The Mix: The Songs Of The Summer

NPR | June 20, 2014 5:54 a.m.

Contributed By:

Eleanor Kagan

People have funny ways of describing hit pop songs. A song is “infectious,” an “earworm.” It “gets under your skin.” It’s not summer without little annoyances — sunburn, mosquito bites, sweat — just as it’s not summer without the Song of the Summer. We’re talking about a song (or two, or three) that explodes and quickly permeates pop culture. It runs rampant up and down your radio dial, around your parties and deep in your brain. Perhaps this is why such pop music is described in terms usually reserved for the plague.

The songs that win the summer season spread so fast and far because they work. They’re fun to sing. The hooks are catchy. They speak to something larger than our tastes, fulfilling a collective need for music that’s as danceable as it is escapist as it is a shared experience. This happens every year. We here at NPR Music wondered what we might discover when we put all the Songs of the Summers of the past 50 years or so in one place. What story would they tell us?

Billboard has compiled lists of the Top 10 charting Songs of the Summer since 1985, so figuring those was easy. For the summers of 1962 through 1984, we looked through the June-August Billboard charts, taking note of which songs were on the charts the longest, in any position, and which had staying power at No. 1. It wasn’t a perfect science, but we made our best educated decisions about which songs once ruled the radio and the cash registers.

While this mix will not play in chronological order, some interesting patterns pop up when you consider the songs listed below. The sound of popular music has changed the most, as the top summer hits go from surf rock in the early 1960s through British and then American rock ‘n’ roll, disco, power ballads, R&B, boy bands and hip-hop. Recently, anthemic dance pop has taken over, with songs that seem louder and more bombastic than ever (even if hits today tend to be slower in tempo). And there’s something in the songs’ messages — be it that breakups suck, or that summer is the best time to be carefree, or that dancing is our path to freedom — that tells us what cultural values seeped into (or out of) music in a given year. Amid the songs in this mix, hear NPR hosts and reporters share their memories of hearing these songs when they were in their prime.

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Songs In This Mix:



  • 2013: Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, “Get Lucky”



  • 2013: Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams, “Blurred Line”



  • 2012: Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”



  • 2012: Icona Pop, “I Love It”



  • 2011: Adele, “Rolling In The Deep”



  • 2011: LMFAO, “Party Rock Anthem”



  • 2011: Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”



  • 2010: Eminem featuring Rihanna, “Love The Way You Lie”



  • 2010: Katy Perry, “California Gurls”



  • 2010: Taio Cruz, “Dynamite”



  • 2009: Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”



  • 2009: Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”



  • 2008: Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”



  • 2008: Katy Perry, “I Kissed A Girl”



  • 2008: Lil Wayne featuring Static Major, “Lollipop”



  • 2007: Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, “Umbrella”



  • 2007: T-Pain featuring Yung Joc, “Buy U A Drank”



  • 2006: Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”



  • 2006: Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland, “Promiscuous”



  • 2006: Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie”



  • 2005: Gwen Stefani, “Hollaback Girl”



  • 2005: The Pussycat Dolls featuring Busta Rhymes, “Don’t Cha”



  • 2004: Juvenile featuring Soulja Slim, “Slow Motion”



  • 2004: Usher, “Confessions Part II”



  • 2003: Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Crazy In Love”



  • 2003: Chingy, “Right Thurr”



  • 2003: Sean Paul, “Get Busy”



  • 2002: Avril Lavigne, “Complicated”



  • 2002: Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle”



  • 2002: Eminem, “Without Me”



  • 2002: Nelly, “Hot In Herre”



  • 2001: Destiny’s Child, “Bootylicious”



  • 2001: Eve featuring Gwen Stefani, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”



  • 2000: Aaliyah, “Try Again”



  • 2000: ‘NSYNC, “It’s Gonna Be Me”



  • 1999: Christina Aguilera, “Genie In A Bottle”



  • 1999: Jennifer Lopez, “If You Had My Love”



  • 1999: Len, “Steal My Sunshine”



  • 1999: Smash Mouth, “All Star”



  • 1998: Brandy & Monica, “The Boy Is Mine”



  • 1998: Next, “Too Close”



  • 1998: Vengaboys, “We Like To Party”



  • 1998: The Backstreet Boys, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”



  • 1997: Hanson, “MMMBop”



  • 1997: Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy & Ma$e, “Mo Money Mo Problems”



