Best Summer Songs of All Time - Rolling Stone
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Best Summer Songs of All Time

School’s out, and it’s time to get down, get sunburned and get lucky

Best Summer Songs

Blondie, Marvin Gaye, Donna Summer

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Whether you’re a total idiot heading out to party at the beach or a sane person staying inside to read Camus, the calendar doesn’t lie — it is, in fact, summer. And even this isn’t the summer we asked for, that doesn’t mean summer songs are any less essential. They might even more emotionally necessary than ever.

The summer song is one of rock’s truest pleasures, be it a dance jam that dominates every backyard cookout or a sweet ode to cars, romance, and partying. Here are our picks for the most sizzling summer jams ever — from unshakeable oldies to classic hip-hop, from hard-rock to indie-rock, from the the Go-Gos to Daft Punk.

[A version of this list was originally published in July 2013]

Alice Cooper

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“School’s Out,” Alice Cooper

“The few minutes waiting for that final school bell to ring are so intense that when it happens, it’s almost orgasmic,” said Alice Cooper. Released in May 1972, this instantly became the go-to anthem for kids who really really hate school and, no matter how old you are, it can still make you want to throw your papers in the air and run out into the blinding sun of the heavy metal parking lot.

Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X

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“Old Town Road, “Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X’s genre-defying creation blends banjo strums and jaw-rattling bass, rural imagery and hip-hop signifiers. Hooky, short and wildly loopable, “Old Town Road” took off on TikTok, which allows users to create video clips set to music, and then became the latest bizarre viral phenomenon. Soon kindergartners and grandmas alike were singing “Cowboy hat from Gucci/Wrangler on my booty” while splashing surfside. It was one of those rare songs that seemed to unite the world — and makes us appreciate the summer of 2019 even more.

Eddie Cochran

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“Summertime Blues,” Eddie Cochran

“There had been a lot of songs about summer, but none about the hardships of summer,” co-writer Jerry Capehart, who was Eddie Cochran’s manager, said of “Summertime Blues.” The 1958 rockabilly raver tapped into suburban teen boredom and angst, blazing a trail toward heavy and metal and punk by making edgy, bound-up energy seem thrilling. Years later, thunderbolt covers by the Who and Blue Cheer would make its trailblazing hard-rock legacy explicit.

Martha and the Vandellas

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“Dancing in the Street,” Martha & The Vandellas

The ultimate invitation to get outside and cut loose, “Dancing In the Street” reinvents the world as a giant summertime block party. Co-written by Marvin Gaye, it has the greatest party-jam lyrics ever written and the drums hit like a gunshot. Martha Reeves sounds like she’s doing more than just kick off a party – she sounds like she’s starting a revolution.

J Balvin, Cardi B, and Bad Bunny

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“I Like It,” Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin

In the summer of 2018, it was nearly impossible to stand on any street corner in any American city without hearing “I Like It” blasting from the window of a passing car. “I Like It” was where Cardi B really gave it up to her Latin heritage, with Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny and Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin, over a trapped-out sample of Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 boogaloo classic “I Like It Like That.” While Cardi hits the timbale beat like a piñata, she gives the guests room to shine — this has to be the first Number One hit in history to namecheck Celia Cruz, Jimmy Snuka, and Lady Gaga in the same verse.

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