Photo and Article by: Michael Castaño
Now that we’re well into summer, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on all of the amazing songs that have come out this season. Summer, especially for college students, can be full of a wide range of emotions–from the exhausting internship grind to exciting summer flings, so much is packed into this time of year. So what better way to celebrate the season than with an equally diverse set of music? I’ve created a playlist of twenty-one songs ranging from hip-hop to pop to electronic to keep your summer memorable and fun. Find them on our Spotify account, on Apple Music, and on Youtube below.
“Wedding Crashers” – Aminé ft. Offset
Perhaps the most fun song since last year’s surprise hit “iSpy” by KYLE featuring Lil’ Yachty, “Wedding Crashers” has come along to put some summer sunshine in your headphones. Aminé, still reaping the benefits of his massive 2016 hit, “Caroline”, proves he’s not a one-hit wonder by offering an upbeat, infectious, flexing-on-my-ex track. Of course, any rap song in 2017 would be incomplete without featuring one of the Migos. Offset brings Migos’ signature charisma and immediately recognizable array of adlibs with his verse, turning the song into a guaranteed chart-topper.
“See You Again” – Tyler, The Creator ft. Kali Uchis
Tyler, The Creator has grown up. That’s what every critic, fan, and casual listener has expressed after going through his latest album, Flower Boy. Maturity permeates his sublime production, the writing, and the overall sound that he presents on the 14-track LP. “See You Again” is indicative of some of the main themes Tyler had in mind in terms of the album’s sound. In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, Tyler stated that he wanted to rap as little as possible to allow for more singing, which he says people want to hear, and to ensure that all of his raps were sound and “important.” Kali Uchis provides amazing vocals, as we’ve come to expect from the artist behind Por Vida. This complex love song from the 26-year-old Tyler is sure to be memorable for years to come.
“Prayers Up” – Calvin Harris ft. Travis Scott & A-Trak
The first of three Travis Scott appearances on this list (he and Migos have truly dominated the music landscape in 2017), “Prayers Up” is another one of Calvin Harris’ genre-mixing summer anthems from his latest album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. The production from Harris and A-Trak is relatively simple but, as the album’s title suggests, funky. Funky beats, complemented by Travis Scott’s melodies, make for a great track that allows listeners to get their Calvin Harris fix if they’re already tired of “Slide” (which is still an amazing track).
“Love Galore” – SZA ft. Travis Scott
As the only female signee to the titan hip-hop record label Top Dawg Entertainment (the label of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and Isaiah Rashad, to mention just a few), SZA has carried a lot of high expectations. With her debut studio album CTRL, SZA capitalized on the buzz with a bevy of trance-inducing, hypnotic songs. SZA’s vocals and honest lyricism place her as one of the more important R&B artists of today. The album’s lead single, “Love Galore” is a perfect encapsulation of SZA’s sound and capabilities. The song has already climbed the charts, and all it takes is a listen to understand why. Travis’ second appearance on this list helps account for the song’s greatness as it features one of his most melodic and catchy verses ever.
“LOVE.” – Kendrick Lamar ft. Zacari
Despite some similar attempts like “No Make-Up” and “Poetic Justice” featuring Drake, Kendrick has never created or been featured in a song quite like “LOVE.” On this track we hear Lamar experiment with R&B sounds, and the results are magnificent. Whether it’s Zacari’s immaculate vocals or Kendrick’s honest poeticism, the standout track from DAMN. is one of the best of this year and perfect for summer listening.
“Wokeuplikethis*” – Playboi Carti ft. Lil Uzi Vert
If you’re tired of hearing “in New York I milly rock” or “I don’t really care if you cry” but still can’t get enough of relatively new rap stars Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert, then “wokeuplikethis*” is the perfect song for you. The track perfectly captures what has brought these two new-era rappers to virtual stardom. Carti’s unique signature flow and recognizable voice deliver some of his best verses lyrically while Lil Uzi does what he does best, providing catchy, autotuned bars with an enthusiasm and charisma matched by few in hip-hop today. It also helps that the song features one of the most hypnotic beats in recent memory.
