What Makes A Song Of The Summer?

~I’ve been rollin’ on the freeway, I been ridin’ 85~

Awesome Mix Vol. SUMMER (via Odyssey)

Today was a warm May day. I am happy.

The first signs of summer bring with them a phenomenal mood boost, thanks in no small part to the playlist change that accompanies them. Walking to Starbucks with summer music this afternoon had me in a hell of a vibe, which got me thinking:

Just what makes these “songs of the summer” so summery?

Now, as with most of my posts, my answer to the focal question is far from the definitive one. The song of the summer is a subjective issue, especially considering many people debate over which one song can lay claim to the title each year. This debate is an interesting place to start.

But it’s 11pm and I can’t be bothered to scroll through my timeline, so let’s start with my personal definition of the “summer vibe” instead.

Obvious Pinterest-y GIF #1 (via GIPHY, actually)

Summer is a time of warmer weather, longer days, and a sense of adventure.

At least, it is to me.

The summer vibe, the general omnipresent mood during this most blessed of seasons, is one of happiness and wonder.

Summer makes me want to go out with my friends every day, finding waterfalls while walking the trails. It makes me want to stay up all night singing great songs with my terrible voice. It makes me want to live.

And I need a killer soundtrack to do so.

I need music that encapsulates all of the above. I need music to sing along to, to dance to, to blast out of the car windows as my friends and I drive down the highway. I need music that is, above all, fun.

Now, typically, contenders for the title of “song of the summer” are those with a catchy beat and easy-to-remember lyrics. That combination has truly stood the test of time. Three examples come to mind straight away:

With a beat that’s a good mix of guitar riffs and bongo beats, coupled with a fast-paced chorus, this Spiff TV track screams summer party.

Yeah I have no clue about this cover either. (via Spotify)

Ed Sheeran is no stranger to making waves, and his latest album was no exception. This one was surprisingly narrative-heavy for such an addicting track: it’s basically a bumpin’ short story.

Lmao you thought it’d be Shape Of You for this post, didn’t you? (via Spotify)

And, of course, some Drake.

I had to. (via Spotify)

These are all examples of the simpler style of summer song. But what about music that explicitly appeals to that sense of adventure? Music that really makes you feel like you’re on some kind of epic quest for excitement? Well, I have some of those too.

There’s no shortage of tracks built for a journey. Be it a full-blown road trip, a highway cruise during a shopping trip, or even just a quick trip to the grocery store, there is a plethora of trip tunes to keep one entertained. Let’s start the showcase:

The most recent track of this post, Calvin Harris’ latest has a funk to it that truly exudes the idea of adventure. This is almost entirely due to chorus’ lyrics, sung by a laid-back Khalid:

You’ll recognise the subtitle of this post in this one. (via Spotify)

Arguably the closest of these tracks to the status of “modern classic”, Childish Gambino’s fusion of singing and rapping work to build an atmosphere of longing; this one is a journey for purpose.

Rapper, singer, actor, writer, narrative god. Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Glover. (via Spotify)

With an undulating beat, steadily rising tempo, and pulsating chorus, this remix of Astrid S’ hit song makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a movie montage:

This isn’t nearly as emo as the title sounds, I swear… (via Spotify)

We’re not always after narrative though. Sometimes, what makes a song so summery is its ability to inspire confidence. As I said before, t’is the season to be belting out songs I have no right to be singing so self-assuredly. The carefree attitude I attribute to summer has to manifest itself in my playlists as well, otherwise I won’t be at peak confidence.

Okay maybe not this confident… (via GIPHY)

So I’m willing to let the narrative slip a little, but I definitely still need my addicting beat and fun lyrics while chasing confidence. Those requirements bring us to our third and final style of summer hit: braggadocio.

Yes, I called it straight braggadocio, not “bragging songs” or anything like that. For that summer confidence, I need songs brimming with ego, songs that make me ready to take on anything the world can throw at me. Being a vain little prick myself, I have the perfect three:

Nothing says arrogant summer-lover better than a track about impressing another man’s girl more than he does. The-Dream took this idea and did one better, not only bragging that he can steal your girl, but making it clear that he does so on the regular. The light beat makes this one ooze the summer vibe:

It really is. (via Spotify)

Continuing on the theme of catching the eye of the ladies, G-Eazy and Hoodie Allen refuse to beat around the bush on this speaker-friendly summer jam:

Some white kids can rap. Some. (via Spotify)

To end the braggadocio list, it’s only appropriate we do so with the man who made yelling your own name on the track a staple of modern hip hop. Others did it before him, but no one does it quite like DJ Khaled. An all-star lineup, a pop-style ululation in the chorus, and unabashed confidence make this one a radio hit:

ASAHD! (via Spotify)

There are a thousand more examples for each style of summer song, but these are just a few to get you started.

To end, let’s recap. What makes a song of the summer? We need a head-bop worthy beat, lyrics that you can learn in one take, and either a narrative or style of sound that fosters a sense of adventure. Put those together and you have an almost guaranteed hit.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a homegrown example:

Little Bear ‘bout to be a Big Hit. (via Soundcloud)

Tell me you didn’t feel the vibe on that track. I dare you.

That’s about it for my summer song revelations and recommendations. Do tell what you feel makes a song worthy of the summer title, and leave your predictions for 2017’s song of the summer below.

Till next we meet,
Sarim