s sultry voice brings it all full circle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjydOI4MEIw
“I Just Want to Make Love to You” Etta James: Remember when I said if you aren’t listening to Marvin Gaye in the summer you aren’t doing summer right? Add Etta James to that list. Her voice actually is summer. “I Just Want to Make Love to You” has just the right mixture of sass and fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJiL5siOqqw
“Slow Time” Chastity Brown: Summer isn’t just about catchy and fluff. Summer is when you move slowly and sweetly and find time for people you love. This song recalls those tangled in bed summer moments or bundled with the people you love watching the sunrise on the beach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-5kKNB–9I
What do you think makes a summer song and which songs are must haves on your summer song playlist?