“Signs” – Drake
Admittedly, this song is essentially “Passionfruit” part two. However, it’s undeniable that Drake is easily the music industry’s (not just hip-hop’s) most consistent deliverer of hits. “Signs,” which premiered at a recent Louis Vuitton fashion show, is just so easy and relaxing to listen to; Drake really shines on these reggae-inspired beats. It’s debatable whether or not Drake’s constantly “evolving” sound is indicative of him being a “culture vulture,” but there’s no contesting that he is damn good at making hits.
“Electric [Marian Hill Remix]” – Alina Baraz ft. Khalid
Though the original “Electric” came out in January, I’ve hardly heard mention of it online or in person despite a feature by soon-to-be-superstar Khalid. Nonetheless, every time I come across a curated playlist featuring so-called “underrated gems,” the song makes an appearance. “Electric” features some of the best production, songwriting, and vocals of the past year, the combination of which makes for a dreamy song that brings both goosebumps and tears. Though the original is certainly worth a listen, this Marian Hill remix elevates it to new heights by keeping the basic elements of the song that make it so special while adapting it to a slightly more upbeat tempo, creating something that is totally unique and enjoyable.
“Biking (Solo)” – Frank Ocean
I would argue that Frank Ocean is the best musician of this recent generation of artists. I could go into a list of reasons ranging from his background, to his public statements, to technical analyses of his albums and songs, to even the aesthetic in his branding. However, all of that is unnecessary. All you need to buy into the mystique and fandom of Frank Ocean is a listen to literally any of his full tracks. His recent release is no exception; this solo version of “Biking,” which strips away Jay-Z’s and Tyler, The Creator’s verses, highlights Frank’s unchallenged voice and songwriting skills. Though it always takes a few listens to unpack Frank Ocean lyrics, the melodies that he offers are immediately lovable. Accompanied by only a few beats and an acoustic guitar, Frank keeps it simple on the majority of this track, leading to an incredible finish.
“Relationship” – Young Thug ft. Future
My personal pick for the song of the summer, “Relationship” just brings a smile to your face. For all of the criticism that modern hip-hop receives, Young Thug and Future (two of hip-hop’s biggest stars), demonstrate what’s so enjoyable about the sound that most rappers have adopted, or at least attempt, today. The auto-tune, the singing of bars rather than rapping, and the beats all come together for an infectious hit. To paraphrase one Reddit user on the HipHopHeads subreddit, the chorus that brings together Thugger, Future, and a good beat drop must be what heaven sounds like. Something just clicks with “Relationship.” This is the definition of a hit song.
“Electric Blue” – Arcade Fire
Every time Arcade Fire releases an album, it seems to be a massive event in the music industry. Very few bands or musicians experience the critical acclaim and commercial success that Arcade Fire always seems to garner. With “Electric Blue,” a lead single from their forthcoming album Everything Now, it’s evident that the band is miles ahead of most in terms of sheer skill in crafting music. The song is more straightforward than most of their famous work, but their iconic ensemble sound works well in this upbeat track that will have you dancing along maniacally.
“Liability” – Lorde
While this isn’t something that would typically be considered a song fit for a summer playlist, I’m putting it on anyways because a list of noteworthy songs in 2017, regardless of mood or theme, should include the return of Lorde. On all of the tracks off her second studio LP Melodrama, Lorde showcases what makes her such a special and standout artist: it’s her songwriting, it’s her honest voice that exposes every tremble and pang of pain, and it’s her music production. In an interview she cited a “post-Blonde” soundscape, referring to Frank Ocean’s 2016 album, in which it’s acceptable for artists to experiment with sounds. She demonstrates this on “Liability”, which features only a piano playing in the background. It’s on this list because Lorde’s voice is so refreshing both figuratively and sonically, making for a dreamy song perfect for nighttime summer escapes.
“Close but Not Quite” – Everything is Recorded ft. Sampha
When we first heard Sampha featured on Drake’s album Nothing Was the Same in “Too Much,” we knew the musician was something special. Following his own standout album, Process, which truly showcased his amazing voice and songwriting, he elevates this song with angelic and smooth vocals. Meanwhile, Everything is Recorded provides a really clean and fresh-sounding track with a combination of electronic and real instruments that just feels elegant.
