Well. This has been a disappointing summer. Stupid pandemics!
Anyway, earlier this summer, back in June, we covered the best Summer Blockbusters ever released. But summer isn’t all about movies! After all, you can’t watch a new movie while you are poolside. You can’t enjoy the new smash film while you are parasailing. There’s no way to take in the big blockbuster when you are at a cook-out. Summer blockbusters are terrific, but they take you out of the summer experience and stick you inside a dark room.
But what you can do during your summer funtivities is listen to jams!
(Assuming you can parasail with your earbuds in or whatever, I don’t know your life)
Most years there is at least one “Song Of The Summer”: a pop tune that hits right around the hottest months of the year and becomes synonymous with outdoor parties and road trips. Sometimes there is more than one on any given year; other times there is one clearly defined hit that defines that particular season.
That’s what we are looking at today! What are the BEST Summertime Jams of all-time? What songs were not only the most definitive of their year, but also certified bangers?
To be clear, this isn’t specifically “Song About Summer” or “Songs About Summer Activities”, though there is room for overlap obviously if and when such a song was a sensation during those months.
Music lists are admittedly rough for me. I’m not hyper critical of songs; I just like whatever I like, and there’s usually little rhyme or reason to it beyond, “This is fun”. So bear with me as I take a look at some of the results of my research and tell you which ones I dig the most.
With that in mind, let’s check out my personal top ten, complete with music videos attached so you can rock out with me!
Actually, before we start: one note. This is a TOP TEN list, but I actually ranked every single summer hit song there ever was! It was obviously a lot of work, but I thought I’d take a minute to share the rest of the rankings with you.
In 11th place, in a huge tie, we had “Literally every other summer song ever made, except for…”.
And in last place, we have “…Despacito”.
Because fuck Despacito. That was a terrible song. I’ll come back to this at the end.
10. “Say So” – Doja Cat – 2020
I can’t say that this is definitively THE Summer Bop of 2020, but it’s absolutely ONE OF the Summer Bops of 2020. And I really dig it.
Not enough to go higher than 10th because it’s all recency bias, but upon seeing what other songs were options after my research, yeah, it’s solidly in the top ten.
I was surprised the rap breakdown in the middle of “Say So” wasn’t by a featured artist because it just sounds SO DIFFERENT than the rest of the song, but nope… it’s all Doja Cat. So already, I see her as vastly superior Iggy Azaela at worst. And a catchy, fun pop hip-hop artist at best.
This was one of the few modern radio tunes to go straight onto my Spotify playlist. It’s a good song. My iPhone was bricked by a forced update earlier this summer, and being forced to listen to the radio allowed me to get into. That’s just lemonade.
9. “When Doves Cry” – Prince – 1984
I really don’t see this as a huge summer hit the way I think of them, but every list I looked up for research name-checked it. And it’s an undeniably good song. So… here we go.
This is a bit slower and more melancholy that I’d want my summer party jams to be (“Hey, time for swimming and barbecue and yard games! Let’s listen to a song about sad birds!”), but the tune to it is good. And Prince is a legend. I’d probably much rather listen to “Get Crazy” than this at an outdoor party, but… what can I do? Sometimes doves gotta cry.
8. “Hot in Herre” – Nelly – 2002
But this song WAS prominent. And it was actually not bad. Setting aside his Bad Boyz 2 “Shake Ya Tailfeathers” theme with P-Diddy, this was probably Nelly’s only good song.
I really did like that “Shake Ya Tailfeathers” song. Was that what it was called?
Oh, it’s Tailfeather. Singular. It’s just the one tailfeather, actually.
AND that was just a P. Diddy song “FEATURING” Nelly.
So Hot in Herre was still Nelly’s only good song. He should collab with Diddy more often!
Why aren’t we talking more about Shake Ya Tailfeather? Like… as a society, not just in this article. That was a good song. It holds up!
Hot in Herre, though. Yeah, it’s fine. It’s about convincing the woman you are with to get naked, BUT she seems to consent, so that’s good at least. Both in that way and in temperature, it’s the antithesis to “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.
Hot. In here.
Huh. I’m on to something… was Nelly being subversive?
