The 10 most iconic summer jams of all time

Pour yourself a glass of something cold, sit back, and melt into these timeless summer anthems.

This glorious summer weather has got us thinking about road trips with the top down, pool parties, trips to the beach… all things which require the perfect soundtrack. But what exactly defines the song of the summer? And what are the contenders for this year? To crack the formula, we take a look back at the hottest summer jams of yesteryear.

Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

If you want to write a song of the summer, it doesn’t hurt to have the word “summer” in the title. It also helps if you’re Will Smith, the charismatic young star of a popular TV show who occasionally sidesteps into the charts to remind us that he’s a rapper too.

Waterfalls – TLC

The most popular song of summer 1995 and TLC’s best-known hit, ‘Waterfalls’ is also a socially conscious song which references the illegal drug trade — and one of incredibly few songs which explicitly mentions the HIV/AIDS epidemic in its lyrics. But for all its seriousness, it’s also chill as hell.

Summer Jam – The Underdog Project

This song proclaims in its very first lyric that it ain’t nothing but a summer jam. Who are we to contend such a claim? From the blurry music video featuring scenes of revelry and flesh on Miami Beach to the Ibiza Y2K baseline and earworm chorus, this has summer classic written all over it.

Hot In Herre – Nelly

This is one of those songs that creates an involuntary pavlovian response; it’s practically in our DNA. Just listen to Nelly’s line “it’s getting hot in here / so take off all your clothes” without instinctively replying that yes, you are getting so hot, you’re going to take your clothes off.

Crazy In Love – Beyoncé

Can you believe it’s been 15 whole years since Beyoncé asked us if we’re ready? And let’s be real – we still aren’t. Queen Bey has continued to awe us ever since this lead single from her debut solo album Dangerously In Love, which still slaps so hard.

Promiscuous – Nelly Furtado

‘Maneater’ might have been the game-changing lead single from Loose which announced to the world that Nelly Furtado was ditching folk for freak, but it was the follow-up ‘Promiscuous’ that had us grinding in the club all summer long in 2006.

Umbrella – Rihanna

There are plenty of steamy, summery tracks in Rihanna’s back catalogue that could vie for this title – especially early entries like ‘Pon de Replay’ and ‘SOS’. But it was 2007’s ‘Umbrella’ which propelled the singer to the ubiquitous icon status which she has enjoyed ever since. ‘Umbrella’ sat comfortably at the Number 1 spot in the UK for nine straight weeks, coinciding with a summer of torrential rainfall which led some to speculate that a “Rihanna curse” was at play. Not only was ‘Umbrella’ an unavoidable anthem, it is also perhaps the only song of the summer to truly reflect the grim reality of British summertime.

California Gurls – Katy Perry

Yes, yes, we know, ‘Teenage Dream’ is the real Katy Perry banger from 2010, but ‘California Gurls’ is the easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy soundtrack that’s perfect for sipping on cocktails and languishing on a giant inflatable.

Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen

If “unavoidable earworm” is an important criteria for song of the summer, then Carly Rae Jepsen is responsible for her fair share. ‘Run Away With Me’ and ‘Cut To The Feeling’ are both pop anthems in their own right, but nothing can quite beat this first major hit from 2012, a near-perfect bubblegum track about a summertime crush.

Get Lucky – Daft Punk

We’re sorry if merely reading those two words were enough to get that song stuck in your head again. But at least it’ll finally shift “it’s coming home!”

So which song of 2018 is the worthy successor to these absolute bangers? There are a handful of worthy contenders. ‘Nice For What’ by Drake and ‘I Like It’ by Cardi B are perfect for a pool party, ‘Hunger’ by Florence & The Machine evokes floaty kaftans and festivals, and ‘No More Tears Left To Cry’ by Ariana Grande is the kind of disco bop that will have us all dancing well into September.

Frankly, we’ll take any or all of the above. Anything to get last year’s song of the summer, ‘Despacito’, out of our heads once and for all.

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