“4 AM” – 2 Chainz ft. Travis Scott
The third and final appearance of Travis Scott on this list accompanies 2 Chainz on “4 AM,” the second single from 2 Chainz’s latest LP Pretty Girls Like Trap Music*. I would not typically consider myself a huge fan of 2 Chainz because, to be frank, he normally sounds the same on most songs. However, this track, and his new album as a whole, prove that 2 Chainz is not a one-trick pony. He switches up his flow several times on the song, making it an enjoyable and unpredictable listen. Travis Scott again delivers a solid hook with his now immediately-recognizable, auto-tuned melodies. However, the best part about the song has to be the production. Boasting probably the most hypnotic beat of the last few years, “4 AM” really stands out.
*Though this is a scientifically unproven statement, personal experiences lead me to agree with Mr. Chainz’s assessment.
“Bike Dream” – Rostam
Coming from former Vampire Weekend member, Rostam Batmanglij, “Bike Dream” is a breath of fresh air when it comes to pop-punk. Rostam’s songwriting is just plain catchy as he croons “two boys, one to kiss your neck/one to bring you breakfast”, and his voice works well behind the production of this song. Though the singer’s newfound success is bittersweet (why can’t Vampire Weekend still be whole?), I’m happy to see that Rostam’s skill and potential are certainly not going to waste.
“Little of Your Love” / “Want You Back” – HAIM
There are two songs for this selection because I really couldn’t pick just one of the lead singles from HAIM’s second studio album Something to Tell You. Though the album as a whole disappointed fans and critics, the same cannot be said for the lead tracks. These two songs, very similar in production and themes, just sound fun. One of my friends said of “Want You Back,” “it sounds like it’s going to be bad but it never is.” What I think she meant is that HAIM produces pop-rock music (which there is a vapid, over-produced abundance of in today’s music), yet the band subverts jaded pop tendencies with great playing of real instruments, solid lyricism, and a cohesion of the three sisters that come together for great fun.
“Love$ick” – Mura Masa ft. A$AP Rocky
Your friend who’s an aspiring DJ has probably included this song in his party mix several times this year, but honestly who could blame them? Mura Masa delivers one of the coolest songs of the summer from his splicing up of background vocals, to the horn-accompanied staccato beats and overall masterful production. Though this song isn’t a traditional sing-along dance anthem, it’s hard to listen to “Love$ick” without belting out the words. The chorus is sublime, and A$AP Rocky brings an even greater ounce of coolness in his verses, making this one of the most memorable tracks of 2017 already.
“In Undertow” – Alvvays
Before hearing this song, I had never heard of Alvvays. After hearing this, I can’t stop listening to them. “In Undertow” is one of the best examples I can think of that fits the “driving through the sunset with the windows down” genre. There’s no complexity, no hidden tricks or gimmicks, just easy listening with great guitar melodies and the lead singer’s pretty voice. This retro song can’t help but instill feelings of nostalgia.
“123” – girlpool
The soft and understated bass and guitar riffs that begin this song could deceive you. Complemented by girlpool’s dreamy, inviting voices, you’d think this song would be a soft rock jam best-suited for slow dancing. Instead, the song quickly reaches a crescendo that is sustained and even elevated throughout its entirety. The result is an intense, goosebump-delivering experience meant to be played at full volume.
“See U Never” – Niki
This playlist began with a so-called “flexing-on-my-ex” song by Aminé in “Wedding Crashers” and ends with another in “See U Never.” Released by 88rising (the label responsible for the rise of internet sensations Rich Chigga, Keith Ape, the trap star behind “It G Ma,” and the Chinese hip-hop stars known as the Higher Brothers), R&B newcomer Niki delivers some of the smoothest and grooviest vocals of the year on this relatively unknown and highly underrated track. I first discovered this song from following 88rising’s Facebook page, where they exhibit some of the best Asian musical talent from around the globe. I’d suggest checking them out for more great discoveries from Asian musicians; “See U Never” is a great example of what the label has to offer the world.
So whether you’re on that 9 to 5 grind or just kicking back, we hope these tunes will help make this summer the most memorable one yet.