10 great ’summer’ songs for any season
Living in Argentina is messing with my mind. Since the seasons down here are in reverse, while the folks back in the U.S.A. are reaching for the beach, in Buenos Aires, we’re shivering, shaking and praying for spring. I was never a summer person until I moved to BA. Although the winter temperature rarely drops below 30°F here (recently, snow has blanketed practically the entire country except for BA), the humidity can make 45°F feel as unbearably frigid as the snowiest, most blustery day in the Big Apple. It can also make jogging outdoors — my favorite form of exercise, after Pilates — more pain than gain. So for the first time in my life, I find myself cursing cold and worshipping heat.
My previous disregard for summer so affected how I listened to music that those Best Summer Songs lists never meant anything to me. I spent so much time griping about the heat that I rarely paid attention to what was on the radio. Not that I had anything against songs that were released during the summer, but until my friend Lori recently cited the great “No Scrubs” by TLC as one of her favorite summer songs ever, I had never associated it with any particular season.
So for me, coming up with a list of the 10 best summer songs would be an exercise in futility, so I’ve decided on another approach — a list great “summer” songs for people who hate the season, or for people who live in countries where everyone was turning up the thermostat when “No Scrubs” was topping the charts. These are 10 great songs about summer. It doesn’t matter during which season they were popular. The only requirement is that they have the word “summer” in the title.
“Cruel Summer” Bananarama (June, 1983) Of course, there is no summer more cruel than one spent with Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg’s dreadful “California Gurls” lodged at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100.
“Summer Son” Texas (August, 1999) Not many people know about Texas in the U.S. (not the state, the Scottish band — and they are named after the film Paris, Texas, not the Lone Star State), but for a several years from the mid ’90s to the turn of the century, they were massive in the UK. This Top 5 single is one of their greatest hits and best songs.
“The Boys of Summer” Don Henley (October, 1984) From my friend Lori’s keyboard to my Facebook inbox: “LOVE ‘The Boys of Summer.’ Just listened to it yesterday. So wistful. I love in the video when it says, ‘Don’t look back, you can never look back,’ and Henley turns around and looks back.” Such a minor detail, but it’s the kind of touch that makes Henley such a great artist. Building the Perfect Beast, his second solo album included the equally brilliant singles “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” and “Sunset Grill,” all so different from his hits with the Eagles and so much better because of it. The flip side — the good side — to LFO’s summer of 1999 annoyance, “Summer Girls.”
“Summer of ‘69″ Bryan Adams (June, 1985) Though it’s best known as a karaoke classic or the perfect tune for a sing-along, this Bryan Adams hit doesn’t fly with me just because it pays homage to the summer after my birth (which was exactly one and a half months before the official onset of the summer of ‘69). I love it because, though upbeat and poppy, it’s also kind of sad, and it so perfectly conjures feelings of nostalgia for unforgettable moments pasts.
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” Sly and the Family Stone (August, 1969) You gotta love Sly Stone. Though thought of primarily as a funk pioneer, he did pretty much everything — and on this great hit from, yes, the summer of ‘69, he crooned, too. He was Prince back when Prince was still a virgin.
“Summertime” D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (May, 1991) As a rapper, Will Smith, the artist formerly known as the Fresh Prince, was always too soft-core for my taste, but he had exactly one great hit. And no, it wasn’t “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.” The shuffle mode on my iPod recently stopped on this, the duo’s solo U.S. Top 10 single, and I actually listened to it twice.
“Summertime, Summertime” Nocera (1986) What’s summer without a little bit of irresistible cheese? This dance hit from the Latin freestyle era that brought us a Exposé, Debbie Deb and the Cover Girls fits that bill perfectly.
“Summertime” The Sundays (September, 1997) Ah, the Sundays. Remember them? Probably not. Although two of this British band’s three albums went gold in the U.S. (curiously, Static and Silence, which included this, the group’s biggest UK hit, didn’t), the Sundays are mostly forgotten, but the current lack of smart alternative-pop singles like this one are one of the reasons why I miss the ’90s.
“That Sunday, That Summer” Nat King Cole (September, 1963) That year, Cole would enjoy his final Top 10 pop hit with an actual summer song, “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer,” while this superior “summer” song, from the the same Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer album, only made it to No. 12 a few months later. (It also has been beautifully recorded by Dinah Washington and Cole’s daughter Natalie for her 1991 Grammy-winning album, Unforgettable… With Love.) The imminent arrival of the Beatles was more or less the knell for such elegant pop on the Hot 100. But we’ll always have “That Sunday, That Summer.”
“Suddenly, Last Summer” The Motels (September, 1983) Beauty and the heat. Martha Davis’s voice chills like winter, the melody blooms like spring, and the romantic sentiment burns like summer. The most gorgeous “summer” song of all.
“Summer Rain” Belinda Carlisle
“Summer Night City” ABBA
“Summer of Love” The B-52’s
“Sweet Summer Lovin’” Dolly Parton
“Summertime” Fantasia Barrino