There’s something special about summertime. The sun is out for more of the day (because we all need that serotonin). As an adult, the magic of summer begins to fade around the edges. Summer no longer equals sprinkler-chasing, popsicle-eating, childhood freedom when you’re working around the clock, but you do still get the warmth of the sunset to look forward to.
Whether you’re a lover of laying out in the sun and taking beach vacations or you just can’t wait until it gets cold again and you can stop sweating through all your clothes, I’ve put together a great summer playlist to get you in the mood. It’s a pretty wide array of genres so there’s something for everyone. Enjoy!
“Soak Up the Sun” - Sheryl Crow
Blast this track while you’re soaking up the sun or you need a reminder to go outside and enjoy your next sunny day. This is a great summer track, and I don’t even need to explain why because it’s a warm-weather classic.
“Surfin’ USA” - The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys is another artist I simply could not leave out of a summer playlist. There are a lot of great seasonal tracks to choose from, but I chose “Surfin’ USA” for how frequently it’s been used in other forms of media associated with summer. If you need a great song to play by the pool or the beach, this is one that deserves a spot in your playlist.
“Summer Skin” – Death Cab for Cutie
This is a must for any summer playlist because it brilliantly highlights the treasures of youth in the summer. From squeaky swings to long shadows cast, “Summer Skin” shows how feelings and people can change with the seasons. And sometimes what happened in your summer skin can’t come with you into the fall.
"Edith and the Kingpin" - Herbie Hancock (feat. Tina Turner), (fr River: The Joni Letters)
In honor of Tina Turner's recent passing, we wanted to include a favorite that features her. “Edith and the Kingpin” come off the album River: The Joni Letters and it is a great track to spin in the summer. I can’t fully explain why it fits summer, but it’s just a feeling. Tina Turner’s voice can carry you through any season.
“Daylily” – Movements
Life has its ups and downs, and when you’re battling mental health struggles, those downs can make you feel like you’re drowning and don’t have a reason to keep living. This Movements song was written for the singer’s partner at the time to remind her that the sun would return. It’s so cathartic to sing, “I think it’s time you had a pink cloud summer.” Give it a listen.
“Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
If you’re looking for something more hip hop, a smooth jam that is all about summer, then this track is perfect for you. There’s talk of school getting let out, driving around with friends, and that summer according to them is a “natural aphrodisiac.” This is a fun one. I like to throw on some old-school Will Smith now and again, but especially this one in the summer. It also samples “Summer Madness” by Kool & the Gang, which is a good late-night vibe that just barely didn’t make this list.
“Fireflies” – Owl City
I feel like I don’t even have to give much explanation for this. A song about the whimsey of late nights full of fireflies. How much more summer can you get?
"The Red Door" - Orrin Evans
This title track from the album The Red Door comes off of the Smoke Sessions label and is so much fun! Its high energy and sick horn solos will make you want to dance in the streets on a sunny day. It just dropped last month, so it’s fresh and ready to be played over and over this summer. Give it a listen!
“Summer Shudder” – AFI
I couldn’t make a playlist without including an AFI song (my favorite band). Luckily, AFI has the perfect song for this playlist called, “Summer Shudder.” The song isn’t a positive one. There are many interpretations of this song, but the one I find the most intriguing is that the song is basically asking the question, why is my warmest hour am I so cold?
“I Like It Like That” – Hot Chelle Rae
Is there anything more summer than driving with your friends, blasting the radio with the windows down and the hot sun bearing down on you? This song fits the summer vibe perfectly, and so does its upbeat fun nature. It’s all about living your life just the way you like it.
“California Girls” – Katy Perry
This is likely the song that comes to mind for a lot of people when they think of summer. The music video especially screams summer. From the talk of bikinis to sun so hot it’ll melt your popsicle; this is a great song to throw on during those extra humid days.
“The Message” - Sarah Elizabeth Charles
You’ll feel hypnotized when you listen to “The Message.” From the album Blank Canvas and the Stretch music label, we selected this track because of its calming vibes. This would be a great one to throw on as you sit on your front porch, winding down for the evening.
“Fourth of July” – Fall Out Boy
As I mentioned earlier, summer and the Fourth of July are basically synonymous. So, this Fall Out Boy track is perfect for the summer. “It was the Fourth of July and you and I were fireworks that went off too soon.” It’s another song about the fleeting nature of love, but it’s so upbeat, you forget it has sad lyrics.
“Summertime Sadness” - Lana Del Rey
If you need to be in your feels this summer and need another song about how summer is fleeting, give this classic Lana Del Rey track a spin.
“Summer Paradise” – Simple Plan
What could be more summer than a love story that took place on the beach? Instead of being heartbroken by summer love, Simple Plan takes a nostalgic approach to a beautiful time with summer love and how he wants to get back to that paradise. It has a perfect summer vibe.
“Fourth of July” - Close to Home
And if one breakup song surrounding the Fourth of July wasn’t enough, you can check out this one from Close to Home. This band was really killing it from 2008-2012, and I miss them dearly, just like the singer of this song grieves the loss of his love. Other people may be enjoying their holiday, but not this guy. Even if you can’t relate, this is an underrated gem worth checking out.
"Given to the Left" - Heidi Martin
This upbeat number off of Gifts & Sacrifices has a well-played rhythmic throughline that will put you in a summer mood. While it’s not categorized as jazz, the guitar playing by Paul Bollenback paired with Heidi Martin’s vocals has a magical jazzy feeling.
“What Time Is It?” - High School Musical Cast
I cannot believe I almost forgot the ultimate summer song. Anyone who grew up with the High School Musical movies can relate. “What Time Is It?” comes from High School Musical 2 and features the students of East High celebrating the start of summer break. It’s probably the most summer-centered song on this list, and it’s a certified banger.
“Can't Find My Way Home” - Christian Sands
Get lost in the piano playing of Christian Sands’ instrumental rendition of “Can’t Find My Way Home” off his album Be Water. Originally composed by Steve Winwood and released by Blind Faith on their 1969 self-titled album, Sands creates a version reminiscent of the original but still very much his own rendition. The bass undertone will make you think of sitting by the water on a summer day.
“Vacation” - Vitamin C
This selection is so nostalgic for me because it comes from the first Pokémon movie from 1998. My friend made me a CD of this soundtrack, and “Vacation” was part of the soundtrack of my childhood summers. The song is all about going on a vacation where you can party on the beach where fun is free. It’s perfect summer vibes. And if you play it with the Pokémon clip (which I’ll link below) of them being introduced and walking together, it screams summer.
There are my recommendations for songs worth adding to your summer playlist. I’m sure this list is missing some big ones, but I really wanted to highlight some lesser-known artists that deserve the spotlight. Some honorable mention tracks that didn’t make this list that I also think embody summer will include...
“Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams
“Summer” - Calvin Harris
“Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift
“Down Under” - Men at Work
“Funkytown” - Lipps Inc. (This might be me thing, but we always played this when we arrived at a vacation destination when I was a kid)
"Summer Love” - Justin Timberlake
What songs do you always have to play in the summertime? Let me know in the comments! I hope this list puts you in a summery mood and you enjoy the warm weather if you’ve got it!
Written by Kristen Petronio