Skeng – London
Walk down a Hackney lane or stroll along the River Lea this summer and at some point you’re likely to hear this gnarly celebration of the city blaring from a car or loudspeaker. Skeng is a rising yet controversial Jamaican dancehall rapper whose sound is much darker and more menacing than his peers; he shares stylistic touchstones with popular London-centric rap styles like British drill and, like many such artists, Skeng raps about the realities of street life and has been accused of glamorizing guns and violence gangs.
It’s not a picnic tune, but this track – which he apparently wrote to celebrate his first UK tour here in the spring – hints at his acting skills. It has a whiff of People Just Do Nothing About it, opening with the line “Hello mate (bloody hell)”, while the video shows Skeng and his friends waving bottles of champagne at quad bikes in a London park. The rest is, as they say, pure fire: though Skeng’s patois is distinctly thick and fast, it unfolds with serpentine precision over the instrument’s plucky strings; the guttural purr of its chorus – “Lon-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun” – lingers for days. Kate Hutchinson
Bad Bunny – Yo No Soy Celoso
Bad Bunny not only tried to make the song of the summer but the album, saying Un Verano Sin Ti should be played “in the summer, on the beach, like a playlist”. Freely pouring tequila into your friends’ mouths, flirting with people in bathing suits, brooding over pink skies: there’s a song for every mood on this all-inclusive record, and thanks to the vocal range, too wide of Bad Bunny – from gasping pleas to barking orders – all are kept as dynamic as a long volleyball rally.
Nestled amid brilliant reggaeton, mambo and more, this gem, with a bossa nova-adjacent beat picked over acoustic guitar and drum circle; a melancholy early evening piece cut with the melancholy of the wee hours. Bad Bunny protests too much on a song whose title translates to I Am Not Jealous, as he interrogates his ex with someone he doesn’t love, but even if you don’t know Spanish, his pain is so palpable in the hurt “ouch, mi corazon” that ends the chorus: caves of chested bravado to reveal a hurt little boy, in one of the musical moments of the year. Someone give the boy another caipirinha, stat. Ben Beaumont-Thomas
Jungle – good times
Beginning with a celestial-sounding intro before exploding into what could become 22’s sweltering summer hit, the upbeat Good Times strikes the perfect balance between throwback jam and modern-day smash. The brainchild of production duo Jungle, the nickname of British music makers Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland (perhaps best known for their 2014 sleeper Busy Earnin’), it’s Good Times that should solidify them into as essentials of the dance floor.
There may be bigger hits and more featured artists in this summer music season, but with the song seemingly a sonic cousin to Glass Animals’ smash Heat Waves, could Good Times follow a similar underdog single to the trajectory traditional successes and be absolutely everywhere over the days on? To be frank, we are all well aware that there is cause for concern and celebration around the world. But with Good Times, we are invited to enjoy what we can and, at least momentarily, to put blinders on the rest. Let’s face the music and the dance. Rob LeDonne
Sky Ferreira – Don’t Forget
Please “feral girl summer” whatever you want, but personally I’m going to turn to “vengeful wraith summer” and take Don’t Forget as my villainous anthem. Although Sky Ferreira’s booming comeback single bubbles right up to her record label – a persistent cause of strife for the 30-year-old cult pop icon – it also suggests a pretty wide range of applications.
“Tears of fire in the sky,” she grunts, and with dangerous heat waves and raging wildfires, we might be thumbing our noses at governments and corporations leaving the planet behind. burn casually; As Ferreira sings of betrayal and exploitation by paternalistic forces, perhaps a few Supreme Court justices might come to mind. Rising in rage and towering over the earth on reverberating storm clouds, Don’t Forget is a bloodthirsty offensive against letting your heart harden through another successively hellish summer. Laura Rogues
Beyoncé – Break My Soul
Break My Soul, the lead single from Beyoncé’s upcoming album Renaissance, landed softly the last week of June, fresh but familiar. The springy house track — which nods, if not outright samples, the touchstone of Robin S’s 1993 dance floor Show Me Love — isn’t Beyoncé’s swagger of Lemonade. Having conquered almost every genre (and Coachella), Beyoncé is in sublime restoration mode: “I just fell in love, and I just left my job / I’m going to find a new record, fuck they work me so hard”, coos- she said, in a gesture to her non-billionaire fan base that lands softer than it should.
