What makes a summer jam? Is it the sunniest chorus, the hottest beat, the most weeks on the charts? Do the lyrics have to be about beaches and barbecues, or is it a question of vibe? What if it’s a song on your summer playlist and no one else’s?
We believe the answer is “all of the above.” This summer, Rolling Stone’s writers will celebrate the songs that are ruling each of their worlds – from huge hits to weirder, more personal choices. Check back soon for more summer songs, and hear all our picks in the Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post.
Yes, I know – technically Harry Styles’ “Carolina” came out last summer, and no, it did not climb the charts. But hear me out. This glam-rock groove practically screams summer romance. Last year, it was passed over as a single in favor of “Sign of the Times,” a huge power ballad; the quiet, sensitive “Two Ghosts”; and the rowdy party song “Kiwi.” But “Carolina,” which hits the sweet spot between all three of those moods, deserves a turn in the spotlight. And as Styles’ first-ever solo U.S. arena tour rolls on through the summer, the time has come for “Carolina” to shine.
The song is supposedly about a girl named Townes, referenced briefly in the lyrics and discussed ever after by Styles fans. They only met once, but he can’t forget her. The lyrics give us a few other details: She’s from one of the Carolinas, lives on the West Coast, has a close relationship with her grandma. But the best parts of this song are universal. From the retro guitar riffs to the incredibly catchy la-la-las and “oh yeahs!” Styles describes a love interest whom we all want to be and/or meet. She’s “a good girl” and “she feels so good”? What more could you want? It doesn’t hurt that she “gets into parties without invitations” and “there’s not a drink that could sink her” — obviously, both traits that come in handy for summer fun.
On “Carolina,” Styles captures the palpable mood that only sweaty summer nights can bring. Just like Styles, many of us will spend the coming months searching for our own Townes, and then spend some more months still thinking of them. It’s not just a song for this summer. “Carolina” is a song for every summer.