A design of the sun setting over the ocean. On the sand is a picnic blanket with an umbrella and food on it.
Design by Jennie Vang.

Summer rocks. It’s the season of street fairs, park hangs, beach days, sausage from a street cart, dope tokes and sunburns. And it’s the season of music that hits different. This is a playlist for those days when you’re chilling in that park, toking that dope, slurping that sausage. This is a playlist that will hit different this summer. 

WARNING: This playlist contains a whole lot of pop. Deal with it. So what if the hooks are a little cheesy? So what if everyone and their mom know and enjoy these songs? Have you ever thought that maybe people like a song because it by golly slaps? It’s summer. Live a little. Listen to music you actually like, not just the noir garbage you listen to because you want to think you’re different and cool. You’re not, you’re lame. So am I. But unlike me, you don’t have to be. You can listen to banging music and have a blast this summer. 

Here’s a good place to start.   

Beautiful Escape” by Tom Misch (feat. Zac Abel)

I recommend slamming this tune as you ride shotgun on a country road, hanging your dogs (your toes, that is) out the window, on the way to your local watering hole. You might know Misch as the master of the groovy slow jam. Or you might not, in which case you should listen to “Movie” or “I Wish” immediately, so you’ll know exactly what I mean. But the peppy, bouncing brigade that is “Beautiful Escape” almost doesn’t resemble those works of slow jam art. It’s a song of pure summer, a song that spikes the lemonade and drinks it too. Give it a listen. I promise it’ll be nothing short of a beautiful escape.

“Topdown” by Channel Tres

This is also a song for the car, preferably a convertible, so you can be “rolling with the top down with my n****s and your bitch, rolling with the top down,” as Tres repeats and repeats, underscored by the suavest house beat any summer sun could ask for. If you don’t own a convertible top to roll down, I recommend that you instead, like me, ride your goofy bicycle through the streets and blast this song on the speaker you carry in your backpack. (Summer pro-tip: always carry a speaker, and always carry a backpack or at least a drawstring bag, so that you can carry that speaker.) The result is euphoria. 

“Sedona” by Houndmouth

I actually don’t listen to this song all that often. For nine months of the year I bury it in the soil that is my “everything playlist,” and I don’t really think about it. But as the days stretch into the night, as the hot rain hits the ground and my musical taste buds expand, “Sedona” starts to sprout, and like a petunia, makes its annual return to my regular sonic selections for the season. Maybe it’s the moment when the steely guitar syncs with the crashing symbols; maybe it’s when lead singer Matt Myers cathartically scream-sings “Hey there Sedona let me cut you a deal / I’m a little hung over and I may have to steal your soul” at the end of the bridge; maybe it’s the fact that I feel like Sedona in the summer, gone but not forgotten; maybe the whole song is just pure audial joy. I don’t know why I love it, but you should give it (another) listen, and then listen again, and again, until the petunia loses its petals, and the fall leaves cover the earth. But don’t worry, Sedona will come back. She always does.

“Janet” by Berhana

This is a park hang song. For maximum musical appreciation, I recommend packing a picnic blanket, a chilled bottle of white wine and a speaker with quality bass-ability before meeting up with some fun-loving friends at your local grassy knoll as the day fades into night. Let your mind slide with the sharp keyboard chords, held steady by the simple, yet clinical beat. And then the voice of Amain Berhane, all casual, singing, “Hey listen Janet / cool if I call you (pause) Janet?” 

This is a tune that blends seamlessly into the background. You’ll find yourself humming and swaying, but the conversation can still flow, granted you’ve picked out the right crowd. The song will end, and the chatter will dwindle a little with a silence heavier than before. The vibes just won’t be the same without those smooth vocals. Maybe you’ll just have to put it on repeat like me. 

(While you’re at it, I would be sure to check out Berhana’s other hit song, “Grey Luh.” It could easily have made this list as well.) 

“Supalonely” by BENEE (feat. Gus Dapperton)

You know this song. You might not even have TikTok, but you know this song. I knew this song before I heard this song. The hook won’t leave your brain, the beat won’t leave your body. On the surface, it’s a song about being lonely, or being “supalonely” and a “lonely bitch,” as BENEE puts it. But the magic of this instant classic is in spinning that loneliness into a bop and a half. 

So even if it is one of the most poppy, TikTok-y songs of all time, we don’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s summer. We can give in to our guilty pleasures, chew an extra slice of cheese with our mulled wine. And yeah, “Supalonely” is a little cheesy, but when I saw it performed just a couple weeks ago at St. Andrew’s Hall in downtown Detroit, I couldn’t taste a thing. All I felt was the sweet sensation of the dance in my legs. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too.

“Boys” by Indigo De Souza

Look at the cover of “Boys” by De Souza. You’ll see a mutt sticking its adorable face out the back window of an old car cruising down a tree-backed road. I point out the exquisite choice of cover art because that’s how I feel when I listen to the song: like I’m a dog in the wind with no care in the world save for chasing balls, sniffing other dog butts and barking at mailmen.

“Do you hear that noise?” she asks at the outset. “There’s something bad about this night already / let’s get dark and heavy.” Yes, De Souza, yes, let’s. What is summer for but self-exploration, pushing boundaries, getting dark and heavy at night, and waking up to the light breeze? “I wanna scream and cry to the moon,” she sings. Give it a try. Walk into an empty field at midnight. Scream all worries and fears to the only light in the sky. Maybe someone will respond. 

“Warm (feat. Mia)” by Dre’es

This is my favorite song on the playlist. I almost didn’t include it because it’s not just a summer song for me. I play this when I’m walking to class, when I’m on AUX, when I’m alone in my room, whenever. But true to the list’s purpose, “Warm (feat. Mia)” by Dre’es truly does hit different in the summer. A soft, swooning guitar riff runs from start to finish. A simple, steady beat falls in and out to set the mood. And all along, Dre’es and Mia trade sweet nothings of holding hands and running away to a “faraway island in a blissful silence” and falling in love. I always picture a beach. Listening to this song in the summer makes you want to adventure like the singers do, packing a bag and just going for it. And why not? Tell your boss you have to go remote for a week, find someone you love, hop in that car, start blasting “Warm” on the stereo and drive until your heart’s content. Find your faraway island and your blissful silence. It’s summer. It’s time to make it happen.  

Joshua’s full “summer sun” playlist can be found here.

Daily Arts Writer Joshua Medintz can be reached at jmedintz@umich.edu