Graphic by Jane Montalto

Today, before the Christmas section of Target swallows the Halloween section overnight, we thought it was about time to look back on another summer long gone. In line with our annual tradition, here are The Press’ staff picks for this year’s Songs of the Summer.

MUNA — “What I Want”
By Michael Kearney

MUNA — the self-titled album from indie pop musicians Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin — provided me with a solid direction on how to live my summer to its fullest potential. Before the release of this album, Phoebe Bridgers announced new tour dates with MUNA for New York City, and I knew I had to go. At the concert, MUNA reminded the audience that their album would drop the following week, marking the true start to my summer.

On the night of its release, I plugged myself into the highly anticipated MUNA. Bathed in bouncy synth beats and electrifying rhythms, I was brought back to the euphoric concert from the previous week —  the whole crowd roaring with exhilaration like no other. I was fully invested in each track, from the opening jovial party tune “Silk Chiffon” with Phoebe Bridgers to the somber lullaby closer “Shooting Star.” However, there was one that struck me the most — “What I Want.”

Released during Pride Month, “What I Want” is an upbeat queer anthem that captures overarching themes of self-discovery and gay culture. Taking place in a gay party scene, the track begins with desires and experiences that MUNA want to be fulfilled. The never-ending desire to date their love interest floods the track, describing her leather outfit and fiery dance moves. 

MUNA speaks to their LGBTQ+ audience about themes of self-evolution and their lifelong craving to be around like-minded people in the pre-chorus:

I’ve spent too, too, too many years
I’ve cried too, too, too many tears
But now I’m gonna make up for it all at once
‘Cause that’s, that’s just what I want

In a world ridden with homophobia and growing debates on gay rights, this synth party song speaks volumes about living in the moment and finding your true romance. Learning to become oneself requires tuning into your inner soul and tuning out the rest of the world. MUNA declares that the time to be free without fear is now.

Since its initial release, my love for “What I Want” only became greater with time — it’s now one of my top 15 all-time streamed songs on Spotify. From chanting in my car during hour-long commutes for my summer job to blasting on the stereo behind friendly poolside conversations, I found myself listening to the track at any part of my day. When I listen to “What I Want,” I become more confident and feel liberated to live my life how I was destined to. Living in the mix of others’ opinions can make it difficult to figure out what I truly want in life, but allowing myself to wallow in the discovery makes the journey worthwhile.

Djo — “Gloom”
By Sydney Corwin

I found “Gloom” by Djo at just the right time this summer. I turned 20 in late July and struggled to come to terms with the end of my teenage years. I did my best to distract myself from feeling shitty about it by working, hanging out with my friends, watching movies and scrolling on social media. The beginning of August always feels like time is slipping away from me. While I wanted summer to last longer, I also couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could get on to the next season of my life. As soon as the song opens, Djo puts these feelings into words. 

And now I’m ready to go
I’m sick of hanging out and now I’m ready to go

Djo is the musical moniker of Joe Keery, best known for playing Steve Harrington in Netflix’s Stranger Things. Even though he’s been releasing music since 2019, he received more attention this summer following the popularity of the show’s fourth season. Many people online were shocked to find out that Keery makes music. I first heard “Gloom” on TikTok (typical) and was instantly hooked. I already knew about his music, but I didn’t realize how much it would resonate with me. 

Though it’s only 2 minutes long, the song packs a serious upbeat punch. It moves fast — over almost as soon as it’s begun. The repetitive guitar, synthetic beats and vocals make it sound like a song straight from the 80s, yet his sound is unlike any other new music that I’ve heard recently. 

The idea of being “ready to go” is repeated throughout the song, even though his final destination is never revealed. I often feel that way too. I know I want something more out of life, but I don’t quite know what that something more might be. I want to get out of the house, but I don’t know where I actually want to go. Whenever I did go somewhere, I found myself blasting this song on repeat. 

Why is such a fast-paced, energetic song called “Gloom?” I have no idea — just like I have no idea why I would feel so sad and strange for the better part of an otherwise exciting summer. Sometimes those feelings just hang over you, no matter what you do or how much you’re ready to go. 

The 1975 — “Part of the Band”
By Jess Castagna

The 1975 is back. Their new single “Part of the Band” dropped in early July, teasing their next album and beginning a new era for the English pop-rock band. It’s the first song they had put out since the release of their fourth album, Notes On A Conditional Form, during the nightmarish fever dream that was 2020. 

“Part of the Band” has an overwhelmingly folk sound, reminiscent of John Mayer’s Born and Raised and accompanied by delicate strings. The lyrics question societal norms and gender roles, and frontman Matty Healy reflects on his former drug abuse and the contradictions he notices in both society and his own mentality.

I spent most of this summer bored from the lack of a consistent routine and an inability to occupy myself productively or even creatively. I bought a lot of acrylic paint from Michaels, took online summer classes, worked five days a week as a barista, spent time with loved ones and indulged in thinking about nothing and everything. “Part of the Band” was my summer anthem for semi-intrusive thoughts and questioning both myself and the world — a constantly evolving and complicated society.

