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Vulture Asks: What’s Your All-Time Song of Summer?

When we talk about the Song of Summer, we are usually talking about a recent song — the song that won’t stop playing on the radio, or the song that has 80 million parodies on YouTube. It’s the song that will eventually come to define the summer. It’s a shared song. But we are very aware that people listen to more than one song each summer, and that sometimes it is a random jam from 1998 that has special memories for you. So now, let us pause and honor the less universal, but no less beloved, Songs of Summer. Here are some picks from the Vulture staff; please add yours in the comments.

“My Boo,” Ghost Town DJ’s
A true song of summer is a song that perennially returns. It’s like eating hot dogs. Every summer you
have to eat hot dogs and every summer you have to play “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJ’s. Road trips? “My Boo.” Barbecues? “My Boo.” Rooftop dance parties? Ciara’s “Body Party” — which uses a finely crafted interpolation of “My Boo.” The song attaches itself to pretty much every summer I’ve had since I first heard it blasting from a car stereo in the parking lot of a Boston-based Dunkin’ Donuts. No lie, that’s how I first experienced “My Boo.” And God knows there was no Shazam or quick lyric-searching capabilities on my Nokia, so I went around singing the refrain to anyone who would listen until I tracked down the song’s title. Since then it’s been “my favorite song” — outlasting my other “favorite songs” — that come and go like summertime storms (which, I guess, are actually the best kinds). —Lindsey Weber

“Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
I am still a little fuzzy about why this was necessary — it doesn’t make sense, since Napster definitely existed by 2003 — but I am very sure that “Crazy in Love” was the last song that I ever recorded off the radio and onto a real live cassette tape. I was borrowing my dad’s car for the summer, and it only had a tape deck, so that part adds up; I guess I was too lazy to buy an actual CD? Anyway, I babysat for two little kids a lot that year, and occasionally, when I was fed up with the traffic and the heat and the never-ending juicebox requests, I would play them some of “my music.” The little boy did not enjoy my selections (which is fair; I maybe went a little heavy on the Dixie Chicks). The little girl would sometimes bob her head along, unless her older brother kicked her. Then one day on the way to swim team, I heard a quiet but firm request from the backseat: “Play the uh-oh song.” It took a minute to figure out what she was talking about, and another minute to rewind the tape, but then “Crazy in Love” was ours for the rest of the summer. Related: Have you ever seen a 6-year-old car-seat-dance to “Crazy in Love”? Recommended. —Amanda Dobbins

“Scar Tissue,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
The thing they don’t tell you about being a camp counselor is that it’s fucking exhausting. Oh, it’s fun. And you get to do joyous, goofy shit all day, but man, it is tough making like 19 cents an hour to teach swimming and arts and crafts and to discreetly give sobbing tweens pep talks and tampons when the needs arise. It just really takes it out of you! You’re supposed to be very “on” all the time, and I found this very trying, even though I loved camp dearly. This is a long way of saying camp counselor days off are very, very precious, but they can also get a little out of control. Anyway, there it was, summer of 1999, and it was our day off from camp, and a bunch of us had gone to one of the girl’s houses not too far away. We went to a mall (whose address I will remember forever: One Mall Road, I swear to God), we ate non-dining-hall food, we watched movies — it was nice. But then at night when all of my friends fell asleep, I snuck out of the house with the girl’s older brother (who had been a camp friend years before), and we took a sneaky walk and sneakily made out and I was sneakily so thrilled. The next morning we piled into someone’s clunky SUV, way too many of us for the number of available seat belts, and whoever was riding shotgun started blaring “Scar Tissue” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I guess I had heard the song on Z100 before I’d left for the summer, but I don’t remember. What I do remember, though, is listening to it twenty times on the way back to camp that day, leaning my head against the way-back window, and wondering about what was supposed to happen next. —Margaret Lyons

