Everything is better in the summer. Shoulders are tanned, hair gets bleached and plenty of natural Vitamin D is incentive enough to carry Badgers through months of bitter winters. But this golden season also signals the arrival of a loathsome, inescapable beast: the “song of summer.”
Each year, we’re subjected to the same Top 40 drivel blasting out of every car window and party. Your summer playlist deserves better than the same old soulless earworm. Here are our picks to challenge the Billboard songs of summer.
Top 40: “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea feat. Charlie XCX
There are two distinct camps when it comes to “Fancy.” There are those who think Azalea walks on water. They’re fans whose hearts flutter every time they hear a certain bouncing synth line on the radio. Then there are those who can’t understand the charm in the wooden, gratingly inauthentic star.
“Fancy” comes off as a self-conscious attempt to drop the right references to money, Goose, jetsetting to feign admission the the club. “First things first, I’m the realest,” Azalea sings, clearly unaware that authentic talent isn’t something you should be consciously making a case for.
Cry a single beautiful tear for this sobering fact: Azalea is the only artist since the Beatles to have her first Hot 100 hits chart at No. 1 and No. 2 at the same time. All is lost.
Try this: “Cocaine Blues,” Escort
Much like its namesake drug, this song is fast-moving, addictive and a throwback to the heat of disco fever.
Escort captures the gritty fun of aimlessly wandering the city on a warm night. Like a drug or alcohol-fueled outing, things get confusing. “A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork, that’s the way we spell New York,” they sing. It doesn’t really mean much, but it’s infectious.
This song is perfect for your pregame, your workout, your alarm — you’re going to want this one on repeat.
Top 40: “Summer,” Calvin Harris
This song was engineered to be a hit of the season: You’ve got Harris’ croaking croon and an electronic dance beat uniting for a ditty about summer love. The end product is catnip for the lust-sick soul.
But this song also buckles under the weight (or lack thereof) of its own vapidity. Are those fake violins I hear? Did someone in the relationship lie? Have all the trees caught some kind of tree-killing virus? It’s hard to say, and we are left guessing as we get turned up to death.
There are so many more fun ways to slowly lose consciousness or higher reasoning skills than listening to this song, ever. Avoid at all costs.
Try this: “Seasons (Waiting On You),” Future Islands
While “Summer” winks at the fact that all good things must come to an end, Future Islands’ breakout single is retribution rock: what happens when the carefree love of summer is worn bare. But don’t take this for a sob song: the sheer force of frontman Samuel T. Herring’s guttural howls are complemented by a driving new wave beat. It makes for an unlikely anthem, but one that’s far more satisfying to blast than anything in Harris’ oeuvre.
“As it breaks, the summer will wake / But the winter will wash what is left of the taste,” Herring roars, and we’re reminded of the impending seasonal shift. It’s an unavoidable transition, but we learn to brace for them.
Top 40: “Rude,” Magic!
I was aghast when I first heard that song finally knocked “Fancy” off its weeks-long reign at No. 1. This is what happens when the middle school boys who got a little too into Bob Marley grow up: a reggae-pop Frankenstein’s monster of epic proportions. Worse still, the tune is a saccharine, aggressively inoffensive plea to a woman’s father for his blessing of their marriage.
“Why you gotta be so ruuuuude?” the vocalist whines. But it seems the father is not being rude, and is in fact making the only rational, moral decision when faced with a scraggly boy, clad in a beanie, feigning interest in his approval. My thoughts go to that nameless, faceless girl he pines for, who will probably come to view running away with a Canadian reggae bro as one of the worst mistakes of her young life.
And don’t get me started on the gross overtones of marriage-as-ownership going on throughout.
Try This: “High,” Freddie Gibbs and Madlib feat. Danny Brown
Summer is a smoker’s paradise. Without no or fewer obligations, it’s easy to lose a sunny day to a green haze, floating above it all. But even if your perfect summer day doesn’t include being “kushed out,” there’s something irresistible about Gibbs’ rhymes mixed with an airy sample. With a characteristically punchy appearance from Danny Brown, “High” evokes Jay Z, Outkast and 1970s soul to build a blissful anthem for lying perfectly still in the grass on a sweltering day.