Summer has always been my favorite season. The most obvious reasons for this are pretty universal: the warmth, the inexplicable urge to travel, and the joy of having an excuse to eat ice cream thrice a day. While I am fully here for all of these, I must admit one of the most underrated aspects of summer (and one I always look forward to) has to be the massive surge of summer-themed playlists.
The entire season of summer is honestly so versatile, and it’s so hard to create a summer playlist that honors this versatility. For me, summer 2021 is characterized by a mix of emotions: I want a gentle breather from everything the past year has put me through, but I think I also need something loud and bright. In short, the artists I’m picking for my summer playlist must reflect both the calmness of the end of spring and the chaos of the end of summer. While I don't intend to exclusively listen to these artists alone, they definitely seem to emblematize the mood I’m going for!
I discovered Papooz somewhat accidentally, but they quickly grew into one of my favorite groups just because of how addictive their sound is. Their music has been described by The Guardian as “so catchy they should carry a health warning,” which I do have to second. There really is something infectiously magical about the combination of rhythm guitar and the light, airy voices of the singers. Pretty much all of their albums are ideal soundtracks for a chill, relaxed, and muted summer. If I had to compile just a few that sound especially perfect for summer road trips and photoshoots in the middle of lush meadows, I’d go with “Undecided,” “Good Times on Earth,” and “Trampoline.”
- Kyle Dion
I can’t describe Kyle Dion’s music as anything other than bouncy. It’s the perfect blend of sultry R&B tones and bubbly pop instruments, and all of his songs are painfully catchy. His songs manage to sound fresh while also being weirdly reminiscent of pop songs my parents might have listened to, which is pretty iconic of him to accomplish! Interestingly, that’s also how I would characterize summer — a time that is new and different, but also a time to be nostalgic, to reminisce about past summers. Kyle Dion’s music is perfect for this, especially “Glass House,” "Play Too Much,” and “That Don’t Mean A Thing.”
- Megan Thee Stallion
I don’t think any list about summer could be complete without Megan Thee Stallion, the inventor of “hot girl summer” herself. Megan’s music is always an immediate mood-booster, and she just has the perfect discography to blast in a car with your best friends. Her songs are packed with raw, loud energy, incredibly witty lyrics, and probably some secret ingredient that makes them overwhelmingly addictive. Honestly, I expect most people to be familiar with her music so I won’t spend too much time describing it here, but I will say that some of the songs that I’m specifically looking forward to blasting this summer are “What’s New,” “Cash Sh*t,” and “Hot Girl” (and, of course, “Hot Girl Summer”).
- Pink Martini
This one’s a huge throwback for me: my dad was super obsessed with Pink Martini when I was younger, and now I can’t help but associate them with my childhood (and, therefore, the summers of my childhood). Pink Martini’s music literally proves that genres are fluid and malleable: they’ve done everything from Western classical to jazz to traditional pop music. Their songs also range from incredibly happy and upbeat to much slower and sadder, but I’d say upbeat is definitely what we’re going for in this list! My top picks for this summer include “Hey Eugene,” “Lilly,” and “Tempo Perdido.”
- Hope Tala
Hope Tala’s music is light, gentle, and loving. To me, it’s the perfect musical representation of lying under a tree on a summer afternoon, eating fruit, possibly reading a book — or, more accurately, pretending you're reading while actually falling asleep to the sounds of nature. Like Papooz, her music has been described as a blend of genres including bossa nova, but definitely much more reminiscent of modern pop music. If you want your summer to sound like a fun, adventurous little love affair, Hope Tala’s discography is a must-listen: especially the songs “Cherries,” “Lovestained,” and “Valentine.”
- Japanese City Pop Playlists
I’m fully convinced there isn’t a single person in the world who doesn’t equate listening to Japanese city pop to some sort of spiritual experience. Something about the genre itself just screams summer, especially the very specific mood of walking down a busy street and people-watching on a warm summer evening. I know a lot of people joke about receiving “free serotonin” from certain media, but I’m fully convinced that the entire genre of Japanese city pop has otherworldly powers that make it irresistible (or it’s just the synth…who knows?). This isn’t exactly an example of one artist alone so I guess it doesn’t really count, but I literally couldn't make a list about summer music without at least a mention of city pop. I promise to devote an entire list exploring the genre someday, but for the time being, my summer playlist must include some city pop classics: “Last Summer Whisper” by Anri, “Plastic Love” by Maria Takeuchi, and “Dear Breeze” by Sugiyama Kiyotaka & Omega Tribe.
There’s definitely a lot of artists I’m forgetting, and this list barely scratches the surface when it comes to musicians who define summer for me. To be honest, the list never truly ends: new music is one of the things that excites me the most, and discovering new artists to listen to is one of my favorite summer activities. I can’t wait for a new summer full of music, and I hope all of us as a society have the opportunity to create some amazing playlists in the next few months!