“I Love It” is actually a pretty old song by now – it actually came out last summer — but it didn’t tip over to the mainstream in the United States until this year after being used in Girls, Snooki and JWoww, and Glee. Now it’s everywhere, and will be the anthem of incredibly drunk girls until the end of time. —Matthew Perpetua
“Power Trip” is a song about the kind of love that gets you all messed up, and sick to your stomach because you can’t think of anything else — it’s the kind of song that’s normally right in Drake’s territory. But rather than going emo-sad with it like “Marvin’s Room,” J. Cole’s take on the pining love song feels fresh. His production is focused but filled with surprising little details, like its sweet and infectious hook (featuring Miguel). It’s best heard while driving around town with the windows rolled down. —Aylin Zafar
“Cups” is one the most unlikely hits of recent years — it’s a variation on a folk song originally recorded by the Carter Family that was later merged with the “cup game” by the British indie band Lulu and the Lampshades, turned into a viral video by Anna Burden, and then adapted once again by Anna Kendrick’s character in Pitch Perfect. The version that became a radio smash stripped away the charming cup game aspect of it, but gave us all yet another reason to thoroughly adore Anna Kendrick. —M.P.
Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise Remix” featuring Nelly is a laid-back summer song about loving laid-back summer songs and falling in love in the summer. That’s sort of meta, but the song isn’t asking you to think much about anything — just relax and roll down the windows and sing along. It’s actually the longest running No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs since 1955, which is fascinating because it’s one of the least “country” country hits in recent memory: It sounds like the spot where country, pop, rock, and hip-hop overlap on a Venn diagram. —M.P.
“Body Party” will probably go down as one of the year’s best songs, and the best R&B song in quite some time, period. The first single off the singer’s self-titled fifth album, this sensual banger (and its excellent remix featuring Ciara’s boyfriend, Future) is cheeky, sweet, fun, and almost impossible not to grind to. It’s the song you put on toward the end of a summer party, when things start to wind down and you want people to grab a cutie and head outside for a little alone time. “We can take it slow now / There’s no need to rush,” Ciara sings. Well, it is summer. She’s right. —A.Z.
The summer of 2013 has been very light on breakout indie rock hits, but there’s a good chance you’ve been to at least one party where Vampire Weekend’s giddy, warped rockabilly jam “Diane Young” was on the playlist. The song is built like a roller coaster, alternating between a cruising velocity, mounting tension, and breakneck speed, and once it ends you just want to go back and ride it again. – M.P.
Ariana Grande has tapped into the sweet spot of our collective pop nostalgia and is giving the people what they want: ’90s Mariah Carey. She has the voice to pull it off, too. If you can get over the kind of uncomfortable Lolita-ish image in her music video for “The Way,” featuring Mac Miller, it’s easy enough to enjoy. It’s feel-good R&B that’s cheeky, fun, and easy to dance to. —A.Z.
Summer jams aren’t usually incredibly angry, but try telling that to Kanye West. “Black Skinhead” may be the most intense and ferocious track of his career, but it’s also the song from Yeezus you were most likely to hear booming from a passing car this summer. A lot of that just comes down to the towering, aggressive sound of it — just hearing a few bars of it will give you a contact high off West’s indomitable ego. —M.P.
“Clarity,” released as a single in February, grew and grew in momentum until it completely erupted into an inescapable radio hit this summer. From German-Russian DJ/producer Zedd’s debut album by the same name, released last October, “Clarity” features English singer Foxes on some soaring, heart-wrenching vocals. The EDM takeover of pop music may have something to do with why the song has blown up on such a massive scale, but the song is a proper house track through and through, which makes it enjoyable for both electronic purists and newer dance music fans alike. —A.Z.
Disclosure’s debut album Settle is packed with joyful club bangers, but the single “Latch” is the cut that captures a feeling specific to summer. As the song builds up to its emotional peak, the tension in the music drops out entirely, giving the listener a sense of profound relief. It’s like getting hit with a blast of chilly air-conditioning after sweating it out on a particularly muggy summer day, or finally kissing your summer crush after days or weeks of anticipation. —M.P.
6. Haim, “The Wire”
Haim’s “The Wire” is the platonic ideal of a summer rock song: a big beat, chill guitar licks, sugary harmonies, and a lead vocal by Danielle Haim that projects both emotional vulnerability and effortless swagger. The song itself is like a Shania Twain hit by way of Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac, with hooks on top of hooks on top of hooks, all delivered with the perfect balance of raw rock spirit and slick professionalism. It can be very difficult to avoid playing “The Wire” on repeat, but be careful — you don’t want to ever burn yourself out on a song this great. —M.P.
“#Beautiful” is everything we missed and wanted from Mariah: her vintage ’90s Mimi sound, her trademark giggles and whistles, a song that’s just joyful and carefree — it’s like a flashback to “Emotions“-era Mariah in the backseat of a convertible. The song is just short enough to leave you wanting more and hitting repeat over and over again, as I did all summer. —A.Z.
“Get Lucky” ran neck and neck with “Blurred Lines” to capture the ultimate title of Song of the Summer 2013, but ultimately fell short of Thicke and his merry gang of married men. “Get Lucky” may not be the “Technologic”-level banger many expected and wanted from the French duo, but that’s exactly why this back-to-basics disco song felt so refreshing. It’s sweet and simple, just like summer should be: “We’re up all night to get lucky.” —A.Z.
3. Lorde, “Royals”
Lorde’s single “Royals” is positioned as the perfect antidote to by-the-numbers pop hits — the lyrics critique the ostentatious luxury and conspicuous consumption at the center of contemporary pop from the perspective of a working-class outsider. The song itself is a sleeper hit that has been pushed along more by genuine, ecstatic word of mouth than overwhelming media hype. It’s the smash hit that everyone still thinks is their own little secret. —M.P.
It kind of feels like the past few months have been all Miley all the time: Miley’s hair, Miley’s twerking, Miley’s song, Miley’s video. This summer’s been a monumental one for the former Disney star and her 2.0 (or are we on to 3.0?) transformation — she has a bona fide hit with “We Can’t Stop.” And while it may have been helped along by its extremely GIF-able video, the song itself is the perfect summer jam: It’s loungey and lazy-sounding in all the right, relaxing ways, extremely catchy, and all about having fun with your friends with a devil-may-care attitude. —A.Z.
“Blurred Lines” is the song of the summer. It just is. For a while it looked like it was going to be a toss-up between either this or Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” but at some point around mid-July, “Blurred Lines” crossed over from radio smash to full-on cultural phenomenon, launching memes, parodies, covers, and the nagging question of whether or not the song (and its video) is actually sexist and kinda creepy. That’s certainly up for debate, but there’s no questioning its relaxed, cheery vibe or that wonderful walking bass line. —M.P.
Here are all 16 songs in a Spotify playlist.
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