Ahh, summer. The most glorious of all seasons. Not that it's particularly distinguishable from the rest of the year in Los Angeles, but still. Barbecues! Pool parties! Beach days!
And what goes best with all of those things, besides copious sunscreen to ensure you don't get skin cancer? A summer jams playlist, of course. A list of “songs of the summer” that you'll hear on a near-continuous loop through August, invariably including tunes by Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and/or Justin Timberlake. In a few years, you'll hear them and look back fondly (we hope) on the memories they bring back. But in the short term? Yeah, you'll totally be sick of these songs by Labor Day.
For the purposes of this list, we've excluded songs you're already sick of, including everything by The Chainsmokers and “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran.
1. “Stay” by Zedd and Alessia Cara
This song is catchy as heck, but it's already saturated most of the Top 40 airwaves, which means we'll all hate it soon. But until then, let's revel in Zedd's friendly synth beats and ticking clock motif (reminiscent of “Hourglass,” the first track off his 2012 album Clarity) and Alessia Cara's beguiling, smoky vocals.
2. “That's What I Like” by Bruno Mars
There's a strong chance that “That's What I Like” is more of a late-spring song than a summer song. But it's the kind of song that makes you want to get up and dance, even if you're not particularly good at dancing, and those songs have staying power. Even though the lyrics are kinda sexist (he's only willing to do nice things for his bae because the things she likes are luckily things he likes, too?), this song will probably be around for a while yet.
3. “There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back” by Shawn Mendes
Mendes is already pretty popular in his own right, but this might be the song that sends him into the pop stratosphere. Less whiny than some of his other songs like “Mercy,” “Stitches” and “Treat You Better,” this ditty's got a fun, uptempo beat and cute lyrics about how inspirational it is to be in puppy love with a girl or something. The message is innocuous enough and Mendes (who will turn 19 this summer) is cute enough that plenty of moms and daughters will jam out to the song in the car.
4. “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi feat. Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee
This song, which straddles the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange, is a strong contender for sultriest song of the summer. This version is actually a remix of the original, which featured Puerto Rican artists Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (yes, the same Daddy Yankee who sang “Gasolina”). It doesn't take much knowledge of the Spanish language to tell what the song is about, and somehow, Bieber doesn't make that too creepy. His presence on the track has sent the song to No. 1 in the U.S., five months after the original version scaled international charts.
5. “Bon Appetit” by Katy Perry feat. Migos
Katy Perry is pretty much the queen of summer pop (see: “I Kissed a Girl,” “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream,” “Roar”), so any song she releases between Easter and Labor Day is pretty much guaranteed to be a hit. This one is more grating than her previous entries, however (something about the synth chords and her babyish voice while talking about sex — or cannibalism? — but probably sex), so it remains to be seen if it will have staying power.
6. “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan
This song is about sweating and fondling, two things that happen often in the summer. It's also a groovy slow jam, and sounds American enough that it's hard to believe Niall used to be in One Direction.
7. “Rollin” by Calvin Harris feat. Future and Khalid
This song is so new that it's not even on YouTube legally yet, but it's got a fun, funky vibe that makes it perfect for road trips. It's the kind of tune that makes you want to roll your window down as you drive up the coast, letting your hand ride the air waves.
8. “Now or Never” by Halsey
Halsey was last summer's pop queen with her guest vocal turn on The Chainsmokers' “Closer.” The Chainsmokers being the Chainsmokers, the song hit critical mass, but then the EDM DJs and the song's vocalist feuded. Now Halsey's going it solo again, this time with a light electronic song that shows off her signature singing style. The song's themes fit with the fleeting nature of summer, and will surely be the soundtrack to many a millennial makeout session.
9. “Nights With You” by MØ
MØ's got that generally European electronic sound that tends to play especially well in the summer (she's Danish and provided the vocals on 2015's “Lean On” by Major Lazer and DJ Snake and 2016's “Cold Water” by Major Lazer and Bieber). “Nights With You” isn't quite as catchy as her previous songs with other artists, but the bass line is infectious.
10. “Mask Off” by Future
This song tracks Future's ascent in wealth, but you can expect its haunting (and much-memed) flute line to float through blown-out speakers at plenty of parties hosted by people who think it mainly just endorses abusing prescription meds and MDMA. And OK, maybe it kind of does endorse those things. Either way, it's a breakthrough track for the Atlanta rapper.
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