I know some Vaccinista tote bag chic baristas
Sitting in east on their communista keisters
Writing about their ejaculations
“I like my men like I like my coffee
Full of soy milk and so sweet, it won’t offend anybody”

Aside from the nostalgia I feel for The 1975’s music, I have also grown a love for their raw, poetic and sometimes nonsensical lyricism. They consistently release bops with lyrics I can dissect, cry about at 2 a.m. and even hate for Healy’s lack of social awareness. “Part of the Band” is unrefined, lyrically thought-provoking and an undeniably groovy summer night jam.

Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke?
Or am I just some post-coke, average, skinny bloke
Calling his ego imagination?
I’ve not picked up that in a thousand four hundred days
And nine hours and sixteen minutes, babe
It’s kind of my daily iteration

Joyce Manor — “Did You Ever Know?”
By Matt Hono

In a summer full of haphazard searching for stability, the moments you spend with friends mean that much more. I spent the summer working for a busy political campaign and ping-ponging between work, home, a friend’s couch and my partner’s apartment. During these months, I was never able to find a routine to hold on to. The unrelenting travel to distant locations did not allow for relaxation and careful planning, instead encouraging panicked mishaps and nervous energy. The campaign constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone, requiring me to knock on doors, staff events and make thousands of phone calls. I traversed new neighborhoods buried in upstate New York and survived off of fast-food meals. Now, with 4,000 miles added to my car, I have begun to unpack the experiences that shaped my joyfully chaotic summer — one that was over before I ever got my balance. 

Joyce Manor released their new album, 40 oz. to Fresno, in June. The 17-minute long album moves swiftly from song to song. Within the first few seconds, the band hits the listener with quintessential pop-punk chords. It’s relentless fun that encapsulates the feelings of a summer that speeds by.   

“Did You Ever Know?” was the immediate standout song. It’s energetic, and the first lines quickly bring to mind images of light-hearted afternoons spent in a park.

Did you ever know that I loved you most?
In the tall green grass where we laughed and smoked
Stray cat fast asleep, same place he was last week
Fleas all in his coat, did you ever know?

Instrumentally, the song grabs your attention with heavy riffs that immediately transition into a steady drum rhythm and bass line. With each progressing lyric, however, the volume steadily rises until the second verse; then the full band crashes into the scene, exponentially raising the emotional intensity.

The lyrics are catchy, playful and vivid but exit with an ounce of regret. They provide the listener with a highlight reel of snapshot memories: from drinking at a park until sunset to the approach of a stray cat. It’s a flip book of memories that often make me miss the kind of freedom that seems to only exist in the summer months.  

Like that fleeting freedom, a song that is less than 2 minutes does not overstay its welcome, and before you know it, lead vocalist Barry Johnson sentimentally yells:

Now we’re nearing the end
And we’re saying goodbye
Like a song in my head
Leaving nothing behind

“Did You Ever Know?” is a transient moment of whirlwind energy that leaves before you know the answer to its title. It was the soundtrack for many long drives and train rides, and regardless of where I was going or what unfamiliar task awaited me there, it always reminded me to make time for the simple afternoons spent drinking tall cans with the people I love — before it’s all left behind.

Demi Lovato — “SKIN OF MY TEETH”
By Lauren Canavan

Demi Lovato has finally re-entered the rock scene. I repeat, she has RE-ENTERED THE SCENE. “SKIN OF MY TEETH” was the first single release to her latest album, HOLY FVCK

When Demi teased a return to her rock roots, no one took her seriously. However, as someone who has been following her music since the release of Don’t Forget in 2008, I knew she wasn’t messing around. The unapologetic teenager who had no shame in styling her dresses with Converse sneakers has finally flourished into the rockstar of her dreams. 

“SKIN OF MY TEETH” is an angry anthem. It talks about Demi’s close brush with death following her overdose in 2018. The song opens with sarcastic commentary — “Demi leaves rehab again, when is this shit gonna end?” In the accompanying music video, a reaper-inspired character haunts her as she tries to escape her twisted thoughts. The lyrics and wailing guitar accompaniment unravel into a message of strength, emphasizing the invaluable gift of being alive. In just 2 minutes and 42 seconds, the song manages to encompass a deep, continued struggle and a preserving triumph. 

This summer, “SKIN OF MY TEETH” was my go-to song as I drove home from my seasonal job or the gym. It’s exhilarating to physically feel your car speakers bumping to an artist you’ve been following since you were 6 years old. Whether I’m singing her older lyrics about feeling confident or newer ones about surviving an overdose, Demi’s ongoing transparency has served as one of my greatest experiences as a music fan. 

Gorillaz and Thundercat — “Cracker Island”
By Dylan Gallo

On Cracker Island, it was born

The next phase of Gorillaz’ discography takes aim at mob mentality and the occult over a groovy backdrop of psychedelic funk. I’ve always loved Gorillaz’ style of music and genre fluidity and this song is no exception. The mixes between indie, funk, hip hop, rap and pop that surround the virtual band’s discography not only make each song a completely different experience, but also introduce listeners to styles of music that they may have never thought to experiment with. This is what makes Gorillaz such an interesting band. Their latest single — “Cracker Island” — only further shows the flexibility of their sound. 