“The Reason,” Hoobastank
My most song-of-the-summer summer song has to be “The Reason” by Hoobastank. It was the summer of 2004. I was working at an Italian deli on Long Island that exclusively played Z100. Famously repetitive, Z100 plays its hits every 35 minutes or so, and “The Reason” was their top song. I must’ve heard it about 120 times a week. See, I had asked to work only twenty hours a week, but the owner put me on at 60 for training and never lightened my schedule. Six weeks in, I hated the job and how much I was working. I cringed every time I heard that song’s repetitive, shitty solo keyboard intro. (That’s 120 cringes a week.) “The Reason” was playing when I said I needed to take the weekend off to get my wisdom teeth out and my boss said I could only have the afternoon of the surgery. It was playing when I wrote the boss a note saying I was not coming in anymore. (I didn’t want to wait an hour to tell him to his face and risk hearing the song two more times.) It represents the loss of my childhood innocence. I’m pretty sure I’ve disliked summer ever since and the reason is you, “The Reason.” Wait, should I have mentioned at the top that I don’t like summer? —Jesse David Fox

“Autumn Sweater,” Yo La Tengo (1997 song, first heard in 2003)
For me, summer equals driving around in a car. Which is odd, because I grew up in New York and didn’t learn how to drive until I was 20. So by that definition, I didn’t experience a real summer until I was two decades old. Regardless, summer = car. Summer = windows down. Summer = music playing loud. And so my “song of summer” is Yo La Tengo’s “Autumn Sweater,” which I discovered as an adult, driving around in my new (ancient) Oldsmobile in Alabama, where I had my first post-college job. It is not an actual “song of summer,” but it is my “song of summer.” That Oldsmobile was old, it was ugly, and it was all scratched up on account of an unfortunate incident with a Brillo pad. It was infested by ants. The A/C was crap, so on hot days, when I wore shorts, I would burn my legs on scalding leather seats and then see ants crawling over my knees. But it had great speakers. It had speakers that seemed specifically engineered to play organ and bass at peak fidelity. And “Autumn Sweater” has so much of both. It also has a wistful, carefree feeling about it that is 100 percent summer, song title be damned. Wake up on a hot weekend morning, get in the car, roll down the windows, play “Autumn Sweater,” and drive down some two-lane back roads in search of food or just because. There was a new bridge in town that year, and the on-ramp was shockingly steep. You would drive toward the bridge, hit the on-ramp, the car would angle up, and for a few seconds, it looked like you were driving straight into the sky. On more than one occasion, I timed it so that the song would start precisely as I began to climb up and up. —Gilbert Cruz

“Photograph,” Def Leppard
Sometime in the early eighties — 1984, probably — I was forced entirely against my will and against all semblance of logic to spend a weekend at Camp Michi-Lu-Ca, which stands, redundantly, for Camp Michigan Lutheran Camp. To my memory, only three things happened there, none of which involved studying for Confirmation, the reason I’d been sent there with my catechism classmates from church: (1) I volunteered to run a three-mile race against a much more athletic opponent, setting up a lonely running sequence eerily similar to the “Rudy the Rabbit” scene in Meatballs, and made even more bizarre because I looked almost exactly like Christopher Makepeace at the time, and also because I lost, literally, by a mile; (2) I skipped excitedly down a dirt road and threw a pebble into a pond while whistling the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show; and (3) I stood at the edge of a bonfire and played air guitar to a song blasting out of the boombox in an attempt to get some girl whose name I forgot years ago and may not have ever known to notice me. That song was Def Leppard’s “Photograph,” which, in penance, I am required for rest of my days to refer to as my song of summer. —John Sellers

“Back That Azz Up,” Juvenile featuring Mannie Fresh & Lil’ Wayne (1999)
I have a totally vague, totally unspectacular memory attached to “Back That Azz Up”: I’m 16. I’m hanging out at Robert Moses beach. It’s nighttime. My friends and I are trespassing (this is what you do when you grow up on Long Island). And I’m dared to get up and dance to this song. I could be rewriting history, but I think I’m even dared to sing it? Anyway, I’m backing that ass up and maybe singing about it. And then my boyfriend at the time — a guy who drove a Honda Civic with tinted windows and subwoofers (this is who you lose your virginity to when you grow up on Long Island) — arrives. He’s probably carrying a six-pack of Bud Light cans. And then … I really don’t know. We all just hang out. Like I said: totally vague, totally unspectacular. And I guess I could have chosen any other song that makes me feel nostalgic. (“It Wasn’t Me” was a frequent hit at the bowling alley, for example.) But I went with this one because I was recently dancing to it again, at a 30th birthday party for one of my BFFs, a now grown woman who was there to have seen me back my ass up and maybe sing about it the first time around. So, you know, full circle. —Patti Greco

Vulture Asks: What’s Your All-Time Summer Song?