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.
With its campfire strums and grab-the-car-keys impulsivity, “Back to You” is a natural summer song. It’s the feisty screed against your camp boyfriend who ditched you after 10 long months of letter-exchanging. Obviously, his name is Justin. We took him like a shot, as Gomez sings, during last year’s summer of “Despacito.” We were his sunrise on his darkest day. We savored every moment slowly.
And now we’re singing “Back to You.” It’s the melancholic jam for us goths, misanthropes and Sandra Dees to listen to on our lonely walks home. Gomez’s lilting soprano whispers to us like a cool stream of ventilated air as we sit inside while everyone else plays volleyball with Cardi B or Drake. Everyone but Selena, our goddess of the 2018 summer bummer.
“Back to You” starts off with the three prerequisites of a juicy top bunk secret: a an acoustic guitar, a cold evening and a hint of shame. “Every single word builds up to this moment,” she confides. “And I gotta convince myself I don’t want it, even though I do.”
The song’s country flavor is reminiscent of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – and like that song 20 summers ago, “Back to You” is an international sensation. Nestled in the Top 20 in over 21 countries, Gomez’s song is stone-cold proof that no matter where you live or what language you speak, summer is the perfect time to sit and dwell on those who have wronged you.
“Back to You” has lots of precedents in this regard, from Cedric Gervais’ remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” all the way back to Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.” But the one that most reminds me of “Back to You” came out during the summer of 1958: Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool,” about a cad who falls for a girl with “carefree devil eyes.” “I’d played this game with other hearts but I never thought I’d see/The day that someone else would play love’s foolish game with me,” Nelson sings. Sixty years later, these foolish games are still tearing us apart.