Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a great summer song. Is it the earworm hit of this very moment — or the hit of that teen-dream summer vacation you'll always remember? Is it a song about summer, or, more literally, a song with "summer" in the title? Is it the song that makes everyone jump up and down and yell-sing the chorus like maniacs, or the song that makes you slooooowww dowwwwn?
We can't give you a definitive answer here. We're too busy swimming, drinking, fucking and eating popsicles in the steamy Florida haze. But these are the songs we'll be humming all summer. Our staff picks:
"Nights of Wine and Roses" – Japandroids
Every summer needs an anthem, and this song was built to be the anthem for 2012. A little desperate, a little hopeful, a little angry, a lot hard.
"Jet" – Shonen Knife
You can't not smile when this comes on, it's so irritatingly exuberant – kind of like Florida summers.
"Cruel Summer" – Bananarama
"Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning, as I sit around, trying to smile." Summer is the cruelest season, but it does have some of the best songs dedicated to it. Reminds us of the time when summer meant neon off-the-shoulder shirts and too much hairspray.
"California Sunrise" – Dirty Gold
Dirty Gold flawlessly captures the shivery-warm vibe of dawn on a Pacific beach – cold sand, pink sky, cresting waves, seagulls and the ashes of last night's bonfire.
"Summer Holiday" – Cliff Richard
We love that he admits he's not sure how to properly vacation the way they do in the movies. The lackadaisical sigh of a tempo here is a great start.
"Se A Vida E (That's the Way Life Is)" – Pet Shop Boys
You can't be young forever, but you can pretend you are! Everybody's favorite dour British duo wistfully coast over Latin rhythms and anthemic "ooh-ahhs" in this seminal summer classic. Also, Orlando connection: The super-homoerotic video was shot at Wet 'n Wild. You are both wet and wild.
"Icicle Star Tree" – Asylum Choir
The perfect sundazed late-'60s accompaniment for … eating popsicles? That … grow on a tree? The psych-folk blog Rising Storm calls out this song's "heavily lysergic vibe"; I'd say that's a fair assessment.
"Sun Won't Come Out" – Pete Rock & CL Smooth
To our ears, summer should always sound like the Bronx. Warm, boisterous and swaggering, this track brings the heat.
"Genius of Love" – Tom-Tom Club
Half the Talking Heads decided to free their asses instead of their minds, left New York for Nassau's legendary Compass Point recording studios, and the perfect summer album was born. An epic ode to blissed-out summer crushes.
"Live Those Days Tonight" – Friendly Fires
If the herk-to-jerk of singer Ed Macfarlane's belted marching orders don't get you to convulse and contort in an explosion of glee, then there is no blood left in your body. This is an electric spasm of dreamy self-righteousness designed for sweaty days and sweaty nights. And it has a crazy percussion crescendo smack in the middle for when you're out of cocaine!
"Crazy in Love" – Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
The ultimate summer jam, period. Fire hydrants spontaneously erupt when this comes on. Fact.
"Finger Poppin'" – Ike & Tina Turner
A full sound, a fiery singer and the simple joy of having time to go shopping.
"Integratron" – Dengue Fever
A Cambodian-pop pastiche tribute to the Hi-Desert's famous Integratron — it's a perfect multi-culti mashup of Joshua trees, nutty SoCal mysticism, summer nights spent scanning the skies for UFOs, iced Tiger beer and hot dusty boots.
"Summer Babe (Winter Version)" – Pavement
The wistful side of small-town warm-weather nighttime boredom. The lyrics teeter on the edge of nonsense, but nevertheless spot-on evoke drifting cliques of arty high-schoolers.
"Bang" – M.I.A., Rye Rye
Hot, fast, hard. Baltimore club music that flies even outside the club.
"My Own Way (single version)" – Duran Duran
A lesser summer guide might steer you in the direction of "Rio"'s overt splashiness, but every true eyelinered narcissist knows that the combination of overwrought strings and slap-bass – plus singer Simon LeBon's defiant cry for "April showers" to "get out of my way" – of this frenetic gem is where the hidden stash of summer sequins is.
"Gbeti Madjro" – Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo
Nigerian guitar pop with an infectiously wiggly rhythm and a hot back-and-forth between bandleader Melome Clement and guest vocalist Angelique Kidjo.
Fireworks, seagulls, sequins: Listen to our embedded playlist of 17 hot summer choons.
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