That… doesn’t seem likely.
7. “Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – 1991
Okay, now we are into songs I actually like AND think fit the list AND aren’t brand new.
There is a discrepancy, sure, between “Songs of the summer” and “Songs about summer”, as I mentioned. And I was leaning towards the former when we dreamed up this topic, yeah. But this could be both, right?
With The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air having debuted in 1990, Will Smith was well on his way to conquering the next fifteen years or so when he and Jazzy Jeff released one of their last singles as a duo, Summertime.
It’s arguably the best and most mature effort together (unless you count the show’s theme song), a song that isn’t just a humorous slant on teenage life and tribulations. It’s just a rhythmic, catchy earworm of a tune about relaxing (all cool).
6. “Yeah” – Usher – 2004
I feel like this should be higher because Yeah is THE song of the first decade of this millennium. If you ask me to name a song from 2000-2009, I will name Yeah first without hesitation. It is what I think of when I think of “The 2000’s”.
Forget the summer; I felt like the radio played this song virtually non-stop for two years. Not without reason; it’s a hell of a hit. It became a meme (with all the Lil John “Yeah/Okay” stuff), was insanely catchy, and featured a superb last verse from Ludacris. For a time, this was the perfect hit song.
5. “The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis & The News – 1985
I already named Back To The Future as one of the best summer blockbusters of all time. How could I not name its theme one of the best summer tunes ever?
I never saw the video to this before now, despite having the song on my Spotify list and listening to it a bunch. It cashes in on the success of the film (as it should) and between the two of them (song and movie), 1985 was a pretty stand-out year.
4. “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen – 2012
This is one of the most infectious, insidious, cutesy-wootsy songs ever recorded. When it came out, we all wanted to hate it. It was so easy to want to. But it is literally impossible to do. Call Me Maybe is simply one of the greatest pop radio songs ever recorded, even if it is the musical equivalent of a sugar cube.
The song feels like it was crafted in a lab somewhere by some devious music-based scientists who wanted to create the single catchiest song ever written. Sometimes in comic or cartoons, you will see an evil plans that revolve around mesmerizing people with audio or visual waves. That’s this song.
Call Me Maybe is the backbone to some evil plan that was never fully enacted.
OR WAS IT?
3. “Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix-A-Lot – 1992
I imagine Sir Mix-A-Lot sleeps on a giant pile of money between the royalties he gets for his single hit song and whatever Nikki Minaj had to give him for its rights when she made Anaconda.
I did some research and came up with a quick fun fact for you! Literally every white human being alive has karaoke’d “Baby Got Back”. Isn’t it hilarious and ironic? We’re dorky stupid white folks singing along to this man’s anthem about how much he loves big, fat asses. It’s funny because it’s appropriation, see?! That’s probably not the right word, actually. (Or maybe it is)
I can’t make fun. I am ABSOLUTELY one of those people who have karaoke’d this. It always gets a reaction!
2. “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO – 2011
Even now, in 2020, you might be somewhat surprised to find out that every single day, I am still shuffling.
Seriously, where did LMFAO go? I know they broke up or just retired, but I miss them. What a fun combination of seriously great beats with silly nonsense lyrics. Party Rock Anthem was their opus, and I love this song.
“The Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor – 1982
In the summer of 1982, I was one year old. So it is unlikely that I was rocking out with Eye of the Tiger during its heyday. But I have rocked out to it many times since.
Eye of the Tiger was a summer sensation. A Rocky sequel anthem. An inspiration for a separate Katy Perry song. It’s been in other films and TV shows like Supernatural…
It’s just great!
Seriously, though; I went to Jamaica in 2017. You know that the resort played there? A LOT of Bob Marley music (because obviously) and Despacito. Like, all the time. Marley song, Marley song, Marley song, Despacito, Marley song, Marley song, Despacito.
Very few songs went from Zero to “If I ever hear this song again I will murder someone OH GOD THERE IT IS AGAIN” as quickly as Despa-friggin’-cito.
But, uh, those other ten songs are pretty rad! Right?
But I want to heard from YOU. Because I am bad at music. What are your ten favorite summer time jams of all time? Let me know in the comments!
And until next time… take care!