As we said in part one of this feature, there ain’t nothing quite like the phenomenon that is the summer song. With that in mind, we’re back with 12 more selections for a fresh rush of nostalgia.
1. “Old Thing Back,” Matoma | 2015
Summer hits don’t get much better than Matoma’s “Old Thing Back.” While first released in February 2015, the song’s infectious beat and breezy, feel-good style didn’t truly pop off until that summer, when it reached #1 on Hype Machine. There are layers to its development—the Norwegian DJ’s mix is actually based on 2007’s "Want That Old Thing Back" by The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Ja Rule and Ralph Tresvant, which itself is a remix of the 1995 Notorious B.I.G. single, "One More Chance.”
2. “We Won’t Stop,” Miley Cyrus | 2013
It isn’t like we could leave this 2013 bop off our “Songs of Summer” list two times in a row. Miley’s smash reached #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, tying 2009’s "Party in the U.S.A.” as her best performing single to that date. Since then, it’s become one of the most downloaded singles of all time.
3. ”California Gurls,” Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dog | 2010
One of Perry’s breakout hits, this bubble-gum-pop tune tips its hat to The Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” which we featured in our previous summer roundup. While this one certainly isn’t on the level of that 1965 masterpiece, it’s got a quintessential contemporary summer sound.
4. “Umbrella,” Rihanna feat. Jay-Z | 2007
“Umbrella” helped launch Rihanna’s career in 2007, staying atop the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for weeks. Interestingly, its release was nearly simultaneous with prolonged flooding in Britain, resulting in its dominance of their charts for ten consecutive weeks—the best for any single in that decade. Fun fact: The song was originally written for Britney Spears but her people turned it down.
5. ”Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z | 2003
“Crazy in Love” marks the first collaboration between Bey and then-boyfriend Jay-Z. It’s also the first song the two danced to at their wedding reception in 2008… awww. But outside of those fun facts, the most important thing is that this was an immediate hit when it dropped in May ’03.
6. “It’s Gonna Be Me,” NSYNC | 2000
How could we not include the song that inspired the “It’s Gonna Be May” meme? Dropping on June 12, 2000, this boy band bop off the No Strings Attached album became the band’s only Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit.
7. “I Want It That Way,” The Backstreet Boys | 1999
The lead single from their third studio album, Millennium, “I Want It That Way” remains Backstreet’s signature song, shooting to #6 in the U.S. for eight weeks straight and grabbing three Grammy Award nominations, including Song and Record of the Year.
8. “Summertime,” DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince | 1991
Back when Will Smith was about the age his son, Jaden, is now, he collab’d with his boy DJ Jazzy Jeff to drop “Summertime” in May 1991. The Fresh Prince’s jam serves to this day as perhaps the quintessential summer hip-hop beat.
9. “Fight the Power,” Public Enemy | 1989
Public Enemy’s best-known song, “Fight the Power” was put together at the express request of Spike Lee for his 1989 film, Do the Right Thing. Its presence on the soundtrack catapulted it up the hip-hop charts and into the cultural consciousness… and what’s more “summer” and a product of its time than a song that opens with: "Nineteen Eighty-NINE!/ The number/ Another SUMMER!"
10. “Cruel Summer,” Bananarama | 1983
A hell of a sound is backed up by a uniquely dark set of lyrics for such a typically carefree season, making Bananarama’s June 1983 release of “Cruel Summer” noteworthy in its approach.
11. “Vacation,” The Go-Gos | 1982
Less atypical than “Cruel Summer” is The Go-Gos catchy, pop-tastic August 1982 release, “Vacation.” Centered around using summer vacay to get over a crush, the song is the first known cassette single ever released, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Fun fact: The band didn’t take the video shoot seriously and got drunk on champagne during filming.
12. “Good Times,” Chic | 1979
Finishing this off with some disco? Why not.
Chic’s “Good Times” released in August 1979 as part of their third album, Risqué, and became their second number-one single on both the pop and soul charts. It’s since become one of the most sampled songs in all of music history.