Note: This story originally published on TheBlot.com on July 3, 2014.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather relive the Polar Vortex of 2014 than deal with this summer heat one minute longer. I’ve been feeling like a cat on a hot tin roof pretty much since mid-May, and I’m sick of being in a permanent state of sweat.
But there’s one bright spot for me in all this hazy heat: That summer makes me crave not only the highest possible AC setting and copious amounts of ice-cold watermelon, but the fun, light and airy songs of summer, those ones I hum all season long.
I’ll still listen to my moody spirit love Nick Cave, but I need songs that make me smell the suntan lotion — or oil, if you’re like me and grew up not giving a shit about skin cancer, just fully intent on becoming the darkest shade of tan possible — and make me want to say, “I’m working from pool” until the first dead leaf hits the ground in September.
So, without further ado, here are the 10 Best Songs of Summer — according to me.
10. Joss Stone “Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ On Me?)” (2004)
This soulful British songstress totally nailed this festive, retro cover of Willie “Sugar Billy” Garner’s 1975 single. Catchy and breezy, it’s a super duper perfect summer track. Play it at your next pool, patio or fire-escape party. You’re welcome.
9. Nelly “Hot in Herre” (2002)
This song came out right before summer and hearing it always takes me back to going to the clubs back home with my girls, sipping ice-cold drinks on its deck as we tried to catch our breath before heading back in to dance our asses off again. Oh, how I waited for the DJ to play this one.
8. Violent Femmes “36-24-36” (1993)
The summer I graduated high school (Class o’ 1995), my friend and I would often visit her brother in New Jersey. We’d listen to the Violent Femmes with our hair blowing in the breeze, smoking tons of Marlboros and scream-singing along to the band’s greatest-hits compilation. This song, however, perfectly summed up that last summer before we entered The Real World in one line: “I know this summer’s gonna be the best/If I don’t die from lack of rest.” Oh, Nikki, at 18. You were such a force to be reckoned with.
7. Lana del Rey ft. Barrie-James O’Neill “Summer Wine” (2013)
Bet you thought I’d go with the chanteuse’s “Summertime Sadness,” didn’t you? That song’s good, too, but this dusty, smoky and sultry Lee Hazlewood cover — and the way del Rey’s and O’Neill’s voices vibe — is as deliciously refreshing as “strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring.”
6. The Grateful Dead “Sugar Magnolia” (1970)
By far my favorite Dead song, this, too, was a staple of the summer of ’95. When I wasn’t at “the Shore,” you could find me down at the lake sitting under the stars with my best friends, playing drinking games and swimming in murky water I was glad I couldn’t see in the coal-black night as this song usually played several times. Such a happy, infectious song that still makes me want to dance barefoot in the grass.
5. Johnny Rivers “Summer Rain” (1967)
I have loved the man who brought us “Secret Agent Man” for years, and he is seriously (and criminally) underrated. I mean, just listen to his voice, it’s so emotive and full of yearning that you can’t help but wish he was singing about you. Sigh.
4. The Drifters “Under the Boardwalk” (1964)
We vacationed at the Jersey Shore every year when I was a kid, with many years spent in Wildwood, and no matter what anyone says about the Garden State’s beaches, I will always love them. My favorite summer memories are tied to the warm sand ‘neath my feet, the sun kissing my flesh, the cool of the ocean, the wafting scent of lotion mixed with a salty, fishy breeze … oh, those vacations were the best.
3. Alice Cooper “School’s Out” (1972)
From the moment my older brother introduced me to this song, this was the song I sang, listened to and blasted on the last day of school every year for years. If there’s a more perfect anthem of 1) those amazing summer days of youth and 2) “Fuck you” to the establishment of school and teachers, I’ve yet to hear it.
2. Mungo Jerry “In the Summertime” (1970)
No “Songs of Summer” list would be complete without this light and airy one-hit wonder close to the top. It’s simply summerrific!
1. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince “Summertime” (1991)
I’m usually not a fan of Will Smith, but when he was the Fresh Prince with DJ Jazzy Jeff? C’mon! This was the first major song of summer I can remember. I was just about to turn 14 when it came out, and in the 23 years since, it ain’t summer until its catchy chorus gets stuck in my head. Also, I’m not going to lie, Will gets an extra point for wearing a “Speed Racer” T-shirt in the video.
Nikki M. Mascali is the editor of TheBlot Magazine.