It’s just days until the official beginning of summer. We have our beach bags ready. We have our very long list of summer activities. We have our brand-new sunglasses, which we will not accidentally lose in the ocean for a few more weeks. But what about our summer playlist: the list that will make us think wistfully back on 2017 for decades to come?
We have you covered. These are the songs that will get you through it all: the traffic on your way to vacation, the vacation itself, the cold beers on the deck, the BBQs and brunches. There’s some dance music, some breakup music and more than one feminist jam. Let’s get started.
1. “Green Light” by Lorde
We are so glad that Lorde is back with a new album just in time for summer. Luckily for us, the first single off her new effort is an excellent summer jam, even if it’s a bit dark like Lorde tends to be. “Green Light” has an awesome dance beat, some clapping and a perfect chorus — but it’s also about tough times. As we dance on the light-up floor, let’s try not to focus on the actual thrust of the song, which seems to be about not being able to let go of a terrible boyfriend. We swear we’ll dump him by the fall, Lorde.
2. “I’m the One” by DJ Khaled (featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne)
At the beginning of “I’m the One,” DJ Khaled says, “Let’s celebrate life, success and our blessings,” and then he gets down to it along with a huge cast of guest spots, including the Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne. We dare you not to nod your head through this obvious summer jam. We also dare you to pick your favorite verse. Our favorite depends on which one is on at this exact moment.
3. “Want You Back” by Haim
Haim is no stranger to being included on summer jam lists, and with their shimmering pop-rock hits, it’s no surprise that they made the list again this year with “Want You Back.” The three sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana, show up this summer with a bittersweet love song that is also good for driving around on summer days with your windows down. We are also super-excited for their sophomore album, which is due out in July.
4. “Passionfruit” by Drake
Of course we need a song from Drake. This one isn’t exactly high energy — it’s more of a slow, sultry jam with lots of ooohhhs and aaahhhs (and passion, of course). This one will be good for chilling in between high-powered pop songs — maybe try playing it on your car stereo it while sitting on the hood and looking at the stars. Or possibly while sitting on a dock with your feet dangling in some water.
5. “Loyalty” by Kendrick Lamar (featuring Rihanna)
After listening to a pretty superficial but delicious song by Drake, let’s get a bit more serious with a Kendrick Lamar tune off his new amazing album Damn. We appreciate the depth of this track as well as the delicious beat. Other outlets have been picking “Humble” for their Lamar song pick, but we love listening to Rihanna rap. We were never going to leave your side even before we knew you needed loyalty, K-Dot.
6. “Holding On” by The War on Drugs
We will be the first to admit our summer jam mix doesn’t include a whole lot of male indie rock bands — and we’re totally fine with that. But this new track by The War on Drugs is the perfect addition. We love how it blends a high summer Bruce Springsteen sound with a bit of Bob Dylan growling, all topped off with some choice xylophone playing. It’s a classic sound at almost an anthem level of rocking, and we will certainly turn it up every time it comes on.
7. “OX Tour Llif3” by Lil Uzi Vert
It’s hard to believe that a song with the hook, “Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead,” could possible make a lighthearted summer jam mix. But here we are, and we love it. Uzi Vert is a relative newcomer in the rap world, but his lyrics and delivery style have us very, very interested in what’s to come from the 22-year-old. But while we wait for what we’re guessing is going to be a fast rise, we’ll be listening to this song on repeat.
8. “Bad Liar” by Selena Gomez
Yes. Yes. YES. This is what we need right now. This song has every summer song element imaginable: clapping, a slow build, soaring notes, a sweet bridge (see 2:40) and a killer earworm chorus. This is one to listen to with while splitting a bottle of rosé with your girlfriends on the back porch while catching up on the weekend’s gossip. Also great for singing in the car. Just don’t try too hard for those high notes.
9. “Slide” by Calvin Harris (featuring Frank Ocean and Migos)
This mid-tempo song is so perfect for summer nights before things get super crazy — maybe when you’re getting ready to go out or when it’s just a few friends waiting to meet up with a bigger group later. “Do you slide on all your nights like this?” Frank Ocean sings in the super-smooth way he sings everything, and we are already planning to replay it before it ends.
10. “Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Sigrid
We needed a new female-empowerment song this summer, and oh boy, did we find it. New Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid has reached international fame with “Don’t Kill My Vibe,” but it hasn’t quite caught on in the U.S. Yet. Every time she sings, “You think you’re so important to me don’t you?” We want to scream, kick someone’s ass and ask for a raise at work. It’s just the best.
11. “Mask Off” by Future
We know what you are thinking: all of these songs are really great, but we haven’t heard much flute yet. Well, don’t fret. Future’s summer jam “Mask Off” has an amazing beat that includes some sultry jazzy flute that goes great with the rapper’s subtle, crooning Auto-tune sound. This song is for heading home at night after summer fun, whether you’re driving with the windows down to get the night breeze or listening to your phone as you walk back to your place.
12. “Malibu” by Miley Cyrus
We’ll admit it: This is our guilty pleasure summer jam. We have mixed feelings about Miley Cyrus and this song. Yet we keep coming back to it. Let’s not deny ourselves this obvious summer hit just because we are a bit annoyed. We are all about the bright guitar cords, the beachy lyrics and the positive, building energy. Plus, we needed a simple song about summer love, and here it is.
13. “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles
We needed a slow piano ballad for our playlist, and here it is. We can’t party all day and night. We need a break. In his self-titled debut solo album, Harry Styles of One Direction kills it with multiple songs that are making summer jam lists. We like this one for its sentimentality and wailing guitar along with some lovely falsetto and a soft rock beat. Why not? It’s a sign of the times.
14. “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd (featuring Daft Punk)
This seems like a very, very simple formula for a summer hit. Mix one part The Weeknd with one part Daft Punk. The result is exactly what you think it would be: an extremely contagious song that seems perfect for any summer activity you can think of. Not since Michael Jackson have we heard such an infectious, lovely combination of vocals and beats. It’s a winner for sure.
15. “Hard Times” by Paramore
Let’s finish up with a shiny, shimmering rock/pop romp by Paramore, who returned to the music scene after a four-year hiatus with their fifth album last month. We love the jumping energy of the track, especially since it’s paired with comparatively dark subject matter: living through hard times. We can relate. This song is great for dancing, even if you’re not sure you feel like it.