  • 1997: Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans & 112, “I’ll Be Missing You”



  • 1996: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, “Tha Crossroads”



  • 1996: Los Del Rio, “Macarena”



  • 1996: Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby”



  • 1995: Seal, “Kiss From A Rose”



  • 1995: TLC, “Waterfalls”



  • 1994: Ace of Base, “Don’t Turn Around”



  • 1994: All-4-One, “I Swear”



  • 1994: Lisa Loeb, “Stay”



  • 1994: Warren G & Nate Dogg, “Regulate”



  • 1993: Tag Team, “Whoomp! (There It Is)”



  • 1993: UB40, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”



  • 1992: Boys II Men, “End of the Road”



  • 1992: Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge”



  • 1992: Sir Mix-A-Lot, “Baby Got Back”



  • 1991: Bryan Adams, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”



  • 1991: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “Summertime”



  • 1991: EMF, “Unbelievable”



  • 1990: Mariah Carey, “Vision Of Love”



  • 1990: New Kids on the Block, “Step By Step”



  • 1989: Martika, “Toy Soldiers”



  • 1989: Richard Marx, “Right Here Waiting”



  • 1988: Cheap Trick, “The Flame”



  • 1988: Steve Winwood, “Roll With It”



  • 1987: Heart, “Alone”



  • 1987: U2, “With Or Without You”



  • 1987: Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”



  • 1986: Madonna, “Papa Don’t Preach”



  • 1986: Peter Cetera, “Glory Of Love”



  • 1985: Huey Lewis & The News, “The Power of Love”



  • 1985: Tears For Fears, “Shout”



  • 1984: Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”



  • 1984: Prince & The Revolution, “When Doves Cry”



  • 1983: The Police, “Every Breath You Take”



  • 1983: Irene Cara, “Flashdance…What a Feeling”



  • 1982: Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder, “Ebony & Ivory”



  • 1982: Human League, “Don’t You Want Me”



  • 1982: Survivor, “Eye of the Tiger”



  • 1981: Rick Springfield, “Jessie’s Girl”



  • 1981: Kim Carnes, “Bette Davis Eyes”



  • 1980: Lipps, Inc., “Funkytown”



  • 1980: Billy Joel, “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”



  • 1979: Donna Summer, “Bad Girls”



  • 1979: Anita Ward, “Ring My Bell”



  • 1978: Andy Gibb, “Shadow Dancing”



  • 1978: Frankie Valli, “Grease”



  • 1977: Shaun Cassidy, “Da Doo Ron Ron”



  • 1977: Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”



  • 1976: Starland Vocal Band, “Afternoon Delight”



  • 1976: Elton John & Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”



  • 1976: Wings, “Silly Love Songs”



  • 1975: The Captain & Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together”



  • 1974: Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero”



  • 1974: George McCrae, “Rock Your Baby”



  • 1973: Diana Ross, “Touch Me In The Morning”



  • 1973: Jim Croce, “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”



  • 1972: Bill Withers, “Lean On Me”



  • 1972: Sammy Davis, Jr., “The Candy Man”



  • 1971: Bee Gees, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?”



  • 1971: Carole King, “It’s Too Late”



  • 1970: The Carpenters, “(They Long To Be) Close To You”



  • 1970: The Jackson 5, “The Love You Save”



  • 1970: Edwin Starr, “War”



  • 1969: The Beatles, “Get Back”



  • 1969: The Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Woman”



  • 1968: Simon & Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson”



  • 1968: The Rascals, “People Got To Be Free”



  • 1967: Aretha Franklin, “Respect”



  • 1967: The Doors, “Light My Fire”



  • 1966: Tommy James & The Shondells, “Hanky Panky”



  • 1966: The Troggs, “Wild Thing”



  • 1966: The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Summer In The City”



  • 1965: The Byrds, “Mr. Tambourine Man”



  • 1965: The Beatles, “Help!”



  • 1965: The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”



  • 1965: Sonny & Cher, “I Got You Babe”



  • 1964: Dean Martin, “Everybody Loves Somebody”



  • 1964: The Animals, “House of the Rising Sun”



  • 1964: The Beach Boys, “I Get Around”



  • 1963: Lesley Gore, “It’s My Party”



  • 1963: Jan & Dean, “Surf City”



  • 1962: Ray Charles, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”



  • 1962: Neil Sedaka, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”



  • 1962: Little Eva, “The Loco-Motion”


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