As summer draws to a close each year, one chart-topping track is deemed the “song of the summer.” It’s typically an upbeat pop tune that permeates pop culture, making it recognizable to listeners of all demographics.
In the age of music streaming services that curate an individualized listening experience, it’s hard to imagine how any song could become as universally recognizable as the summer hits of previous years. It’s even harder to imagine crafting a throwback playlist five years from now and wanting to include songs that remind you of the summer you spent isolated indoors amid a pandemic.
The song of the summer relies on shared social experiences that can’t occur in 2020, making it difficult to crown a definitive song of the summer. Instead, here’s a roundup of fittingly unconventional “songs of the summer" picks from the Kansan staff.
“Golden” by Harry Styles
Although “Watermelon Sugar” was the almost universal Harry Styles’ song of the summer, “Golden” was my go-to song for windows-down drives. The dreamy music and vibe always gave off a warm glow, and made a very strange couple of months feel more like summer.
Taylor Worden | @taynoelle7
"Any Song" by Zico
“Any Song" was all over Tik Tok this summer and even before, but I feel like people don't even know where it's from or who it's by. The song is summery and chill and I felt like I had to do my part and promote international music on this list.
Alicia Marksberry | @Aliciamarksb
“Go!” by M83, Mai Lan
This energetic song is perfect for one-person dance parties, summer night drives and socially-distanced walks. Listening to this masterpiece makes you feel like you’re at a concert that you would’ve gone to if it wasn’t canceled because of the pandemic.
Emily Doll | @emilydoll13
“Foreign” and “Location” by Playboi Carti
I think Carti’s songs just defined summer 2020 because a lot of his songs and leaked beats were poppin’ on TikTok and his sound and vibe are just amazing. His music makes you feel like you’re not in this world. His style is different and he has to be my favorite artist period.
Keziah Kim | @kezikyo
“BALI” by Rich Brian
Rich Brian brought us a little taste of summer for having fun at home while staying safe in quarantine. To make it even better, he released a music video alongside of him sending money and gifts to friends and healthcare workers via drone. Rich Brian is quickly becoming one of my favorite influencers in music and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Wyatt Hall | @thewyatthall15
“Lockdown” by Anderson .Paak
When you think about civil rights music, you might immediately think about songs made in light of racial injustices during the 1960s. As long as there are cops killing Black people, songs speaking out against police brutality and racism will continue to be created. Anderson .Paak brings us to the front lines of the George Floyd protests mentioning COVID-19 and how the general public’s response to civil rights protests hasn’t changed from the '60s arguably at all.
Nicole Dolan | @nikkidolan279
“Sweeter” by Leon Bridges feat. Terrance Martin
This powerful song by Leon Bridges is written from the perspective of a Black man taking his last breath and feeling his spirit leave his body, and is a reflection of the racism Bridges faced growing up. The lyrics of this song are so profound, yet so heartbreaking.
Tatum Goetting | @TatumGoetting
“Something Comforting” by Porter Robinson
Porter Robinson's "Something Comforting" is a perfect allegory for the times we live in. It was released March 10, right before the coronavirus really started picking up. It helped me cope with how everything was going to change. Even now as summer wanes, I listen to this song, take a deep breath and feel a sense of security, relief and beauty.
Connor Heaton | @Conheaton1111
“sadder badder cooler” by Tove Lo
It touches on breakups and the devastation that follows, but focuses on how empowering realizing your value afterward is. This summer has been full of isolation and introspection, and “sadder badder cooler” bundles that sentiment with some truly addictive beats to become the single girl’s power ballad.
Sarah Wright | @swrightUDK
“STARSTRUKK” by 3OH!3, Katy Perry
This song has, without fail, been on every summer playlist of mine since I’ve had a Spotify account. It’s just one of those quintessential 2000s hits from a band I shamelessly still stan, and it flawlessly bundles together hype and carefree fun.
Sarah Wright | @swrightUDK
“Gaslighter” by The Chicks
Usually, I stay away from country music as much as possible, but The Chicks are definitely an exception. I think the music video also sends a powerful message about gender roles and how women have been represented in the media, both in the past and present.
Tatum Goetting | @TatumGoetting
“Almost Maybes” by Jordan Davis
The thing I like most about this song is the imagery it creates while you listen. That virtually any of us can think of at least one situation where we dreamt about the "what ifs" and all the unknowns that could have happened. Here, though, Davis takes the narrative and spins it in a way that makes you feel like you’re on the right track, that there must be bumps along the way to get you where you’re meant to be. And although the message is meant to be a romantic one, it holds true for this bizarre time period we’re living through.
Stef Manchen | @stefmanchen
“Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers
One of my favorite tracks off Bridgers’ album “Punisher” released this June is the perfect happy/sad song for an unexpectedly solitary summer. Her lyrics are specific and dreamy, and strike a nostalgic cord that hits especially hard if you’re taking a walk or going for a drive around your hometown.
Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre | @l.ourde.s
“Dreamland” by Glass Animals
This song embodies the “end of summer” feeling but is still dreamy and carefree — just how summer should be. Think hot summer nights driving around with your friends with the windows down, because that’s all you really can do when a global pandemic closes everything down.
Lucy Peterson | @lucyepeterson