How to Start Summer With the Right Soundtrack

How to Start Summer With the Right Soundtrack

By Chris Black
Illustrations by Tara Jacoby

Every year, about this time, a passionate debate begins to take hold of the internet. What is the song of the summer?

As a society, we romanticize the warmer months, they bring on a sense of excitement and discovery: Go on a road trip! Go to the beach! BBQ! Love! Sweat! Fireworks! For adults, they are a reminder of lost youth, when we had no responsibilities, when possibility reigned, before our spirits were crushed, before we were aware of the IRS. We love summer so much that we collectively give it an official song!

The colder seasons have their charms, but finding the perfect song for sitting indoors and being depressed while snow falls outside just doesn’t have the same appeal. Usually, this coveted title is awarded to a massive genre bending hit, something like “Despactio” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee or “One Dance” by Drake. These songs are wonderfully upbeat, blissful party anthems that encourage substandard dancing while holding a lukewarm Corona. I would like to humbly suggest some songs that will take your summer activities in a more tasteful direction. Because we all know your BBQ guests have heard enough of that Calvin Harris remix that you really like.

For Hanging at the BBQ

Keep it mellow, man. These gatherings usually feature people standing around idly chatting. The soundtrack should compliment that hazy, end-of-the-day-pink-sky energy. Your music selections should play second fiddle to enthralling conversations and the overwhelming smell of charcoal and citronella candles.

King Tuff - “Psycho Star”

The War on Drugs - “Thinking of a Place”

Smith Westerns - “All Die Young”

Slowdive - “Sugar For The Pill”

Rhye - “Count To Five”

For Lazing Around Poolside


I find roasting in the sun a little tedious, but it is an unavoidable part of summer. Unless you're poolside at a boutique hotel eating $14 truffle fries, you will probably need to provide your own music. Might you be thinking classic reggae and dub? That is a reliable option. But after I take a heat-induced nap and finish all the back issues of the New Yorker, I want to hear some … bangers. Something to keep me excited and alert while I bake for hours.

Drake - “Nice For What”

BlocBoy JB feat. 21 Savage - “Rover 2.0”

Cardi B feat Migos - “Drip”

Tyler The Creator - “Okra”

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie feat. PnB Rock & YoungBoy Never Broke Again - “Beast Mode”

For Road Tripping


When you are in the car for a long period of time, the soundtrack should lean upbeat, somewhat familiar, and sensible. You don’t want any significant BPM jumps or dips; you’re trying to avoid speeding tickets and falling asleep. The car is also the perfect place to work on your singing. Your fellow travelers might hate you, but practice makes perfect!

Vetiver - “Right Away”

Big Thief - “Masterpiece”

Car Seat Headrest - “Detroyed By Hippie Powers”

Rostam - “Don’t Let It Get To You”

Hinds - “The Club”

For Falling in Love


Summer is a time when we are encouraged to let loose. Live free, leave work early on Friday, indulge often, have a fling with someone that will expire before the leaves change. Maybe your life is a like a romcom, and you and a salty-haired, sun-kissed new lover will lay on the hood of a vintage Mustang making out and watching fireworks on July 4th. It could happen! If it does, you need the right music cued up on the car stereo. The choices should be mellow, cool, and firmly planted in the background. You will need to hear the sweet nothings being whispered in your direction.

The Jesus & Mary Chain - “Just Like Honey”

Ride - “Vapour Trail”

The Velvet Underground - “Pale Blue Eyes”

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - “On the Low”

The Replacements - “Here Comes a Regular”

Chris Black is a writer living in New York City. His work has appeared in GQ, Vogue, Garage, and Architectural Digest. He is a partner at Public Announcement.