The Ultimate Summer Throwback Playlist

Turn up the volume on these nostalgic anthems for the sunny season…

Well Angelenos, we made it through one of the gloomiest seasons in Southern California history and summer 2023 has officially arrived. 

Whether your seasonal plans involve road trips, backyard barbecues or plenty of pool time, you’ll need a dope playlist. And let’s be honest, nothing sets the good vibes quite like some throwback jams. From an iconic surf-rock song from the ’60s to sizzling Y2K bangers, we rounded up 10 songs to play on repeat this summer.

“Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (1991)

From West Philadelphia to Bel-Air, when summer finally hits, you know this jam be playin.’ Released in May 1991, “Summertime” was the lead single from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince‘s fourth studio album, Homebase. Produced by Chicago-based producers Hula and K. Fingers, the track won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 1992 Grammy Awards. It spent a week at number #1 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart, as well as reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Standout Lyrics:
The way that people respond to summer madness. The weather is hot and girls are dressin’ less.

“Steal My Sunshine” by Len (1999)

“Steal My Sunshine,” by Canadian alternative rock band Len was initially released on the soundtrack to the 1999 crime comedy film “Go.” According to singer Marc Costanzo, the song is about feelings of elation he experienced while attending an outdoor electronic music festival.

Standout Lyrics:
I was frying on the bench slide in the park across the street. L-a-t-e-r that week.
My sticky paws were in to making straws out of big fat slurpy treats. An incredible eight foot heap.

“Vacation” by the Go-Go’s (1982)

Summer is all about vacation and no one in the ’80s understood the assignment better than the groundbreaking girl-band the Go-Gos. On “Vacation,” the ladies, fronted by Belinda Carlisle, blend some cool new wave sounds with unapologetic pop to turn out an absolute bop about the ultimate getaway. The song became one of the Go-Go’s highest charting singles, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1982. It’s still our go-to jam to listen to while packing for a trip.

Standout Lyrics:
Vacation, all I ever wanted. Vacation, had to get away,

‘Rock the Boat’ by Aaliyah (2001)

While Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” isn’t exactly about the breezy high seas, it does make for the perfect soundtrack for parties on deck (or below). On the tropical sexed-up track, the singer gets down right naughty (or should we say nauti) as she assertively instructs her lover on how to pleasure her. The sensual song was released just four days before Aaliyah’s untimely death in August 2001, following the completion of its accompanying music video. However, the song’s legacy isn’t a somber one and over 20 years later, it’s still played with joy on repeat every summer.

Standout Lyrics:
Boy, you need to tie this rope. Oh, before we drift any deeper.Baby, now hold me close. Let’s take this overboard now.

Club Tropicana by Wham! (1982)

If Wham!’s “Last Christmas” is a bonafide winter anthem, than the English pop duo’s 1982 “Club Tropicana” is its delicious summer counterpart. Written by members George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, the song’s inspiration reportedly came from their excitement over the glamour and escapism of the then burgeoning New Romantic nightclub scene in London. Musically fusing a Latin jazz rhythm with a groove, the song’s lyrical theme was an all-out satire of the boom for cheap package holidays for younger, single hedonistic people. Pure camp, pure fun, pure ‘80s.

Standout Lyrics:
Club Tropicana, drinks are free. Fun and sunshine, there’s enough for everyone.
All that’s missing is the sea. But don’t worry, you can suntan.

“Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone (1969)

Released just prior to the Sly and the Family Stone‘s high-profile performance at Woodstock, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” perfectly embodies the band’s signature and groundbreaking funk rock vibe. The song peaked at number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart, only kept out of the number 1 spot by “I Can’t Get Next to You” by The Temptations. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” was covered by The Beach Boys on their 1992 album Summer in Paradise…but we won’t talk about that.

Standout Lyrics:
End of the spring, And here she comes back.
Hi, hi, hi, hi there. Them summer days

“Summer Girls” by LFO (1999)

To a pop lovin’ millennial, LFO‘s “Summer Girls” is a nostalgic lyrical masterpiece. The boy band, led by the late Rich Cronin, sings about liking chicks who wear Abercrombie & Fitch and hilariously name checks ’90s icons like Kevin Bacon, Macauly Calkin, Larry Bird and Michael J. Fox. It’s impossible not to smile while giving it a re-listen.

Standout Lyrics:
New Kids On The Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick.
And I think it’s fly when girls stop by for the summer, for the summer.

“Cruel Summer” by Bananarama (1983)

When ’80s dance pop goes emo in July, you get Bananarama’s infectious track “Cruel Summer.” The band’s lead singer Sara Dallin has been quoted as describing the song as one that “played on the darker side (of summer songs): it looked at the oppressive heat, the misery of wanting to be with someone as the summer ticked by. We’ve all been there!”

Standout Lyrics:
The city is crowded, my friends are away. And I’m on my own
It’s too hot to handle, so I got to get up and go.

“Misirlou” by Dick Dale (1962)

Memorably used in the 1997 film “Pulp Fiction,” Dick Dale‘s iconic track “Misirlou” is the ultimate surf-rock song and still hits fresh more than 60 years after its release. We dare you to hit the beach and not feel wavy when you hear this one.

Standout Lyrics:
Desert shadows creep across purple sands. Natives kneel in prayer by their caravans.
There, silhouetted under and eastern star, I see my long lost blossom of Shalimar.

Hot in Herre” by Nelly (2002)

Sweatin’ never felt so good. Recorded for those sweltering 90 degree days, Nelly‘s “Hot In Herre” was the first single from the Midwest rapper’s second studio album Nellyville. The track was produced by the Neptunes and incorporates Chuck Brown‘s 1979 single “Bustin’ Loose” in its hook. Not only was the song Nelly’s first first number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, but it was also the inaugural winner of the Grammy Award for Best Male Rap Solo Performance at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards in 2003.

Standout Lyrics:
So take it off like your home alone. You know dance in front your mirror while you’re on the phone.
Checkin’ your reflection and tellin’ your best friend. Like, “Girl I think my butt gettin’ big”.

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