What Makes A Great Summer Song? | Features | MN2S

As the bright and sunny ‘This Girl’ featuring Kylie Auldist took the number 1 spot in the UK iTunes charts, we look at what it takes to make a great summer song.

Like Christmas songs and the Happy Birthday song, great summer songs come back to us year after year and they never get old. These songs remind us of fun in the sun and partying like there’s no tomorrow. This year at least one new track has entered the Great Summer Songs pantheon: Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners’ ‘This Girl’ featuring MN2S artist Kylie Auldist.

Many elements make ‘This Girl’ great: a pumping beat, a breezy guitar riff, carefree handclaps, an uplifting brass line, great dub work from Kungs, and of course Kylie Audlist’s soulful vocal. But do these elements automatically guarantee a song ‘summer classic’ status? We look at some great summer songs of the past to answer the question: what makes a great summer song?

Sing about the summer

This one is so obvious it’s almost cheating. A large number of classic summertime tunes have lyrics focused squarely on everyone’s favourite season. Take, for example, one of the most iconic sunshine jams of all time – ‘Summertime’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. It’s right there in the title.

The duo’s 1991 Grammy-winning classic hits the airwaves every year at the first hint of summer weather. In the song, Will Smith sings the praises of the season, with backing singers encouraging the listeners to “sit back and unwind.” Cleverly, Smith also reminisces about summers past in the song’s verses. He conjures up images of the school summer holidays (“School is out and it’s sort of a buzz,”) family gatherings (“DJ’s spinning a tune as the old folks dance at your family reunion,”) and BBQs (“back to your crib to change your clothes once more/ ‘cause you’re invited to a barbecue that starts at four.”)

Sometimes the lyrics are Philly specific, but most of the time the duo keep the lyrics vague enough to be universally relatable, sometimes to an almost comic level (“Riding around in your Jeep or your Benzos/Or in your Nissan sitting on lorenzos.”) Appropriately now, “hearing ‘Summertime’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince on the radio” can now be added to most people’s summertime memories checklist.

Other summer classics take the same approach. The Isley Brothers’ 1976 classic ‘Summer Breeze’ is as summery and breezy as its title, but the fact that the lyrics specifically invoke summer don’t harm its summer replay value. The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes The Sun’ also falls into this category.

But these songs could never have become summer classics thanks to their lyrics alone. And as you know, not all great summer songs have the word ‘summer’ in the lyrics. Current song of the summer ‘This Girl’, for example, is lyrically summer-less, and yet still summery. The same can be said of previous UK number one and fellow Song of the Summer 2016 contender ‘One Dance’ by Drake featuring MN2S artist Kyla. So how should a summer song sound, on the instrumental/production side of things, to reach classic status?

Sound like the summer

There are many sounds that come to mind when we think about the summer: children playing, ice cream vans jingling, sea waves crashing, seagulls screeching, and, of course, those iconic summer songs. Because of this, working within the tradition of the classic summer song sound is the best way to enter the summer canon.

Here are some distinct categories of summer-sounding songs:

There are the Cruisin’ Classics – songs to play while you are driving around in your convertible, be it Jeep, Benzo or Nissan. Cruisin’ Classics include the previously-discussed ‘Summertime’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, ‘Still D.R.E.’ & ‘The Next Episode’ by Dr Dre, ‘California Love’ by 2Pac, ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’ by William De Vaughn, and ‘Cruisin’ by Smokey Robinson – though this one might be mostly about the lyrics again.

Cruisin’ Classics often utilise smooth, gliding synth lines over hip hop backbeats to give listeners the option of either nodding their head profusely, or scooping one downward-facing open-palmed hand up and down out the car window in a wave-like motion. One very recent song with all the makings of a future Cruisin’ Classic is YG’s neo G-Funk track ‘Twist My Fingaz’.

Then there are the Summer Dance Anthems. These are hit dance songs that dominate the clubs in the year of their release. There are a few of these every year – songs so big and so well-loved that every DJ is playing them. So well-loved that hearing them brings back memories of dancing to them in the summer heat. Some of these songs will be forever associated with a specific year, but some transcend Song of the Summer status and take up the Song of Every Summer mantle.

Likely, ‘This Girl’ and ‘One Dance’ are in this category. As are countless dance anthems like ‘Needin U’ by David Morales presents The Face and basically any of Fatboy Slim’s big hits.

Essentially, to make a Summer Dance Anthem, all you have to do is make an exceptional dance song and release it in the summertime. Keeping the sounds bright and happy like the summer weather is one way ensure summer appropriateness, as is incorporating influences from the tropical islands people from all over the world visit on their summer holidays. But really, a Summer Dance Anthem just has to be a phenomenal dance song, and if we knew how to make those we’d be behind the decks, not in front of them.

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