While the subject matter of the song may not reflect how my summer went, the instrumentals have been the highlight of the season for me. The synths, guitars, drums and vocal harmonies are truly something to behold on this track, but the bass line from featured artist Thundercat is quite plainly the best part of this song. While Thundercat’s magical bass skills always shine through, they almost fit too perfectly set behind Damon Albarn’s hypnotizing vocals as Gorillaz’ lanky but lovable lead singer, 2-D. The first few notes of this mesmerizing beat burrowed this June single into my mind for the entirety of the summer. After listening, I fell down a massive rabbit hole for both Gorillaz and Thundercat and highly recommend getting into both artists after listening to this dark and groovy tune.

Alex G — “Runner”
By Keating Zelenke

Alex G owned my summer this year. His shaky vocals, his plucky guitar riffs, his fingers stumbling across piano keys — I hardly listened to anything else.

There are two things I love about Alex G’s music. First, his constant use of synthesizers and keys makes half his music sound like it’s straight out of a homemade video game. However, “Runner” — the lead single he released in June from his new album, God Save the Animals — is not really one of his beep-boop electronic tracks. This new single belongs to the other half of Alex’s discography — his folksy, all-American ballads. 

The first part of my life, I lived in a town called Averill Park, about a 4-hour drive north on the Taconic. My childhood home was so isolated, restaurants didn’t deliver to our neighborhood. Every summer, I ran around barefoot making traps for frogs in the sewers that ran along the side of my road. My friend and I combed through garbage in the forest for fun and pretended to be archeologists. Once, the older boys found a wolf’s skeleton in the woods and told us ghost stories about what killed it.

Alex G’s stories are often grimy; “Runner” is most likely about the relationship between a drug runner and an addict. But something about them is whimsical too. Alex writes about the strange everyday lives of poor and working-class Americans in towns like the Rust Belt one I grew up in. Through his music, I see the beauty and freedom of rural New York like I remember seeing it when I was a kid — and I see the shadow cast over my hometown by heroin, racism, poverty and obsolescence. 

“Runner” transports me back to the creek, my flip-flop floating away from me in the rushing water. It takes me back to the crawfish, to the tadpoles, and back to squatting in the dirt to get a better look at dried deer tracks. And it does it in a way that reminds me my hometown wasn’t a safe haven or some kind of heaven — rather far from it. 

But what is it they say about summer? You’re never waiting for summer — you’re waiting for summer 10 years ago. 

My runner, my runner, my man

My runner, my runner, my man…

beabadoobee — “Broken CD”
By Sophie Beckman

I queued up beabadoobee’s new album, Beatopia, while sitting with my boyfriend in his silver 2013 Nissan, heading to Six Flags Darien Lake. This theme park has rusty rides, overpriced food and a waterpark that’ll surely give you foot fungus. But in Western New York, where the most notable attractions are giant fields of cows and a town that claims to be the “onion capital of the world,” it serves as a fun summer activity.

I slathered on sunscreen and ate a granola bar to prepare myself for the sweltering heat and stomach-dropping rides. I didn’t, however, prepare myself for the existential crisis awaiting me in beabadoobee’s new release.

Semi-distracted, I heard her soft voice and caught a few of the lyrics midway through the album: 

Don’t think I’m over it
It hurt when I was seventeen
Flew by so quickly
I could hardly breathe

Immediately, my attention was solely focused on the song. 

Don’t think I’m over it
Like how I said I was
Like a broken CD
That plays on repeat

My eyes blurred as I stared out the window, listening to Bea’s repetitive lyrics and soft instrumentals, now the background music to my thoughts. A broken CD started playing in my own head.

I thought about my 17-year-old self, and the times I assured myself everything was fine. A constant self-reminder that nothing was wrong, to be positive instead. This repetition was soothing for me.

Now, I find myself stuck on the same track, unable to move past feelings that I never accepted in the first place. 

Like a broken CD
That plays on repeat

The somber lyrics soon melted away, giving way to the next song on the album. My eyes regained focus, and from a distance I caught a glimpse of the worn blue and red tracks of the “Ride of Steel” roller coaster, a landmark for the otherwise underwhelming theme park. 

Even as the album continued,  I couldn’t help but reflect on the lyrics of “broken cd.” I still find myself stuck on this song. My memories are a scratched-up CD that can never fully play, getting caught at certain moments and repeating over and over. 

Paying $20 for parking that day really brought me back to the present moment, but the song continued on repeat for the rest of the summer, and even now. I’ll be listening until the scratches on my own CD work themselves out. 

Mamalarky — “Mythical Bonds”
By Jane Montalto

Opening with a magical, upbeat guitar riff, “Mythical Bonds” by indie art-rock band Mamalarky instantly transported me to a dreamy world. I was patiently awaiting new music from Mamalarky after discovering the band’s self-titled album last year. The album quickly became an obsession of mine, and I listened to it over and over again until I squeezed out every last note. So, to say I was excited to hear “Mythical Bonds” is easily the understatement of the year. 

The song is a single off their new album, Pocket Fantasy. The track bubbles with joy even before the first words are spoken, but it overflows during the first verse.

