When it comes to summertime music there are two distinctly different ways to go: the first captures all the heat, hostility and newfound freedom of eternal youth having nonstop fun*. The other side – normally occurring late in the summer once your plans have not turned out as you wish – turns to love lost and the recollections of summers past (seriously, what was going on in the 80s that everybody was so sad about summer? Get over it!). So here is your summertime mix-tape. Put the first side on as your grand announcement to summer that you are about to own it**. Then, in the final weeks of summer, flip that tape right over and give yourself a good cry about going back to real life. Just don’t let us catch you playing those sad-sack shoe-gazing tracks before at least mid-August; we don’t want you bringing down the party!
Side A: The Great Outside
#5 Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran, 1958
Okay, now I must admit, the title of this alone can suggest that it should be on the other side of this lil’ mixtape, but hear me out: from the infectious main guitar riff to the political angst of teenagers dismissed as too young to be important to society, this song has all the bite of a preteen who’s not allowed to go to the mall. This song screams –“let me outdoors, I’ve got a summer to get to!”
#4 Summer Love – Justin Timberlake, 2007
Say what you will about this boy band alum but the ladies love him. And if the ladies love him, we want his music at our party. That is all there is to say about that.
#3 California Gurls – Katy Perry (w/ Snoop Dogg), 2010
When the enigmatic miss Perry stole this song title from one of the best known Beach Boys songs in the book, I am sure she was told what a bad idea it was. The fact that this song quickly shot to #1 on the US charts- thanks in no small part to a smooth-as-ever assist from Snoop Dogg – is testament to her ability to keep the sugary-sweet pop music flowing all summer.
#2 School’s Out – Alice Cooper, 1972
Even if you don’t like a single thing about AC or his shock-rock persona, this is the unmistakable rock anthem of ALL summers! You are going to want to turn this up to 11, channel your inner school-kid and envision those doors bursting open for three months of freedom. Now that’s a summer song!
#1 Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, 1991
“Daaarrrums Please!” – With this lighthearted start to an otherwise smoothed-out beat, the lovable Jazzy Jeff/ Fresh Prince combo finally struck a chord as mainstream crossovers in American society (right as their TV show was just beginning to reinforce the same). With their quaint tales of what summer relaxation means in their Philadelphia neighborhoods, we were all hooked. To this day, the start of this song FEELS like the penultimate arrival of summer: the crescendo of “ahhhhhhh’s” at its beginning beg for audible agreement that we have all arrived to the same summer party.
Side B: The Sui–side!
#5 Suddenly Last Summer – The Motels 1983
With its classic 80s sound (and video to boot), this song about getting caught up in your mind with a summertime love (a reoccurring theme here) sounds like getting sung at with Confucius-like fortune cooking platitudes. Seriously, how is this lyric: “one summer never ends, one summer never begins…and then suddenly, last summer! Ahhhhh – what does it all mean? That said, it hooks you, so you should still listen to it.
#4 A summer song – Chad and Jeremy, 1964
Now this might be the saddest conspicuously- least-cool song of all the recordings on here. I don’t mean that it’s super sad so much as just down on itself. This sounds like the 1960s are just sad about being there. Everything is soft kisses and laughable cares, melodic harmonies and strings that sway. You know this song, but the reason you don’t know you know it, is because it sounds like background music at your parents 50th wedding anniversary. End of the day, reluctantly, a good song still.
#3 The Boys of Summer – Don Henley, 1984
Everyone loves to hate on Don Henley. I get it – being earnest just isn’t in this year, but have you listened to the lyrics? Never has there been a man so bold as to say I will still love you after all the attractive summer boys have left town – now that’s love! Between the automated clap and the reverb kicked up in overdrive, this song has melancholy written all over it. With descriptions of the summer town after everyone goes home this is awesome summertime regret at it’s best.
#2 Cruel Summer – Bananarama, 1983
When Ralph Machio first pulled his recently Miyagi-gifted 50s era convertible coupe into the Golf-n-fun Zone on Karate Kid it was to the beat of this sleeper hit. How could he possibly convince Elizabeth Shue that he was wrong? This song served as a repeating motif throughout the movie as Danielson was hiding from the Cobra Kai behind his big glasses. Before this song ever hit the big screen it was well crafted between a low-end synthesizer and high melodic xylophone riff. How can you hate on that?
#1 Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams, 1984
Poor Bryan Adams is sitting around with bleeding fingers talking about the good ol’ days when he once was a looker and was in a band! This song is all about the boy past his prime looking back to when life was good and he was cool. That said, the song is as infectious as the sore throat you get from yelling your little heart out on the dancefloor. A sad story perhaps, but hey – those were the best years of our life!
*Please note that we have purposefully avoided all Beach Boys tracks, as they are too easy…
** Please also note that we have not overlooked Kid Rock’s All Summer Long on accident. Not only do we A) prefer not to include Kid Rock due to…um…everything Kid Rock-ish about him, but B) we liked this song better when it was Warren Zevon’s, Werewolves of London.
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