In pop culture, lists are everything. They lend a sense of order to an otherwise orderless world. From film and literature to music, critics and readers alike love to put things in tidy rows. It is with this in mind that Popdose presents Listmania, a weekly series counting down the staff’s favorite things.
When you are young — or young at heart — summer means a break from the rigor of life. Be it school or work; it is a time to escape the routine and spend time with your friends and family. And, where there is a gathering; there is always music. Unlike any othe season, there is something about the quintessential “summer song.” From Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” to Rhianna’s – “Umbrella” the heart of the summer song lies in its ability to capture the feeling of the season.
So, with that in mind, we challenged the Popdose staff to come up with their favorite summer songs. The lists featured songs from every era and genre. We tallied up the tracks that garnered the most mentions, and present you now with number 20 through 11 of the Top 20 songs of summer!
20. The Motels – Suddenly Last Summer
This song has nothing to do with Tennessee Williams’ one act play of the same title, and that’s for the best as his story is about as dark as it gets. This is not to say that The Motels have made a happy, frolicking sort of tune; with that insistent pitter-pat beat, the slight drone to the keys in the background, and singer Martha Davis with her voice barely containing cigarettes, sin and secrets. The lyrics are cagey, perhaps the words of someone who regrets an action, but the summer has drawn to a close and it is too late to revisit or to change what’s been done. It reads like nonsense, but sounds mysterious and sexy in an ’80s kind of way. – Dw. Dunphy
19. Justin Timberlake – Summer Love
Call it retro, but there is a timeless quality to “Summer Love” that solidifies it as a modern classic. Justin Timberlake is no stranger to the bit summer song, but here channels his best late-’80s freestyle in an ode to the love destined to only last during the warm summer months. It may be the most recently released tune of the top 20, but it evokes summers past in a way that had everyone from teens to their parents wanting to feel a bit of the summer love. – Michael Parr
18. The B-52’s – Rock Lobster
Recorded in the sun-drenched Bahamas in 1978, “Rock Lobster” would be just the first in a long line of B-52’s songs about summertime, beaches, and/or out-of-control parties. Its Ono-esque wackiness allegedly inspired John Lennon to get back into the studio after a five-year hiatus. From the frenzied surf guitar gone punk to the inimitable vocal performances, this “novelty” record is an all-time great for any time of year. – Robin Monica Alexander
17. The Drifters – Under The Boardwalk
There is nothing that says summer like a day at the beach, searching for a piece of shade from the afternoon sun as the wave’s crash a few feet before you. Of course, now that idyll of innocence is forever tainted by The Situation macking on five drunken girls all at once, the rebranding of the outing as a Stay-Cation (yuck) and the presence of tarballs in the sand. Living by the Jersey Shore, I can only relate to the “sounds from a happy carousel” through memory. Asbury Park has devolved into lot after lot of abandoned buildings and half-completed projects. Long Branch tore them all down for overpriced luxury condos. But at least, in the span of this song, we’ll always have the boardwalk as we remembered it. – Dw
16. Bananarama – Cruel Summer
Forget “Venus” – “Cruel Summer” is the jam that Bananarama should be remembered for. Initially ignored, after the track was featured in The Karate Kid in the summer of ’84, it became the girls’ first U.S. Top Ten hit. It combines the strongest instrumentation of any of the group’s singles with lyrics that are anything but sunny, reminding us that while it’s fun at times, summer can also be the season of heat, sweat, and boredom. – RMA
15. Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues
Like the visage of Mount Rushmore, there are certain songs that are just impossible to write about, this is one of them. The indelibly perfect combination of Cochran’s guitar and vocals stand as the national anthem of the disenfranchised youth. Covered by everyone from The Beach Boys, The Who to Rush, it should be part of the curriculum in elementary school music. Just so the kids coming up know that the trials and tribulations of teenage life never really change. – MP
14. Outkast – Hey Ya!
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, when “Hey Ya!” comes on you are bound to “shake it like a Polaroid picture.” It was our top song of the last decade, and judging by it’s inclusion here; it’s one of our favorite summer jams as well. – MP
13. The Beach Boys – All Summer Long
The Beach Boys are the essential “summer song” band. From “Little Deuce Coup” to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” — hell, even “Kokomo” — Brian Wilson and his brothers tapped into the subconscious of the California teen and put it to record, over and again. If you look up “summer song” in the dictionary, it will play “All Summer Long.” – MP
12. The Wallflowers – One Headlight
As much as the sun, surf and sand have been present in this list, there is the time-honored tradition of dropping the top and going for a drive in the evening. This track is perfect for that. Jacob Dylan’s genetic predisposition as a skilled songwriter is apparent here, as he rolls through a bevy of seemingly disparate metaphors and images, resolving in that hopeful sing-along chorus. Though I’d suggest getting that headlight fixed; lest you want that nighttime drive to be marred by a pricey ticket. – MP
11. Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke
Okay, maybe “Sir Duke” isn’t a summer song in the strictest sense. It never mentions the season, never talks about vacations or summer love, about the only thing on Stevie Wonder’s mind is the equality and freedom of music, which could come off as terribly preachy and “good for you.” The latter is correct, but in a different sense, because this isn’t a lesson in the accomplishments of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and the other luminaries name-dropped. The song is good for you because it feels like a block party, a Mardi gras, or a drive with the top down. For a moment in the 1970s, Wonder took the top of the pops and made it swing. I take back my reservations. “Sir Duke” is the perfect summer song. – Dw
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