You are my best friend
I don’t want to know what it’s like to live without you by my side

“Mythical Bonds” is the ballad of life-changing friendship — which is a little too on the nose for me at this moment in my life. It is something I never saw myself having. Growing up, I moved around a lot, from New York to Texas and back to New York again. I was one of those kids who never had the time to grow roots. I often faded to the background, a side character in someone else’s coming-of-age movie. Friends were kept at a distance, fading in and out of my life like seasons. This facet of my life often made me insecure, leaving me wary of deep connection as I felt an expiration date on friendship. It wasn’t until recently that I started to understand the true value of friendships like the one Mamalarky’s lead singer, Livvy Bennett, belts about in “Mythical Bonds.” 

Ooh, you make me wanna grow old
Long live mythical bonds

The lyrics to this song make me reflect on my past and where I am today. I’ve learned of the joys that can come from “mythical bonds.” There is an electricity that can be felt when talking with those you feel closest to — a mutual, unspoken understanding of each other. This feeling brings me such a sense of comfort, like an idyllic escape from an unforgiving world. Between the psychedelic guitar and refrains of la-las, “Mythical Bonds” is like skipping goofily in a sunny meadow with a group of your best friends. It embodies the feeling of unity and humanity that is found through hanging out together, laughing at stupid jokes and having meaningful conversations at midnight. So please, I implore you to listen to “Mythical Bonds” with your best friend.

Florence + the Machine — “Cassandra”
By Sammie Aguirre

From the indie rock band’s fifth studio album Dance Fever, “Cassandra” by Florence + the Machine is an alluring take on the Greek myth of Cassandra, a prophet cursed by a god to be deemed a liar and later ripped from her home. When I first listened to this song, I was immediately captivated by lead singer Florence Welch’s enchanting vocals. Welch took me on a journey as her breathy, eerie voice told the story of a woman whose trust in herself was questioned when everyone turned their backs on her. 

Every song I thought I knew, I’ve been deafened to 
And there’s no one left to sing to

This song was so enthralling to me — the powerful lyrics paired with the soft wind-chime twinkles in the beginning drew me in — and it became one of my most-played songs this summer. The lyrics arouse sympathy for Cassandra, while also signaling a quiet strength within her that only she sees. I imagine this song as describing the feeling of hitting rock bottom and finding only yourself there. 

As the lyrics of this song floated through my ears for months, I was allured by Cassandra and wanted to understand her. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the daughter of the last king of Troy before the city fell. The god Apollo became infatuated with her, giving her the gift of prophecy, but when she refused his sexual advances, he cursed her so that no one would believe her tales. It is believed that Cassandra predicted the fall of Troy and that her brother Paris would bring war to the city, but the vengeful god’s curse left her all alone with no one to listen to her.

And if I run fast enough, could I break apart 
As empires tumble and cathedrals flatten my heart? 

This song ends with a hard-hitting crescendo of drums leading up to Cassandra left alone in despair with no redemption waiting for her, as she was brutally kidnapped and became a prize of the Trojan War. She was eventually murdered alongside the king who claimed her and their two sons, a fate she ruefully predicted.

This song is a poetic ode to the tragedy of Cassandra’s story. It tells it from her perspective, depicting the feelings that she may have had when everyone turned against her. She knew her fate, and there was nothing she could do to avoid it. Florence + the Machine capture the essence of this feeling in “Cassandra.”

Phoebe Bridgers — “Sidelines”
By Sarah Conway

I am standing in Prospect Park. The warm night air clings to my skin as the ballad begins. A simple MIDI track chimes in steady meter, like a heartbeat. A piercing yet somehow soothing vocal track invites itself in: 

I’m not afraid of anything at all

At this point in time, this song was relatively new to me. It had not yet marinated in my brain as songs often do; I didn’t fully understand its meaning. To my left, I can hear a change in her breathing, from steady inhale and exhale to a hiccup in between each breath. We grip each other a bit tighter.

In that moment, letting the lyrics wash over me, I see the glimmer of the night sky reflecting in her tears. Instantly, I feel my eyes well up too. 

Watch the world from the sidelines
Had nothing to prove
‘Til you came into my life
Gave me something to lose

These are happy tears. Her embrace was a blanket, a silent acknowledgement of what it really feels like to be alive and have someone who cares for you. She is that someone and something that I feel afraid to lose. In a way, it is less a fear of loss and more a reminder of what I have and how lucky I am to have it. “Sidelines” is a song that urges the listener to embrace a little tighter, a little longer, to live with more feeling.

This song evoked nostalgia in me. It reminded me of the person I used to be: too scared to participate in life out of fear of failing. I had never even given myself the chance before. I had once been a spectator in my own life. 

Not anymore.

Duster — “Familiar Fields”
By Marie Lolis

The pandemic years have changed all of us. The person who I was before wouldn’t recognize who I am now. Yet, across the globe, there’s a place where my old self still lingers. This summer, I visited my family in Greece for the first time in 4 years, bringing that contrast to light. 

“Familiar Fields,” from alternative rock band Duster’s latest album, Together, was a song that represented the conflict between my past and present identity. Faces of people I know are now obscured by age and distance. I felt detached from a place that was once extremely important to me. Everyone around me remembers who I was before the pandemic — my pictures are around their houses memorialized in Christmas cards and poorly printed photos from Facebook. I am not the person in those photos, and while I have memories of them, everyone around me feels like a stranger. 

