By Kevin Rutherford
Thinking about summer songs—whether they’re “songs of the summer,” the tunes we bump once the weather gets warm, or simply tracks explicitly about the season—invokes good vibes, that’s for sure. They’re the peppy, skip-in-your-step songs that soundtrack trips to the beach, evening bonfires by the lake, Fourth of July fireworks, or lazy days spent on summer vacation. They get you on your feet, out of your house and into your car, or onto your bike—just to go somewhere.
But it ain’t all flowers. Not every song of the summer is particularly cheery, nor is each composition with the season in its name going to necessarily speak highly of the weather. We don’t all get our first real six-string, fall in love under the boardwalk or sip on gin and juice, laid back with… well, you know. What about the summer flings that end without another word, the warmer months spent alone while everyone else seems to have someone to share it with, the times it seemed like everyone in your friend group was invited to an amusement park trip except you?
We’ve all had the summers of our youth that didn’t go so hot. Tthese songwriters didn’t have much nice to say about the season, either.
Rounded up here are some of the tunes you’ve heard blaring through your radio speakers, perhaps at a time when you needed it: the summer boy/girlfriend was gone, a rainy day had spoiled a jaunt to the pool, summer homework was staring you straight in the face from that corner of your shelf you’ve been neglecting since May.
Sit back, relax and get ready to complain about the sun.
1. “This Summer” – Maroon 5
I see her dancing on a fool
Like she’s seventeen and cool
She really thinks that she can move
But it’s just nasty
Alternately titled “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like a Motherf—er,” depending on where you’re listening to it, this is the newest addition to the sad summer canon. Frontman Adam Levine lays on some compliments for his new fling at first, but it’s clear soon that this is not the ideal summer relationship: “She wants it all,” he sings. “She’s always taking something/ And now I’m left with nothing/ I’m ripping off that bandage/ Because I just can’t stand it.” Why’s it gonna hurt when that bandage is torn off? What does he stand to lose by breaking up with her? Whatever the reason, point is that screaming “this summer’s gonna hurt like a motherf—er!” at some start-of-the-season beach trip isn’t exactly going to incite feelings of glee about the impending weather.
2. “Cruel Summer” – Bananarama
Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around
Trying to smile
But the air is so heavy and dry
Think about it this way: you’ve been in a steady relationship for a few months, things are looking up—and then right as June hits, you’re dumped. Now you’ve got the whole summer to brood over what went wrong. Suddenly that warm sun isn’t sounding so good, is it? Nor is going out with friends, even though it’s all anyone seems to want to do. The season might be brimming with potential as far as a lot of things go, but the thought of a swimming pool in the sweltering heat just isn’t going to cure the ailment that is a sudden breakup.
3. “Our Last Summer” – ABBA
And now you’re working in a bank
The family man, the football fan
And your name is Harry
How dull it seems
Yet you’re the hero of my dreams
OK, did you ever get the idea the narrator in this song is sort of just smiling and nodding distantly when her beau starts talking about “politics and philosophy” while they’re touring Paris? Like, OK, dear, we’re on vacation, what did I say about bringing up platonic idealism while we were here? Maybe that’s what killed the relationship. Huh.
4. “Summertime Sadness” – Lana Del Rey
I think I’ll miss you forever
Like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky
Late is better than never
Even if you’re gone I’m gonna drive, drive
Take the Del Rey original or the Cedric Gervais remix that hit the top 10. Either way, the meaning sticks, though the actual mopey part of “Summertime Sadness” is a little hidden: it’s that she lost the love that made her feel “electric” and “on fire,” and we’re not quite sure when or why it ended. The tune’s ascendance to the charts toward the end of summer 2013 was certainly no mistake, though.
5. “Summertime Blues” – Eddie Cochran
I’m gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holler
About a workin’ all summer just to try to earn a dollar
Every time I call my baby, and try to get a date
My boss says, “No dice son, you gotta work late”
Don’t wanna get a summer job? Cite this song as your reason. Eddie Cochran just can’t catch a break all summer long, and it’s because of that pesky employment he’s got while school’s out. Can’t take his girl out for a date, can’t drive around his car—even his local congressman is no help. Hot take for the summer: Alan Jackson’s 1994 update is the superior version.