Memorial Day Weekend is on the horizon¹, and that means we are officially entering Summer Jam Season™. It’s time to break out your sunglasses, sun tan lotion and tracks that someone else has deemed “Songs of the Summer.” Of course, no two songs define the season from person-to-person if we’re being honest here. No outlet can definitively tell you how to relax by the pool, take in the rolling waves of the beach or ride your bike through the piping hot city streets. Plus, the Summer Jam Season™ changes and morphs throughout time. Whatever is hot during Memorial Day Weekend is going to be well past its sell-by date once we hit the dog days of August.
We here at TwH are not in the business of declaring something as THE Song of the Summer – there are a ton of other places for that. We’re just here to guide you to some songs you might want to add to your Spotify, iTunes or that little upstart streaming app with a teal logo, for the summer. We’ll give you updates as the summer progresses.
Rich Homie Quan – “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)”
This sounds like a brand new, cherry red sports car pulled up in your driveway and you’re watching from inside your house. Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, you say to yourself, rubbing your palms like you’re Ferris Bueller².
Rich Homie Quan just stunts over the track which has more bounce than a trampoline. Its synthesizer commands a certain shoulder shake that can only be pulled with both hands off the wheel as you cruise down the boulevard. People are waving, honking and admiring. You might be Ferris, but it’s just as likely you’re someone else’s Assman. It doesn’t matter though, because you’re living vicariously through Rich Homie Quan’s coolness. You just ran a red light, by the way.
D.R.A.M – “Cha Cha”
“Cha Cha” was first released in 2014 on D.R.A.M’s 1 Epic Summer mixtape. The song was re-released in March of this year on an EP entitled #1EP. It enjoyed some minor success in the annals of Vine as a song for Vine videos by Vine celebrities³. Then, Beyonce stumbled upon it, liked it enough to post a “Sledgehammer”-esque Instagram along with it, and now it’s enjoying the fruits of a Queen Bey endorsement.
It’s contagious mix of trap samba and vocal pitch squee is captivating in the “this is what the festival in ‘Big Pimpin’ would sound like” kinda way. In the video for the song, there’s a funhouse mirror image of that festival sequence which, along with Beyonce’s co-sign, narrows the degrees of separation from rap’s current corporate solider/vampire.
Jamie xx f/ Young Thug and Popcaan – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”
Jamie xx happened to come up with the concept of the aforementioned jam while riding from Manhattan to Brooklyn and listening to Hot 97. The result is a sparkling song that feels like everyone is just enjoying themselves despite the fact that the dogged heat is melting people into patio furniture. To add to the bubbling pop of the whole thing, there’s also a casual reference by Thugger to Coca-Cola which reminds you to either (a) open up happiness™ (b) think of Don Draper coming up with an ad or (b) both. #brands, man.
Pender Street Steppers – “The Glass City”
The early heat of May provides the best backdrop for pure instrumentation. Losing yourself in the outdoors before the oncoming heatwave is sometimes best enjoyed when there is no saccharine vocals to guide you. “The Glass City” by the Pender Street Steppers is a house track that starts with the percussion of hand claps, toms and snares before a breeze of keyboard blows in. Then a fluttering saxophone echoes around the periphery before becoming the mainstay. That is gradually followed by the faint pulse of a synth. It’s a track that builds, but not in an aggressive manner. It has more in common with Sam Elliot’s bizarro Ron Swanson than the macho outdoorsman himself. Life’s about the journey, man, not the destination. This track is proof of that.
Shamir – “Make a Scene”
Everything that Shamir eschews in “Make a Scene” – frivolous drinking, the media-dictated standards of attraction – is hidden beneath the “sick beat,” which pounds with a four on the floor fervor. There are also acid house belches, gurgles and whines throughout that amplify the sound rather than the subversive message below. It’s a song built for the places where frivolous drinking and hooking up is encouraged. Shamir is winking at all of us, but it’s hard to tell if it’s a joke, or a come on.
Chastity Belt – “Joke”
Chastity Belt slows the blistering speed of surf rock guitar for a more mellow vibe to fit their party. “Joke” is the band’s general statement of attitude: everything’s a joke when they smoke and otherwise. It’s a state-of-mind that salutes laid back attitudes and kicks pretension to the wind. It’s the way of Chastity Belt and, befittingly, the summer season.
Destroyer – “Dream Lover”
The last time we left Dan Bejar’s Destroyer, it was naked on a beach in Ibiza. The saxophones that were littered throughout Kaputt have made their return, but they now sound more E Street than yacht rock. The drive of the sax and the guitar make you feel like you’re behind the wheel of an SUV bound for Anywhere, USA. Buckle up for this one.
Sicko Mobb – “Kool Aid”
Chicago bop flag bearers, Lil’ Trav and Lil’ Ceno, utilize auto tune, piercing bleeps, and plucked synth for a sound that could be mistaken for J-Pop. Lyrically, it’s a song filled with descriptors that conjure up sweltering days filled with the relief only Fruitopia could provide. The chirpy adlibs of Trav and Ceno could have come from the brightest spots of Chief Keef’s “Citgo,” proving that drill has a heart underneath it’s rough, scarred exterior.
Tink – “Million”
Tink is Timbaland’s protege with production lent from the landscape shifting beat maker that harken back to the underwater bump of his days at the top. “Million” begins with Aaliyah’s creep of “One in a Million” before slipping into a sporadic thump with samples littered from the original. The song is essentially a heavily recycled version of the original but through the lens of Tink’s rap-song style that twists and bends where the original didn’t.¼
Regal Degal – “Delicious”
Pink Floyd’s shimmering guitars on “Run Like Hell” felt like they were more useful as the intro on Miami Vice rather than a song about avoiding maniacs. Regal Degal takes those same guitar effects and puts them into a space more indebted to Morrissey. Not as soul crushing as “Run Like Hell,” but still not as sunny as Miami. That puts it somewhere near Tampa, I think.
¹If you haven’t already taken some preemptive time to head to the lake, beach, countryside or wherever you prefer to run to when the temperatures rise.
³Aren’t we a bit charitable with this distinction?