The songs we danced to, the songs we cried to: Robyn, The Ramones, Sublime, Ella Fitzgerald, Cardi B, and, of course, Prince.
Some songs were made for summer. Now that the end is upon us, we wanted to reflect on what was playing when we brought out the extra box fan, took scissors to last year’s jeans, and shook out our sandy coolers. Given the state of the world, no one will begrudge you an escape to some sugary pop or soul-hugging ballads, so listen deeply.
Saira: “Dancing on My Own,” by Robyn
"I'm just gonna dance all night
I'm all messed up, I'm so out of line
Stilettos and broken bottles
I'm spinning around in circles."
This summer, I danced, I hiked, and I swam. I stayed up way too late and sometimes slept way too early. I was daring. I was scared. I was honest, but occasionally not honest enough. I ended things that were going nowhere and started things that may go somewhere. I fell in lust and I fell out of like. And I did it all with Robyn on repeat. I know this song is old–seven years old to be exact–but, this summer, the song gave me new meaning and reminded me that, sometimes, I just wanna twirl around and dance all night. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Gabrielle: “Doin’ Time” by Sublime
"Summertime and the living's easy
And Bradley's on the microphone with ras m.g.
All the people in the dance will agree
That we're well qualified to represent the LBC
Me, me and Louie run to the party
Dance to the rhythm it gets harder."
As Sublime fans know, the original version of this song doesn’t actually begin with lyrics about summer. But no matter the version, this track will always make me think of hot days at the beach, greasy sunglasses, ice cream melting on my hands and sand in my bathingsuit. The first tinkling notes and scratchy vinyl pops remind me of Rockaway boys on longboards, nights building bonfires and afternoons baking in the sun. I play this album in its entirety every summer and I intend to continue the tradition forever.
Frida: “Don’t Fence Me In” sung by Ella Fitzgerald
"Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in."
Though this song – originally written by Cole Porter and Robert Fletcher in 1934 – has been covered countless times, for me there is only one version. Ella Fitzgerald’s incomparable voice seems to follow the direction of the lyrics and burst through its restraints; it’s impossible not to sing (or in my case, shout) along outside on a sunny day or inside a store, where I’m convincing myself I really can pull off a cowboy hat.
Laura: “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones
"Chewin' at a rhythm on my bubble gum
The sun is out, I want some
It's not hard, not far to reach
We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach."
Though The Ramones released “Rockaway Beach” in 1977 when New York City was a far cry from the New York City of today, this summer song remains evergreen. This unlikely beach anthem by the punk quartet laments the age-old dilemma for Manhattan and Brooklyn-ites alike: how the fuck are we gonna get to the beach?
Sara: “Raspberry Beret” by Prince
"She wore a
The kind you find in a second hand store
And if it was warm she wouldn't wear much more
I think I love her."
In 2016, we lost the magical Prince, but he lives on through his music. I felt the sultry vibe of this song all summer. To me, it’s a song about spotting someone and immediately being drawn to them—whether it’s that “raspberry beret,” a fresh tan, the perfect man bun, or the whole swagger. A summer fling anthem at times–it played during a few of my fave summer moments: eating fish tacos at Rockaway Beach, dancing on a roof overlooking the city, and cruising through the countryside on the way to Storm King Art Center. Plus in the music video he’s wearing a dreamy baby blue suit patterned with clouds. Blue skies baby–if that’s not what you want to see all summer, then I don’t know what is.
Monica: “Bodak Yellow [Latin Trap Remix]” by Cardi B
Soy la más dura en la calle, know you prolly heard of me
Me busca, me arreglé los dientes, hope you hoes know it ain't cheap
Pago la renta de mi madre y no dependo de nadie
When I think of the drumbeat to my summer, I think of Cardi B, the Bronx reality TV star who endlessly hustled her way into a rap career. She snickers, she’s ronca loud, she’s the woman who threw down the gauntlet and declared in no uncertain terms, “if a girl have beef with me, she gon’ have beef with me…foreva,” and when that phrase went viral, she had the business savvy to turn it into a single.
It’s the English version of “Bodak Yellow” that’s become the highest-charting Billboard single by a female rapper since Nicki Minaj, but I enjoy the Latin Trap version, because I admire the ease with which Cardi B slips between the two languages, one more lesson of confidence Cardi’s taught me. When I channel Cardi B’s self-assured bark of “Lil bitch, you can’t fuck with me ni aunque tú quieras” on the subway, men don’t sit next to me on the train, bless.
In “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B boasts how she can get men to buy her carteras and Yves Saint Laurent, but she’s also honest about the effort it takes to pay her Mama’s bills. Fixing her teeth took money, so “hope you hoes know it ain’t cheap.” Listening to her, I’m reminded of Zadie Smith’s explanation on why rappers love talking about their stuff.
“Boasting is a formal condition of the epic form,” Smith writes. “And those taught that they deserve nothing rightly enjoy it when they succeed in terms the culture understands.”