Part of a dream I can’t remember
Just out of reach

This song became a soundtrack for my summer, not only because I was literally walking through the fields at sunset, but because I had to confront all the versions of myself who once walked these familiar fields; each form of myself relating to the longing and wistfulness portrayed in these lyrics. 

Every time I listen to this song, my body gets pulled along within the rhythm. Duster is known for its unique sound, consisting of fuzzy low vocals with loud background feedback and distortion. You can feel their instrumentals vibrating intensely through your body, and the lyrics softly whispered into your ear. The repetitive murky chorus dragged me lower and lower into this nostalgic yearning for the past, when I did not have to worry about the future. 

I am a junior now and graduation is growing closer and closer every day. Everything in my life is coming to a head. I am endlessly running away from this because I don’t want to disappoint those around me. People have expectations for me. People still see me in those old photos and have their own idea of who I am supposed to be. I try not to let these thoughts get to me, but I can’t help to just mourn my past self to this dreamy, yet heavy slowcore song. 

I hear your voice like you are still here

The guilt I have for my past is intense. I keep trying to remember the hopes and dreams my past self had, but these childhood memories are fleeting. As much as I fear disappointment from those around me, I keep asking myself, “What would a 12-year-old me say? What would a 7-year-old me say?” I feel that I have become my past self’s worst fear. I would do anything just to speak to any variation of myself for some answers. However, the person who remains in these familiar fields today is me. 

Yet I remain optimistic. Maybe when I return, I can walk those fields with the hope that I finally know myself. My identity is not just who I am today, but what I hold onto from all my past selves and how we culminate in one being. Maybe understanding myself requires me to travel to other familiar fields of my life to fully grasp what it means to be me. 

Joji — “Glimpse of Us”
By Komal Grewal

As I look back on this past summer, my mind is flooded with its breezy mornings and bright beach days, hours on the LIRR and trekking through the streets of Manhattan. I met a lot of new people in these few short months. As the days passed by — feeling altogether too long and too short at the same time — I found “Glimpse of Us” by Joji to be the soundtrack of this time. Although it has been made popular by TikTok — an app notorious for overplaying songs — “Glimpse of Us” has endured for me. 

Its somber notes and whispered words provide for a beautifully tragic and poetic song. It reminds me of someone I once knew. Although he isn’t in my life anymore, this song made me realize that I still carry him with me — perhaps I always will. This brought me to the realization that we inadvertently carry all the people we have loved throughout our lives with us longer than we think.

With many of the new people I met this summer, I noticed myself subconsciously comparing them to him. Maybe it’s unfair that I hold these people to a certain standard based on a person they have never even seen, but I can’t help it. It’s something we all do. As we carry pieces of everyone we have loved with us, we try to search for those pieces — or even a “glimpse” — in new people we meet. On the rare occasions we find them, we can’t help but be reminded of those people who gave pieces of themselves to us, and think of them every time we look in newer eyes.

By Megan Walton

Joji’s “Glimpse of Us” is an incredibly heartfelt, gut-wrenching song that I can’t listen to for more than 15 seconds without sobbing. It, unfortunately, puts me in the headspace of falling out of love with my significant other (whom I love dearly) or wondering if the reverse will happen.

What if there’s some inevitability that my person will get tired of me — and there’s nothing I could do to stop it? What if we’re perfect for each other, but one non-negotiable thing spells the end of our time together? What if I’m not healthy enough to fully move on if that’s my reality?

It’s the same feeling I get when an actor plays a villain so well — seeing them out of context conjures up some unexplained visceral fear and hatred. For me, that’s Homelander from The Boys.

Even though “Glimpse of Us” turns me into a wreck, it demonstrates how artisanal and effective Joji’s writing is. I’ve spent sleepless nights silently weeping from this pain. It’s so beautiful and mesmerizingly captured that it allows me to take a step back and reflect on my own pain. Maybe this type of connection is just a part of the human experience. This song is the definition of a tragic loss we often don’t take the time to grieve.

mxmtoom — “Mona Lisa”
By Jenna Zaza

Corner seat at Devoción Cafe in Brooklyn — the words blur together on the blue-lit computer screen as I reach for the unbranded brown coffee cup, absent-mindedly taking a sip of the bitter, soapy liquid that I hate yet can’t get enough of. The longer I stare at the screen, attempting to make out each curve and point of the letters, the words warp and blur into a mirage.

I’ve always played the part of Shakespeare
I hide behind the ink and pen

Tearing myself from the laptop and the work that pains me, I look up — finding myself submerged in a lucid dream with the lyrics floating in the air. Everything is obscured, and everyone stares from afar with intrigue radiating from behind their eyes. Suddenly the lighting shifts focus, highlighting me as I sit there at the table. A smile paints on my face and my chest begins to bloom as I realize that these people in the crowd are here for me; to see my craft — my art. 

I wanna be a Mona Lisa
The kind of girl that you can dream of

Then I blink. The crowd stills as they start to fade away. In a moment of panic, I pry my eyes open, attempting to preserve the image, but to no avail. 

The image whirls into reality. People crowd the coffee bar, sitting on the couches and chairs with books, computers or friends. 

