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NPR Music's Songs Of The Summer 2017

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NPR Music's Songs Of The Summer 2017

Music Lists

NPR Music's Songs Of The Summer 2017

NPR Music's Songs Of The Summer 2017

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  • Transcript

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" is that rare Spanish-language song to top the U.S. pop charts. YouTube hide caption

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Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" is that rare Spanish-language song to top the U.S. pop charts.

YouTube

What makes a song the song of the summer? You could base that judgment solely on chart performance and bestow the crown to the track that hangs on to No. 1 through the warmer months. Or maybe you follow a kind of source-cue methodology, granting the coveted distinction to that one song that's always wafting like a balmy breeze — or blasting like an air-conditioner's chill — from car radios and backyard cookouts.

We like a more personal approach, one that favors the music that soundtracks our own experiences of the season. That's why NPR Music staffers (plus a couple of our friends from the wider public radio system) picked out a set of our favorite new songs that, to us, embody summer in some way.

In the audio segment, you'll hear four of our picks for the summer of 2017; read on for those selections and 11 more. If you're craving even more summertime sounds, check out our extended playlist on Spotify.

Hear The Songs

  • Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, 'Despacito'

    Los Lobos had "La Bamba" in the '80s, there was the infamous "Macarena" in the 1990s, and now another Spanish-language song has gone No. 1 on the pop charts. After hearing it, you'll be humming it to yourself all day long — a blessing and a curse.

    —Felix Contreras

    YouTube
  • Phoenix, 'J-Boy'

    This song commands the enjoyment of summer in an almost instructional sort of way: 10 seconds in there's this aah sound, buried under the guitar, that sounds like you've just taken a sip of the greatest margarita in the entire world.

    —Talia Schlanger, World Cafe

    YouTube
  • Gucci Mane, 'Tone It Down' feat. Chris Brown

    Earlier this year, we had a lot of hip-hop songs that had this pop-friendly flute sound. Gucci really attempts to capitalize on this flute craze — and it sounds like top-down summer trap.

    —Rodney Carmichael

    ADVISORY: This song contains profanity.

    YouTube
  • Trombone Shorty, 'Here Come The Girls'

    It's a song about a guy who loves to look at women — and this summer, New Orleanians love to sing it. Written by the late Allen Toussaint in 1970, "Here Come The Girls" has been recorded by local funk artists twice this year (Galactic drummer Stanton Moore's version appears on his forthcoming Toussaint tribute album). The song's chorus has become a kind of booty-shaking rallying call for female fans.

    —Gwen Thompkins, WWNO's Music Inside Out

    YouTube
  • Miss Eaves, 'Thunder Thighs'

    Leave the six-packs and the paleo to the wannabe models — here's a hot-weather body-positivity anthem for the rest of us.

    —Ann Powers

    YouTube
  • Quatuor Ébène, 'City Birds'

    Is it a classical string quartet or a jazz combo? The genre-bending Quartuor Ébène crafts a propulsive groove that glides effortlessly with Michel Portal's smoky bass clarinet.

    —Tom Huizenga

    YouTube
  • Lorde, 'Supercut'

    This song, tucked away on Melodrama like a secret instead of a single, embodies a thoroughly summery feeling: living and loving without a care, much too fast for memory.

    —Karen Gwee

    YouTube
  • Nate Smith, 'Retold'

    The opening piano motif suggests a summer sun setting after the solstice — the days already growing too short too soon, a wistful longing for what was. Then simple harmonies ground the piece with an expectation of joy.

    —Suraya Mohamed

    YouTube
  • Kendrick Lamar, 'LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI.'

    A song for the sticky swoon of late summer, "LOVE." pleads for unconditional bonds in the face of fear and doubt. But it's also suited for nights of awkward front-seat fumbling, when you don't quite know whether you're about to be kissed back.

    Stephen Thompson

    Listen to "LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI" via Spotify.

  • Perfume Genius, 'Slip Away'

    Glimmering and triumphant, it's the kind of pop song that reminds me of the power of pausing to take a look around and remember how much there is to celebrate. Summer might just be the best time to do that.

    —Marissa Lorusso

    YouTube
  • Machel Montano, 'Fast Wine'

    Machel Montano, the undisputed king of contemporary soca music, gets sentimental about high-speed twerking.

    —Otis Hart

    YouTube
  • Now, Now, 'SGL'

    Now, Now puts the heat on the fling to make it a real thing, with a flirt of a pop song that stares back with starry eyes.

    —Lars Gotrich

    YouTube
  • Spoon, 'Hot Thoughts'

    Nothing puts a pep in my step like blaring "Hot Thoughts" in the hot summer sun.

    —Josh Rogosin

    YouTube
  • HAIM, 'Little Of Your Love'

    If this year's all about roséwave, HAIM ought to be considered in the "song of the summer" conversation. "Little Of Your Love" is a windows-down, shout-along song.

    —Lyndsey McKenna

    YouTube
  • Justin Townes Earle, 'Champagne Corolla'

    Even a public transit-reliant girl like me knows summer goes hand in hand with speeding down the highway, but no need to get fancy. Just give me a rock 'n' roll groove, an earthy horn section and a ride built to last.

    —Rachel Horn

    YouTube