There are very few things music fans universally agree on, but each summer we’re somehow able to come to the consensus that a handful of mainstream hits will soundtrack the season in a big way. We set aside our personal tastes in pursuit of the perfect pop anthem, only to be brought to the breaking point by the sound of “Get Lucky,” “Call Me Maybe,” or “California Gurls” by the time Labor Day rolls around.
This year, we see various combinations of Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX, and Ariana Grande (“Fancy,” “Boom Clap,” “Problem”) leading the fight for the crown, with Lil Jon and DJ Snake (“Turn Down for What”) and Ed Sheeran (“Sing”) trailing closely behind. Whichever hit takes the title will be memorialized as the Song of the Summer, but there is something to be said for our own personal Songs of the Summer — the ones whose significance is rooted more in our memories than in chart history. Sometimes they match up with the handful of inescapable Summer hits, but other times, not so much. We asked 21 musicians from across all genres — some established hitmakers and old favorites, some Song of the Summer contenders, some up-and-comers we’re cosigning — to name their own Songs of the Summer 2014.
Lil Jon: “Turn Down For What” — DJ Snake & Lil Jon
TDFW IS THE SUMMER ANTHEM…WHEN YOU’RE NOT READY TO LEAVE THE CLUB YET AND WANNA KEEP PARTYING!!
Pete Wentz: “I Wanna Get Better” — Bleachers
To me, the song of this summer is “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers. I like it as a summer song because it actually doesn’t come right out and hit you in the face like a “Thong Song” type of song — it’s interesting and a bit strange but it still fits in on the radio. I like that it infuses elements of what I’m used to hearing from hip-hop and pop but has a really relatable message to our anxiety-driven, ADHD culture. It’s like a self-help book rolled into a pop song.
Owen Pallett: “Give It Up” — HTRK
The #1 best song of summer 2014 is HTRK’s “Give It Up.” The synths sliding down like beads of sweat, no air conditioning, let’s bake bread and let the house get really hot — it makes a cold beer taste better and songs like this sound even better.
Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin: “14th of July” — Shout Out Louds
I’m sure this isn’t a “summer song,” but it popped into my head when asked what my song of of summer for this year would be. Lyrically, the song is set in summer. So that counts right? Who cares. The song is beautiful. The lyrics are incredibly visual. It’s upbeat. The production is fun and visceral. Summery or not, I’ll be lying in the sun drinking to this song this year.
Chromeo’s P-Thugg: “Beauty Queen (demo)” — Black Atlass
A fresh of breath air, updated Tracy Chapman/Wyclef vibez. This guy should be on everybody’s radar.
Girl Talk: “Yasss Bish” — Nicki Minaj ft. Soulja Boy
It’s a Soulja Boy renaissance in 2014 with this and “We Made It.” This is what I currently bump in my car with the windows down. Not a traditional summer-sounding song but a cold banger for that summer heat.
Jermaine Dupri: “You Don’t Know What To Do” — Mariah Carey
Mariah’s “You Don’t Know What To Do” is just screaming, “Take me to a park, drop the top, turn this up loud, let the sun beam down on your baseball cap while you sing along through the city, get to the park and ride a bike, rent some skates…”
Strand of Oaks (AKA Timothy Showalter): “Every Time The Sun Comes Up” — Sharon Van Etten
Song of the summer is an understatement. I should recite this song every morning like the Pledge of Allegiance. I think Sharon just wrote my own personal mission statement.
Morgan Kibby of White Sea and M83: “I Won” — Future ft. Kanye West
I know it’s not particularly new, but the vibe of this song makes me feel like i’ve got the top down and I’m winding up the coast in a crisp new linen suit. Plus Kanye’s verse is just impeccable: “If people don’t hate then it won’t be right”? You said it, Kanye.