Think I’m ready to start a new chapter

I turn towards my computer, grazing the mouse, waking up the screen. The story pierces my eyes, as I recognize the light, airy tune that has been filling my ears — “Mona Lisa” by mxmtoon. 

My gaze back into the crowded cafe. Comfort settles in. 

A smile reappears on my face, but for a different reason.

Lizzo — “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)”
By Rafael Cruvinel

When I saw a video of Lizzo twerking in a bikini and wearing a glittery pink “lucha libre” mask, it didn’t even cross my mind that the baseball organ playing in the back was a snippet of what would be my favorite song on her new album, Special. “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)” is my song of the summer not only because it’s good, but also because it encapsulates the feeling that filled my weeks from late July to early August with butterflies in my stomach over what’s to come — which is exactly what this hit is about.

The first listen was surprising. I expected “2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)” to be a slow ballad about romantic frustrations, similar to Adele’s “To Be Loved.” However, Special‘s track 4 is a classic upbeat pop anthem that explores the uncertainty of being ready to finally receive what you have been waiting for for so long. Lizzo wanted to be loved. Now that someone loves her at last, she is afraid that she is not ready for it. 

I had a similar experience to her — not in love, but in other areas of my life that moved on this summer. Coming into it, I wanted to find joy and comfort again after a frustrating spring that drained all of my energy.

Although I was successful, the process was filled with self-doubt. As I was invited to parties, selected for job interviews and worked on personal projects, I constantly felt insecure about being prepared to deal with all of that. These were good things that I wanted to happen — but that apprehension loomed. What was even worse was that as I realized that my goal for the summer was being achieved, I began to fear falling into the same traps that ruined my spring. 

During those moments, listening to Lizzo’s vocals repeating “to be loved” in the chorus brought me peace. That seems to be her objective after all — throughout her career, she has been vocal about wanting to make people happy and valued. For me, her happy, spontaneous self is accomplishing that. Sometimes when you’re sad, all you need is to watch a video of the pop sensation cursing during her victory speech at the VMAs. 

Taylor Swift — “This Love (Taylor’s Version)”
By Clare Gehlich

The still air clinging to the sun-kissed sky has enveloped me like a letter addressed to a tapestry of stars. I feel like I’m holding onto dreams disappearing in the starlight. Days are wasting away unfazed like silly songbirds humming a tune in a careless melody. Words feel like a runaway boat lost in a riptide, so I’m free. “This love came back to me” is what I hear softly, even when the words’ meaning echoes in my ear when I put my headphones in and find myself transported back to a memory.

I remember us sitting underneath the charged sun. The ocean blues are a billion miles away, but I can still smell the salty air like no time has passed.

He is staring at me, and I feel as though there are missing pieces of my heart in his dark eyes. It’s like coming home after you’ve been away for a long time. 

I never knew the sounds of birds harmonizing in the broken summer wind would ignite this nostalgic feeling inside me.

In silent screams, in wildest dreams, I never dreamed of this

But with the sun setting, the moon rises in the cloudy sky. I’m just waiting for him to kiss me beneath the natural glow of the moon, soft and gentle. I know because when I lean forward, I’m listening to his heart beating just as loudly as mine.

This love is good, this love is bad
This love is alive back from the dead

It’s like I’m lost at sea, and I’m set adrift by the wind and stars. “This love came back to me. I remember it all like it was yesterday. This is summer love.

Harry Styles — “Keep Driving”
By Emily Scott

This summer was arguably one of the most boring ones I’ve ever had. I was caught in a cycle of driving to work, coming home to eat a late dinner and then fucking off to my room where I would pack up the various trinkets lining my walls in anticipation of my stepdad’s impending move-in date. I mean, sure, there were a few parties here and there — but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think I even went swimming once.

That being said, it was a summer of iconic albums and singles being released across the board, ranging from Lizzo’s new album Special to Nicki Minaj’s single “Super Freaky Girl.” The release I was most excited for dropped the weekend I drove my brother home for the summer — Harry Styles released his third studio album, Harry’s House. The album did have a few standout songs, including the singles “As It Was” and “Late Night Talking.” 

After about 3,000 listens, I found myself playing “Keep Driving” on repeat. The song opens with a drum pattern that sounds like a car driving along the highway, and the differences in the pavement beneath the car when on a long stretch of road. It transitions into a beat that matches a car’s turn signals, blinking to change lanes. It’s one of the more poetic songs on the album lyrically, coming across as a metaphor for the good times in a relationship.

Maple syrup, coffee, pancakes for two
Hash brown, egg yolk, I will always love you

The bridge is where Styles strays from the romantic vibe — talking about wine, smoking and passports, in a stream of consciousness. My personal favorite piece of the bridge is “cocaine, side boob, choke her with a sea view.” At 23 years old, I 100% foamed at the mouth at the mere thought of Harry Styles choking me, let alone anywhere with a sea view. 

Styles manages to mix the nostalgia for the good times of a relationship with a mellow beat, making for an instant classic. Despite my boring summer, I knew I could “just keep driving” to and from work.

