It’s become somewhat of a tradition in my family to declare a “Song of the Summer” every year. Usually, this song is a radio hit at the time, one we believe will get the most airplay over the summer and become an iconic summer jam for that year.
Some of the greatest joy in this tradition comes from declaring the summer song ludicrously early, even before summer officially begins, because we like to be know-it-alls with way too much confidence when it comes to music. So I thought this yearly tradition would make a great blog topic.
Here are 10 songs of the summer from every year since 2008… and my pick for the song of the summer for this year. My personal definition for the song of the summer is any song that was popular during that year that could easily be played in a convertible with the top down. Sound good? Let’s go.
2008: Viva La Vida – Coldplay
Perhaps this song is the least summery of the mix, but after looking over the list of songs that hit it big in 2008, I was repeatedly drawn back to this one. I think it’s because this was one of those songs that defined the year for me. It was one of the first songs I ever felt like was my own favorite song – a track that, along with Gorillaz entire discography – allowed me to develop a personal taste in music for the first time.
Plus, close your eyes and picture driving a convertible with the top down to this song. That crooning violin, the grandiose feel of the instrumentals… it fits surprisingly well.
2009: Kids – MGMT
True to its name, there’s a very youthful quality to this song that makes it a perfect summer track. It calls back to those neverending summer afternoons as a kid, tromping through the grass, bug-hunting or picking dandelions or shoveling holes in your sandbox. It’s that same carefree feeling that makes a good summer song a good summer song.
This is a classic, really. It would be impossible not to mention it in a list like this. That bouncy, fun energy just lifts the spirits.
2010: Anna Sun – Walk the Moon
If you thought there wouldn’t be a Walk the Moon song on this list…. you must be new. Welcome to Absoludicrous, where Walk the Moon rules my brain. There were a number of songs I could have put of theirs on this list for a couple of different years, but I knew for a fact that this was the true summer bop of them all. This was the song that actually introduced me to Walk the Moon, though I wouldn’t truly get into their music until “Shut Up and Dance.”
Just like with “Kids,” “Anna Sun” is a song intent on capturing a certain carefree nostalgic feeling. Though this song is a little more mature than “Kids,” it’s only a little more. This song is less a story and more a series of images. It’s that transient feeling of good times flashing by in a warm, joyous haze, that makes this song so perfect for this happy season.
2011: Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine
Ironically enough, despite the title, whenever I hear this song I feel like the dog days are just beginning! *ba dum tssssh*
No but seriously, Florence Welch is such a fantastic performer, and her music has this very timeless quality. It’s atmospheric, and immediately commands your entire attention as soon as it comes on. That is on full display in this song. From her absolutely fantastic vocal performance, to the pounding beat behind the harps and and handclaps, it all makes for a powerful and fun musical experience, one I would gladly roll all the windows of the car down to enjoy.
2012: Tongue Tied – Grouplove
I more or less made this list to gush about this song. If you’re looking for the textbook definition of a “song of the summer,” this is the one. The hypnotic, atmospheric instrumentals pound at a heartbeat-like tempo. Not to mention the scenes talked about in the lyrics. Just like with “Anna Sun,” there’s a very transient quality to the way these scenes of adolescent mischief and fun are played out.
That depth to the sound, the focus on brief and hazy joy… all of it makes this song what I would consider the standard for all other summer songs to meet.
2013: Get Lucky – Daft Punk
I truly believe that Daft Punk is a group that deserves a mountain of credit for how consistently incredible their music is. I’ve returned to their music again and again and again – it’s timeless, always relevant. And honestly, I think “Get Lucky” is one of the greatest things they’ve ever been involved in. It’s that same electronic, computer feel, plus the grooves of Pharrell Williams and an HONEST TO GOD legit Nile Rodgers bassline. It’s a recipe for carefree summer bliss.
I’m honestly curious I don’t hear this song on the radio to this day. I cannot imagine anyone being upset if this song came on, even five years later.
2014: Thunder Clatter – Wild Cub
I have distant dreams of one day making a huge countdown list of all of my favorite all-time songs, and in every version, this song takes a prominent spot. It was a minor alt rock hit in 2014, but it still defined that summer for me, and continues to be a favorite. It’s a song I feel has nailed a very specific feeling – a joyful kind of nostalgia. With those jangly guitar sounds, and echoed vocals… like many of the songs on this list, it’s the feeling that makes it such a summer classic for me.
This is unrelated to its designation as a summer classic, but this has always been my favorite love song of all time. The bridge never fails to draw out emotion in me. If there’s ever a song to model your relationship aspirations on, it’s gotta be this one.
2015: My Type – Saint Motel
I’m a huuuge fan of Saint Motel. I think what they do is completely unique and so fun. Every song of theirs is injected with a delightful energy and a sharp sense of humor, set to a backdrop of bombastic horn-based instrumentals. This was the song that introduced me to that style.
It’s tacky, goofy, and yet undeniably fun. Loud, proud, and even a bit atmospheric. This is a song that just wants you to laugh at it and have fun. A perfect summer song.
2016: Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun
This song is kind of a cryptid among my summer favorites. It was released in 2009, but didn’t hit the “charts” until 2016. When my parents and I first heard it, we promptly forgot the title and artist and struggled for weeks to remember it before it miraculously appeared on the radio again. It’s got this vibe – and I say this with all the love in my heart – of a sort of off-brand Daft Punk. It’s Daft Punk but a little more indie, I think.
Either way, this song is a perfect summer jam. The chill backing instrumentals and vaguely mumbly vocals invite you to forget your worries and just vibe along.
2017: Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man
“Feel It Still,” I think, was one of our earliest calls for the song of the summer. We first heard this song during spring break of last year, and were struck by the vintage vibes and infectious beat from this oddly punctuated band. I even mentioned it in my spring break post. Since then it’s gained popularity in spades, becoming the song of the summer of last year. To this day I continue to hear this song regularly on the radio… honestly, I’m just glad to say I’m part of the group of hipsters that heard this song first.
It’s not hard to see what made this song hit so hard and stick for so long. The falsetto voice of the lead singer is a catchy instrument of its own, even without the deep horn swagger and up-beat, danceable swing. It’s a party in less than 3 minutes.
2018: Make Me Feel – Janelle Monae
And now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – my way-too-early call for what will be the song of the summer this year. My pick wasn’t too hard. Janelle Monae’s newest album “Dirty Computer” is a veritable hits goldmine, but I think the Prince-like party vibe of “Make Me Feel” is gonna be the tune we’re all jamming to poolside this year.
What? I can’t help it. Monae is just so stylish and cool, not only in her wild and beautiful outfits in the music video, but also with that smooth voice with the minimalistic snap-and-click sound of the track. If you haven’t heard this song yet, listen to it. You’re hearing the next big hit, I guarantee it.