Nikki Lane: “Restless Fugitive” — Willy Mason
This year I’ve been listening to Willy Mason’s song “Restless Fugitive” time and time again as we travel back and forth over the country. My friend, the talented singer songwriter Shelly Colvin, pressed play on this track as we took a 45 mile-detour through the Joshua Tree National Forest last spring. The rhythm and sultry vibes carried us through a perfect California sunset. Now I put it on when it’s my turn to take the wheel.
Hercules & Love Affair’s Andy Butler: “I Try To Talk To You” (Seth Troxler Remix) — Hercules & Love Affair
Though it might be cheeky, it seems that a song that is getting a lot of love on Ibiza right now, specifically as a party closing track, is the Seth Troxler remix of my own project, Hercules & Love Affair featuring John Grant, “I Try To Talk to You.”
I have not made it to Ibiza yet this year, but sources say that it has been heard quite a bit. Seth took the foundations of the strong, abstracted the arrangement and made a stripped down yet lush epic version of the song. John Grant sounds right at home on the dance floor in Troxler’s version. It’s a song that will provide some future memories of Ibiza for people, I think.
Lucero’s Ben Nichols: “Hold On to Yourself” — Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
We just got back from playing Bonnaroo, and one of the bands I am really sad I missed was Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. For the last couple of months, I’ve been going back through his records and the song “Hold On to Yourself” has got me completely under its spell. I’ve spent many muggy nights driving around Memphis with it on repeat while the thunderstorms brew in the west and roll over the town. Those nights and this song go hand in hand.
NONONO: “Girl ” — Jamie xx
This new track from Jamie xx is something else! We really love the dreamy/floaty atmosphere of this track, combined with the groovy bassline and dragging beats. A great summer tune and very inspiring.
Sylvan Esso: “Dance Hall Days” — Wang Chung
The best song to drive with the windows down to/dance down the street with. Good for solitary celebration.
Modern Baseball’s Ian Farmer: “Bright Lights” — The Fad
Lately I’ve been jamming “Bright Lights” by The Fad. It’s the perfect song to drive to on a bright sunny day. Super stoked this band is back. Kill punk rock stars.
Jeffrey Innes of High Ends and Yukon Blonde: “Can’t Do Without You” — Caribou
I’ve been writing lately so I haven’t been “listening” too much, but this song came out of nowhere and I’ve been listening to it non-stop. It’s a really somber track with an ironic sort of hope. The song makes me think of the end of spring flings and that feeling of everlasting summer nights. Someone you know is dying or breaking up but it feels like it just might be alright. It’s OK to cry… and dance!
Clean Bandit: “Cold” — Rae Morris ft. Fryars
Not an obvious summer smash, but then again neither was Lorde’s “Royals.” A great song works whatever the season, and this is a great song. Rae is an amazing talent and it was a privilege to have her appear on our album doing something unconventional for her on the track “Up Again.” Fryars, who also appears on “Cold,” is an incredible artist too.
Priests: “When Sly Calls” — Michael Frank
We’ve been listening to “When Sly Calls” by Michael Franks a bunch. GL found this song late night on a jazz radio program.
Junior Prom’s Erik Ratensperger: “So Sick Stories” — RATKING Feat. King Krule
I just started listening to RATKING. Their music is original, artful and full of energy. Love the new track “So Sick Stories” with King Krule.
Lewis Watson: “Jump In The Pool” — Friendly Fires
My song of the summer is “Jump In The Pool” by Friendly Fires. I first heard this track a few summers ago and it’s been my song of the summer since. Always puts a smile on my face and makes my skin feel warm.
Wildcat! Wildcat!’s Jesse Taylor: “Dýrð í dauðaþögn” — Ásgeir Trausti
I’ve been wearing out Ásgeir’s record (and song) “Dýrð í dauðaþögn” for the past few months and I doubt that will stop. I think there’s an English version out there, but I really got used to the Icelandic one and enjoy not knowing what the lyrics are or mean. The vocals become more of an instrument which in turn allows me to interpret my own feeling of the songs. It’s a great song for all moods and seasons.