Conan Gray — “Memories”
By Lily McInerney

Summer, personally, has always been a weird mix of nostalgia and appreciation for the present. “Memories” by Conan Gray encapsulates this feeling. For most, summers mean freeing yourself from being bombarded by endless obligations — yet I find myself constantly dissecting the interactions I had with other people when I was in the bubble of my college campus. 

You see, it’s hard to find an end to something that you keep beginning
Over and over again

These lyrics beg my mind to stop beginning the same “what-if” scenarios, to stop the never-ending “Should I send that huge paragraph that has lived in the notes app of my iPhone for an embarrassing amount of time?” never-ending ruminations living in my mind.

I promise that the ending always stays the same

Essentially, Conan is promising that no matter the amount of effort you put into a person, it will never be reciprocated.

I send the big paragraph anyway. I find that Conan Gray was right. The ending does always stay the same. 

However, I’m reminded of the title of the song, “Memories.” This situation gets to be a memory for Conan Gray, not his future. Like him, I am one of those people who lets the past infiltrate her present. I promise I’m working on it. 

The melody of the entire song is reminiscent of a coming-of-age film. The ballad-like piano and sudden bursts of airy crescendos remind me that I’m lucky to be this young, to be a teenager. These memories we make when we’re young get to be the memories of us when we were young. We’ll see what happens in the future. 

Bazzi — “Miss America”
By Janet Chow

My song of the summer is “Miss America” by Bazzi. It’s upbeat and fun-loving, filling my summer with such great vibes. The song has given me that I am the moment feeling, and over the summer, I felt that I truly accomplished something. I had an internship with NEW 102.7 and it was such an amazing experience working there. I met Lizzo, pranked the #1 program director in New York City by telling him I was a “Carvel Plus” employee and asking if he was ready to have a 4-foot Fudgy the Whale cake sent to his house and worked with radio hosts like Karen Carson and Johnny Mingione, who I have listened to ever since the start of college. I loved the way this song makes me feel. It brings me back to how I felt when I got to meet Lizzo and to work with other broadcasters. 

Move like the way you move (like the way you move)
Do like the way you do (like the way you do)

The lyrics and the feel of the song made me realize that I felt accomplished and was doing what makes me the happiest — radio. Along with the internship, I also passed my road test to get my driver’s license and it felt so liberating and wholesome to finally be able to drive my mom when she’s been driving me for the past 19 years of my life. When the song comes on in the car, I always belt it out because it reminds me that I have become who I wanted to be for a long time. This song made me feel that I am truly becoming my better self and that I am my own “Miss America.” 

Ravyn Lenae and Steve Lacy — “Skin Tight”
By Antonio Mochmann

Last summer, I had to make a fairly quick decision about going to college in a place 4,000 miles away from my home, where I knew absolutely no one. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t adjust as quickly to college life as I hoped. But thankfully, my freshman year was coming to an end, and I made some really great friends who made me feel better about being so far away from home. It was around this time that I discovered “Skin Tight” by R&B singer Ravyn Lenae.

Hearing this song while experiencing a dramatic emotional shift from worry and disappointment to relief and hopefulness was exactly what I needed this summer. Steve Lacy’s dreamy and rhythmic guitar riffs, paired with Ravyn Lenae’s enchanting and hypnotic voice, lifted all the negative emotions that had been weighing me down before the summer started.

In many ways, this song felt like therapy:

Hold me while you can, hold me while you can
I’ll still be your friend, you’ll come back again
Hold me while you can, hold me while you can

The chorus serves as a gentle reminder that everything is fleeting. Emotions, people, situations 一 they all depart from your life at some point or another. The bad times will pass and I should intentionally be present in moments of bliss. The lyrics helped me realize that I need to stop obsessing over my worries. There are constants in my life that I can always fall back on 一 one of those constants being myself. 

When I went back home this summer, I spent a lot of time on my own. With my parents going to work and my brother and friends still busy with school and university, I turned to myself and music for company. Listening to “Skin Tight” felt like someone was holding me as I swayed and danced back and forth in my bedroom. My loneliness was washed away. Lenae’s soothing and intimate voice helped me unwind and ground myself, giving me a sense of peace I hadn’t felt in a while. 

If you’re feeling isolated and lonely, or if you’re looking to carry the last warm days of summer into the fall semester, Ravyn Lenae’s “Skin Tight” is the friend you can always rely on. 

Her new album, Hypnos, offers many more heartache remedies like “Skin Tight,” so be sure to listen!

Kali Uchis — “Desafinado”
By Carmela Cassara

The most fantastic movie franchise to date has to be Despicable Me. Each time a new entry releases, the public is introduced to another round of toe-tapping, spine-tingling bangers. This past summer, along with the release of the latest movie Minions: Rise of Gru, came the best soundtrack ever created. The film is set in the 1970s, so the music is all either from that era or is heavily inspired by it. It was hard to choose which one I wanted for Songs of the Summer, but I eventually realized it would have to be “Desafinado” by Kali Uchis, a cover of a classic song by Antônio Carlos Jobim. The melody is rich and nostalgic, leading the listener on a euphonious journey. It’s a plucky tune with a strong presence of acoustic guitar and keyboard, harmonizing in a pleasing way. This is the definition of a summer song — it’s playful, yet calm. The song radiates a comforting warmth that only Kali Uchis can bring to life in a song.

