45 Summer Songs You Better Have…Or Else

Posted May 28, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

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Surf’s up: 45 blazing selections headline our ultimate summer songs’ playlist

Originally published as 45 Greatest Summer Songs, August/September 2011
THE SUMMER OF ‘69, for better or worse, is cemented in the minds of those that lived it and wasn’t totally drugged up to the point of not remembering it. Here’s some of ‘69’s headlines: The Beatles announced their breakup; man lands on the moon; the soldiers fighting in Vietnam kept marching on; flower power ruled; Hurricane Camille swept through the South; the Stonewall Riots sparked a revolution for the gay community; Manson was a dirty word. That recreational season between Memorial Day and Labor Day is usually supposed to be a happy and eventful period of time, but 1969 was a mixbag of everything good and everything bad for youngsters. But Woodstock, the granddaddy of music festivals, the event billed as an “Aquarian exposition” with “three days of peace and music,” came in like a tidal wave and attracted over 500,000 music lovers and hippies to the 600-acre farmland in Bethel, New York, changing the fabric of summer forever. It was the perfect capper to a troubled decade and elevated the spirit of hope for better years to come.
Unfortunately, the Seventies had its share of problems, as did the Eighties and so on. Besides the complaining of the 100-degree heat waves and its subsequent heat strokes, the summers are always the brightest parts of the year. No wonder summer songs are so important. They give us something to dance and sing about. They give us that extra gasoline for those extra-long road trips. They are our musical roadmaps to the beaches. And when the heat is really on…some of them turn on the fires in our sexual mojo.
So we’ve compiled a good list of 45 best summer singles of all-time that does any of the above. Taken from 1958 to 2011, our list highlights some of the hottest Top 40 summer favorites to ever burn the radio…and the personal stereo, the Walkman and the iPod. There’s something on board for everybody.


“Ice Ice Baby”
Vanilla Ice
#1 pop, September 1990 (SBK)

In the heat of the summer of 1990, Vanilla Ice jumps into the rap game with his chilly rap hit “Ice Ice Baby.” The song apologetically samples Queen & David Bowie’s duet “Under Pressure.” After getting some pressure from the original rock stars, rapper Vanilla Ice shared co-writing credits, ultimately splitting a chunk of the royalties. Although the song tells a story about a Miami drive-by shooting, it became a summer sensation and wound up opening greater doors for crossover rap. The song became the first hip-hop song to hit number one on the Hot 100. Ice’s career never rebounded.


“Mercedes Boy”
#2 pop, May 1988 (MCA)

Everybody wanted to cruise through the hot humid summer wind in a Mercedes after Perri “Pebbles” Reid pulled out the driveway with her Top 5 smash hit “Mercedes Boy.” The cool synthpop pulse of the remix, co-produced by Charlie Wilson and Pebbles, helped shoot the song up the pop and R&B charts.


“The Glamorous Life”
Shelia E.
#7 pop, July 1984 (Warner)

Prince’s synth-funk handiwork on top of Shelia E.’s percussive beats and Apollonia 6-inspired breathy vocals provided “The Glamorous Life” that extra zing to rocket the Prince protégé into the pop market. The song details the glam lifestyle of a jet set Hollywood woman, but caps off the story with a dose of reality: “Without love/It ain’t much.” Fans of Prince’s funkier jams and The Time had no problem turning to Shelia E’s breakout jam that summer.


“The Lazy Song”
Bruno Mars
#4 pop, April 2011 (Elektra)

With a sensational need to just kick it at the crib, Bruno Mars – alongside a sweet roots reggae and Jawaiian backdrop – launches into a teenager’s dream full of sweet rebellion: “I’m gonna kick my feet up/Then stare at the fan/Turn the TV on, throw my hand in my pants/Nobody’s gonna tell me I can’t.” This is what you did after hearing Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.”


“If This Is It”
Huey Lewis & the News
#6 pop, July 1984, (Chrysalis)

Sweltering on the backs of sultry doo-wop harmonies and dazzling lead guitar solos, Huey Lewis’s “If This Is It” sticks out as one of the grandest midtempo rock and roll ballads of the Eighties. Images from the popular concept video, portraying beach vixens and the band members being buried in the sands of Santa Cruz, has been enshrined deeply in the minds of the MTV generation.


“Whoomp! There It Is”
Tag Team
#2 pop, May 1993 (Life)

Underground Miami bass group Tag Team found their key to success in a sample of Kano’s Italio-disco 1983 hit “I’m Ready.” With some sharp MC Hammer rap action and hype crowd-participation on the chorus, the song blasted it way to the pop charts at the beginning of May 1993, even beating their competition 95 South with a similar-sounding “Whoot, There It Is.” The song managed to sell a whopping 4 million copies and became the group’s only hit record. The song is now considered an urban club staple and a crowd favorite at sporting events.
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J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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