I love summertime and the freedom that comes with it. There’s nothing like driving with the windows down and blasting fun and catchy songs with friends, without a care in the world. During those moments, when I feel like I can conquer the world, I only want to listen to pop music that tunes into that carefree feeling. Here are nine pop albums to put on when you want to embrace the warmth and give in to that summer feeling.
Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa (2020)
Future Nostalgia, in my opinion, is the summer album. This album is a fun ride from start to finish, offering a disco flare that feels fresh for a new generation, with little room for sadness or melancholy. Future Nostalgia is definitely packed with high energy and an overall thematic focus on love and seduction. It encapsulates that feeling of letting loose and having the sun shine on your shoulders, or sweating at a rooftop patio as everyone rushes onto the dance floor. From the playful and teasing “Pretty Please” to the confessional “Love Again,” Dua Lipa will have you putting on your flares and shimmying under the nearest disco ball.
Best summer-specific song: “Cool”
Sawayama, Rina Sawayama (2020)
Sawayama is perfect for summer. It’s a futuristic pop album that features no traditional love songs. Instead, Rina Sawayama sings about the greediness of capitalism on “XS,” cultural appropriation on “Tokyo Love Hotel” and self-love on “Love Me 4 Me.” Don’t let the seemingly-dark subject matter fool you; these songs are light and perfect to dance to. Sawayama puts all of the “pop music is vapid” naysayers to shame.
Best summer-specific song: “Paradisin’”
Teenage Dream, Katy Perry (2010)
I’m going to make a bold claim here, but Teenage Dream is severely underrated. In my opinion, Katy Perry set a precedent of excellence when she put this album out in 2010, and some (me) may say that life was never the same after the title track dropped. This album has many sweet tracks that are perfect for dancing, but it also has some slower, wistful tracks — like “The One That Got Away” and “Not Like the Movies” — to help break up the sugar rush. A great pick for getting ready to go out with your friends or driving around with the windows down.
Best summer-specific song: “California Gurls”
Emotion, Carly Rae Jepsen (2015)
In my mind, Carly Rae Jepsen is the queen of Canadian pop. She’s also a bit of a hidden gem. Carly Rae Jepsen has made one of 2010s best pop albums, building on and reworking the classic ‘80s synth-pop sound. Like Teenage Dream, Emotion has a lot of range to it, from the rollercoaster high of “I Really Like You” to the sultry and slow “All That.” If you like the slow jams of Peter Gabriel and Tears for Fears and the upbeat synth sound of The 1975, give Emotion a try!
Best summer-specific song: “Let’s Get Lost”
Poster Girl, Zara Larsson (2021)
Poster Girl offers fun, cheeky and lightweight songs that are perfect for a summer day. Many of the songs on this album tackle the subject of being apprehensive to fall in love, while the sonic landscape is punchy and bombastic, such as in the song “Talk About Love.” If both of those descriptions sound like your vibe, then this will definitely be a hit with you.
Best summer-specific song: “Poster Girl”
Crash, Charli XCX (2022)
Crash is Charli XCX’s most accessible album to date, drawing off of the ‘80s synth-pop sound in a campy way alongside hints of Eurodance and funk. This album is a delight, from the confident opening number “Crash,” all the way down to the self-reflective closing track “Twice.” Charli XCX sheds a lot of her hyperpop edge through this album, but the attitude and self-awareness are still fully intact with a more traditional pop sound.
Best summer-specific song: “Yuck”
Hot Pink, Doja Cat (2019)
Doja Cat makes bops, but out of all her albums, Hot Pink has to be the best one. Doja Cat works her usual charm and charisma on each track, enticing the listener with her quick wit and catchy hooks. Hot Pink has a few high-energy tracks, such as “Cyber Sex” and “Like That,” but this album is best played while laying on a picnic blanket at a park with some good food and company.
Best summer-specific song: “Talk Dirty”
Troubled Paradise, Slayyyter (2021)
Troubled Paradise is perfect for the nighttime. Slayyyter makes hard-hitting club anthems with a hypersexual edge (think Britney Spears Blackout meets Megan Thee Stallion’s lyrical prowess). All of the songs on Troubled Paradise are biting and hilarious as Slayyyter brings her listeners in on each joke, even when she makes herself the punchline. For example, in the song “Cowboys,” she playfully compares an inconsistent relationship with a rodeo all the while mocking her partner with lyrics like “you a simp looking desperado.”
Best summer-specific song: “Troubled Paradise”
1989 (Deluxe Edition), Taylor Swift (2014)
1989 is a fabulous summer pop album. From the danceable allure of “Style,” the screaming intensity of “Out of the Woods” and the delicious rejection of “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” Taylor Swift has created a stellar pop landscape that I want to spend all summer shimmying around in. Although many of the songs on this album have already had a lot of radio play, the deeper cuts like “How You Get The Girl” and “I Wish You Would” are worth checking out. If only we could get 1989 (Taylor’s Version) soon…
Best summer-specific song: “New Romantics”