A keen listener can note that although the sound is a happy tune meant for a children’s movie, the lyrics are about falling out of love:

We used to harmonize, two souls in perfect time
Now the song is different, and the words don’t even rhyme
‘Cause you forgot the melody our hearts would always croon
So, what good’s a heart that’s slightly out of tune?

It feels like a poem — a story of two lovers trying to find their way back to each other, longing for their hearts to become in tune once more. It’s tragically beautiful, portraying the realities of becoming out of touch with someone you once loved and trying to make it work. Uchis conveys yearning in a tangible way through her delivery of the last few lyrics.

We’re bound to get in tune again before too long
There’ll be no desafinado
When your heart belongs to me completely
Then you won’t be slightly out of tune
You’ll sing along with me

I love that because the perspective is that of the lover trying to bring them back together, the listener is being told a biased and naive story — one that might not end the way the song explains.

“Desafinado” has depth beyond the audience of the movie and encapsulates a groovy ’70s vibe with a fun acoustic melody and playful percussion, matching the theme of the film. 

Diddy and Bryson Tiller — “Gotta Move On”
By Anthony Johnson

When I got back home from Stony Brook at the end of last semester, I had no idea how my summer would go. What would be the first thing I did with endless time on my hands? 

The night I got home, the Billboard Music Awards were on, and I decided to tune in. To my surprise, a familiar voice opened the show: Bryson Tiller. I have been a fan of his since the release of his debut album, T R A P S O U L, in 2015. He took the BBMA’s stage to debut a new single — “Gotta Move On” — with Grammy Award-winning rapper Diddy. 

The song is reminiscent of late ‘90s and early ‘00s R&B. Listening to it takes me back to my childhood, when my parents would play artists like Usher and Ne-Yo for the whole house to hear. 

“Gotta Move On” is the first release under Diddy’s new label, Love Records. Originally titled “She Don’t Want It,” the song leaked on SoundCloud back in 2018. It was intended to be included as a solo track on Tiller’s forthcoming album, Serenity

Tiller’s verses on the track illustrate how he mastered the art of rap and singing:

You done trying with me, done fighting with me, yeah 
Gave you a ring that was going off the deep end, yeah 
Oh, DeLeón, my drink for the weekend 
Sent you some things, yeah, when I was done drinking like 
Girl, he with you for the wrong reasons 
‘Cause you was with me, uh, tell him stop reaching (stop reaching) 
Guess that’s just the jealous in me 
I’m salty, I need it, my wounds keep bleeding 

While Diddy does not play a major role in the song, he is still credited as the main artist. Hearing him on the song was a pleasant addition, transporting me back to the ‘00s. 

Looking back, watching the Billboard Music Awards that night heavily influenced the music I listened to this summer. If I hadn’t done so, I would have never found “Gotta Move On,” a perfect representation of fun R&B music that is fit for the summertime. 

My one question is: Where’s the album, Bryson?

070 Shake — “Blue Velvet”
By Sophia Trifoli

I came back home in early May from a semester across the country in Flagstaff, Arizona, riding on a love-blind train. I was finally breaking the distance of a then-thriving relationship, and ecstatic to see where the summer would take me and my partner. As the beginning of June approached, we were both equally excited to hear that 070 Shake was going to drop new music. 

Her sophomore album You Can’t Kill Me was released June 3, 2022. In it, the American rapper and singer tells us stories from her exhilarating and anguishing personal life using dynamic, synth-filled melodies and harrowing drums. The album’s sixth track, an agonizing ballad titled “Blue Velvet,” is jarringly beautiful — it began to stand out to me as this summer came to a close, and my relationship was put on hold.

The song begins with an eerily pulsating string of drums layered over a trilling vocal mix. Continuous, heart-wrenching beats that continue throughout the song immerse the listener into the bittersweet and panic-filled moment that Shake is singing about. 

That blue velvet 
You wore the first night that I felt it 
I felt the touch of you 
I’m worried I could lose you any second 
I’ll always remember 

She is singing of the conflicting, constantly changing feelings and thoughts that she has about her ex-lover, describing the stinging fear she has of losing this person and knowing that the connection they had is something she will never be able to forget. 

I’m not running straight 
I’m running in circles 
The love that I thought I had 
I don’t deserve you 
Now that it’s over 
I’m reminded of you 

As the song slows to an end, a symphony of violins emerges and Shake repeats the same tortured lines that she began with. Her tone has changed now, demonstrating an acceptance of reality — she and her first lover have parted ways.

In this track, 070 Shake has encapsulated the different emotions that can strike a person when they allow themselves to reminisce on the time spent with a first love — something that, for many, can feel so equally beautiful and gut-wrenching. 

I have no other choice than to make “Blue Velvet” my song of the summer, and yet it is a song that I never imagined would resonate so deeply with me by the end of August. This summer was full of many firsts for me — whether it was one of the firsts that filled me with pure and innocent joy, or the one that stripped me of that, I found myself constantly entwined in new experiences. 070 Shake put words to the notion of heartbreak, a feeling that many, including myself, have intensely felt at different points this summer, yet never knew how to grasp and describe.

Listen to our picks with the Spotify playlist below!

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