It’s all-purpose nourishment – a stalk on the dance floor, a balm in the scorching sun, a mood stabilizer for everyday life amid endless, overlapping crises. If there’s been a sound, for me, that conjures up the fun of this sputtering summer, it’s Beyoncé tumbling “oh baby baby” in the chorus, or the mantra offered by New Orleans rebound legend Big Freedia: “Free your trade, free the stress, free your love, forget the rest”. The Queen offers happiness, and I continue to listen. Adrian Horton
Bartees Strange – Miserable
Just try to sing. Don’t worry if you can’t. Yes, the chorus of Bartees Strange’s Wretched seems impenetrable at first glance. But the surge of heartfelt exuberance from the rising star from Ipswich, England, raised in Oklahoma, will have his wordy performance sticking in your mind and on the tip of your tongue all summer long.
It’s, ahem, strange (no need to forgive the pun) the structuring avoids the condescending summer song formula. And that’s what makes it so essential. That and, of course, Strange’s propelling keys and percussion, and enigmatic guitar playing. Along with its sweet verse-chorus pattern, these elements will have Wretched challenging its title for post-lockdown festival crowds yearning for a pogo-and-howl-worthy anthem. And once the song’s galvanizing tone has settled, diving into its lyrical spurt is an equal pleasure on subsequent listens – especially its themes of unwavering, life-saving friendship in this age of echo chambers and death. self-isolation. Kyle Mullin
Charli XCX – Used to Know Me
There’s a scene in season two of the acerbic comedy Hacks that cuts to a slow-motion montage of the joy of a daytime party, on a lesbian cruise. This song screams, its Euro-house synths creak. As Charli XCX throws the titular hook, Hacks protagonist Ava practically goes up (watch the show if you haven’t already, on Prime Video). Back on solid ground, a layered story underlies the trail.
Charli XCX’s latest album from her five-album deal with Sony sees her almost comically dashing into pop, cosplaying the standard major-label star she refused to be. Here she sings about being “finally free from your control”. Is it just post-breakup thinking, or two fingers pointing at his tag? It’s a wink, a dance floor banger, and that ideal song of the summer contestant: the one that’s been out since March, with time to percolate. True chefs will notice that she joins Beyoncé in interpolating Robin S’s Show Me Love (Stonebridge Mix), sampled here throughout. Tshepo Mokoena
Flo – Immature
Not all summertime anthems can be beach frolicking, barbecue smoke talk lines, or escapist lyrics mixed with vodka beats. Sometimes they need courage. Everyone is irritable as temperatures rise and patience is usually the first thing to do.
On Immature, Renée Downer, Stella Quaresma and Jorja Douglas, aka the hugely up-and-coming British girl group Flo, have basically had enough. To a springy, low beat reminiscent of early 2000s Timbaland – with cut-out baby cries à la Aaliyah’s Are You That Somebody? – the trio protests to a mute man whose signals are missed. “Say you want my body, body / But you never do nothing about it” Douglas casually shrugs on the chorus, before the trio nails this life assisted by the sun, too short, let me check what – Else-is-out-there frustration with a curt, “I’m trying to get your point / But you fuckin’ with me, fuckin’ with me.” The fact that it all comes with the honeyed smoothness of the Brandy peak at least offers a touch of summer heat to the long-awaited kiss. Michael Cragg
Sofi Tucker – Original Sin
Great summer songs make us feel liberated. The new kid from the duo of inventive dancers Sofi Tucker goes further. It makes us feel redeemed. Original Sin is an anthem of absolution that creeps into your consciousness to ease the guilt while drawing you to a place made for transgression: the dance floor. “So I think you got something wrong with you / Something wrong with me too,” the duet sings. “But the state you’re in is innocent/what the fuck is original sin anyway?”
The song, which waves more than books, has been a club favorite for months, creating a buzz worth serenading us all through the hot season. The insinuating flow of the rhythm draws you in, while the voices of the duo – Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern – seduce. There’s a great play between the wit of his deadpan delivery and the care in his tone. The song itself couldn’t be simpler, repeating the same verse over and over, leaving just a few breaks for its singsong chorus. But this sublime combination allows the sweet message of the song to pass easily. Jim Farber
5amDiaries and Jackson Homer – SOFA
Watching Netflix on the couch might not be your first favorite activity during the summer months (unless of course it’s this been agonizingly hot and there’s an efficient air conditioning setup) but in little-known rapper 5amDiaries’ little-known new song, he makes it sound like the only place to be. Using a sly beat from the 90s season, courtesy of Jackson Homer, it tells a simple, easily relatable story using the excuse of watching “a cool show I want to show you” to get drunk and drunk. have fun instead. Who among us…
It’s hard to listen without understanding stopped the couch to get around (Spotify in the kitchen?) and harder not to smile at her barely contained annoyance at her date’s bad manners (“spilling naked shit, she don’t use pennies -glass,” he says, his head presumably shaking, eyes rolling) and while the song had a low-key debut, it’s even harder to imagine this one not entering a heavy holiday rotation. summer by the end of the season. Benjamin Lee