Every year a song comes along that is declared “the song of the summer,” and this is invariably followed by rumination on what the best songs of the summer are. More often than not, none of these summer songs are actually about summer. Hot sun, bikinis, the beach, cruising around with the top down in June, July and August, and maybe even mentioning the season itself: these things are about summer. “Can’t Hold Us” is not.
Discounting the Beach Boys‘ entire catalogue, (because they pretty much own summer), here are 10 (cool) summer songs that are actually about summer. In no particular order:
“In the Summertime,” Mungo Jerry
The classic. Released in 1970, this song has defined the carefree wonder of summer for over 40 years. It sold millions, was Number One around the world and has often been imitated but never duplicated. Billy Idol covered it. Why David Lee Roth did not is baffling.
“Summertime,” DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
This 1991 Grammy winner got a little help from Kool & the Gang, (thanks to a sample of “Summer Madness”), but Will Smith’s new definition of summer was almost as popular as the theme to his TV show: “It’s like the summer’s a natural aphrodisiac.”
“Summertime Blues,” Eddie Cochran
Summer jobs, living at home, trying to find time to get a date . . . Rockabilly teen angst from 1958 that never goes out of style. The Who made it theirs in 1970 on Live at Leeds, and it was staple of the band’s concerts for years.
“Summer Love,” Justin Timberlake
The summer of 2007 may not have been as monstrously huge for JT as 2006, when he released “SexyBack,” but his R&B plea for something more than summer love still made a big impact. Reminiscent of his old group, with big synthesizer hooks and harmonies, it’s a simple song about young lust in the summertime.
“Cruel Summer,” Bananarama
Single and alone in the city in the middle of summer? Bananarama felt your pain long before Sarah Jessica Parker did. Released in ’83 and a year later in the States, the song put the trio on the map with this tale of love and longing on the burning pavement.
“All Summer Long,” Kid Rock
Summertime in Northern Michigan. It’s easy to forget what a monster hit this song was (way back in 2008), thanks in no small part to Warren Zevon and Lynyrd Skynyrd. A clever mashup, the song is a nostalgic ode to the lost summers of youth.
“Magic,” the Cars
The summer of 1984 was ushered in by the Cars’ singer Ric Ocasek singing “Summer, summer, summer . . . ” With its bright keyboards, thick rock chords and big chorus, “Magic” could have been about anything, but will forever be associated with the hottest season.
“Summerboy,” Lady Gaga
This infectious song from the singer’s debut is about a summer romance, destined to end with the season. Gaga is all about bikini tops and heels coming off and having a little summer fun. But “don’t be sad when the sun goes down/You’ll wake up and I’m not around/ We’ll still have the summer after all.”
“Summer Breeze,” Seals and Crofts
This 1972 AM radio staple by the Texas duo is a haunting sonnet of the season with a big harmony on the chorus that lingers. “Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom/July is dressed up and playing her tune.” The slow, goth-ed out metal version by Type O Negative is required listening.
“Beat This Summer,” Brad Paisley
Forget about the LL Cool J duet. The country star named his current tour after this song for good reason. It’s a simple country-rock ballad about summer love: “No way I’m gonna beat this summer with you.” The summer song of 2013?