“Make a summer playlist” is among the 108 things I wanted to do to savor the summer of 2020. Sure it’ll probably be remembered better for coronavirus and racial divisiveness, but I’m not letting the best season of the year slip through my fingers. Or in the case of music, through my ears.
I don’t know yet what song will say “2020” best years from now, but here are fourteen pop songs that say summer to me personally. If you’re not a fan of pop or the ’80s, you can hereby be excused because the list is heavy on both. But if you like it, you can search for “108 Days of Summer” on Spotify and listen for yourself.
Minnesota Transplant’s 108 Days of Summer Playlist
“Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp: I actually don’t like this song all that much, but I can’t hear it without thinking of Labor Day weekend 1982 when a charming outsider who was a fan of John Cougar, as he was known at the time, taught me to French kiss.
“When Doves Cry” by Prince: I’m from Minnesota. How can I make a playlist without including Prince?
“Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits: This song is more about its visuals than its sound. Cartoon men lugging around appliances on MTV remind me of staying up late to watch Friday Night Videos.
“Nasty” by Janet Jackson: I went to Valleyfair with my boyfriend during the summer of 1986, and he equipped the backseat of his car with a boom box (because the car radio sucked) so we could listen to Janet Jackson on the way.
“Back in the High Life Again” by Steve Winwood: This came out the summer after my Valleyfair boyfriend dumped me, but I still lifeguarded at the pool in the small town where he lived. So sad.
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette: I ruined Jagged Little Pill for my husband at the time by playing this CD on repeat during a summer road trip.
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day: This song reminds me of the TV show ER. It was introduced to me when it was the soundtrack for a young patient’s tragic death.
“Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean: I ran a marathon in the summer of 2006, and the lightweight radio hanging on my shorts was perpetually tuned to KCLD-FM.
“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley: Ditto with “Hips Don’t Lie.” I ran many miles with this song playing in my ears.
“Wake Up Call” by Maroon 5: For a while, every playlist in the world included something from Maroon 5, so I figured this one should, too.
“Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield: This song always makes me think of my Beloved. I was listening to the CD from which this song comes on repeat about the time I met him.
“Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People: This song came out in September of 2010 so it’s not actually a summer hit, but I remember hearing it while working out at Snap Fitness and being appalled by its subject matter. But yet, its catchy tune just won’t leave me alone.
“Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE: I can’t hear this song without thinking of my stepdaughter and a trip my Beloved and I took with her and my stepson to the Croatian coast in June of 2016. This song was playing at all the American-esque cafes and bars, and the reference to the ocean in the refrain just says summer to me.
“Truth Hurts” by Lizzo: She makes a reference to the Minnesota Vikings in this hit that was heard everywhere last summer.
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What music says summer to you?