Top 10 Summer Songs
Warm weather is cause to crank up the music, and we’ve got 10 of the best summer songs to keep you company. Whether it’s Kid Rock’s mashup hit ‘All Summer Long,’ Katy Perry‘s technicolor ‘California Gurls’ or Bananarama’s darker-themed ‘Cruel Summer,’ all of the quintessential pop summer songs are here — and they brought friends. So put on your shorts, grab some lemonade, and settle in to check out our picks for some of the best summer songs for the sunny season.
‘Walkin’ on the Sun’
Released in July of 1997, 'Walkin' On the Sun' would become Smash Mouth's first No. 1 single — and its bouyant, effervescent groove made it a perfect summer jam. “If you follow, there may be a tomorrow / But if the offers shun you might as well be walkin' on the sun,” gravelly vocalist Steve Harwell sings during the psychedelic chorus. Fun fact: “Weird Al” Yankovic liked this summer song so much he even included the chorus of the song in his 'Polka Power!' polka medley two years later.
'Summer Girls,' which dropped in July of 1999, was the most popular song released by the now-defunct Lyte Funky Ones, or LFO. With pop-culture lyrical gems like “Fell deep in love, but now we ain't speakin' / Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton,” the track was so silly that even Eminem couldn't resist poking fun at it in his song 'Marshall Mathers.' Regardless of its incredibly cheesy nature, this track still remains a staple for any summer songs playlist.
‘All Summer Long’
Sampling both Warren Zevon's 'Werewolves of London' and Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Sweet Home Alabama,' this 2008 Kid Rock single appealed to just about everyone. “We'd blister in the sun / We couldn't wait for night to come / To hit that sand and play some rock and roll,” Kid Rock croons on the carefree, coming-of-age summer song. 'All Summer Long' is so catchy, it went to No. 1 in eight countries and even crossed over to country music radio, giving the Kid his first Top 10 country hit.
‘Steal My Sunshine’
'Steal My Sunshine' borrowed its background from Andrea True Connection's disco single 'More, More, More,' and while radio stations discovered it in March of 1999, it was another four months before it was released as a single and became Len's only hit. Despite their one hit wonder status, Len's name still lives on thanks to this bubbly, feel-good hit about two adolescents and their struggles with young summer love.
The music for 'Summertime' is based on Kool & the Gang's 1974 poolside hit 'Summer Madness,' so it's no wonder it wound up being DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's (aka Will Smith) biggest song, falling at No. 5 on our Top 10 Summer Songs list. With its funky, laid-back beat and smooth rap verses, 'Summertime' made it all the way to No. 4 on the Hot 100, won the 1991 Grammy for Best Rap Single, and got new life when it was remixed and rereleased in 1998.
Leave it to Justin Timberlake to send a song to the top of the Billboard Pop Songs chart without even releasing it as a single in the U.S. — and keep it on the charts for more than five months. 'Summer Love' sold more than a million downloads in 2007 and became Timberlake's fifth No. 1 single, and we know exactly why: No one is resistant to JT's intoxicating vocals when he sings, “I can't wait to fall in love with you/ You can't wait to fall in love with me / This just can't be summer love, you'll see.”
‘Walking on Sunshine’
With its vivacious beat and breezy lyrics, 'Walking on Sunshine' comes in at No. 4 our list of the Top 10 Summer Songs. Before it was featured on countless movie soundtracks, TV shows and commercials, 'Walking on Sunshine' was a ballad that Katrina Leskanich decided to belt out as a bouncy, lighthearted pop song instead. The decision paid off — it was a massive hit in 1985, and the summer song still brings in about $1 million in licensing fees every year. Katrina must be walking on a mountain of dough right about now…
‘Soak Up the Sun’
As if the lyrics (“I'm gonna soak up the sun / I'm gonna tell everyone to lighten up” — is this not a mantra we should all live by?) weren't enough to make 'Soak Up the Sun' one of our best summer songs, the video features Sheryl Crow singing on the beach, surfing, and jumping off a waterfall. The track was released in the Spring of 2002, but there was no doubt it was primed to be the big warm weather hit it later became.
Despite the peppy music, the lyrics of Banarama's 1984 smash hit 'Cruel Summer' stand out for being much darker than the other songs in our countdown: “The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own / It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go / It's a cruel, cruel, cruel summer / Leaving me here on my own.” As Bananarama singer Sara Dallin said, “It looked at the oppressive heat [and] the misery of wanting to be with someone as the summer ticked by. We've all been there!”
'California Gurls' is Katy Perry at her candy-colored best, extolling the virtues of the Golden State in an anthem that stayed at No. 1 on the Hot 100 for six weeks during the summer of 2010 — and that was just in the U.S. This summer song, on which Perry wails about her daisy dukes having the ability to melt guys' popsicles, also topped the charts in 10 other countries including Australia, Canada and Ireland. Not too shabby for a beach bum from Cali!