‘Under the Boardwalk,’ The Drifters
An oldie but goodie that feels summery and reminds everyone of summers at the beach, this song is loosely about a couple meeting up under the boardwalk for some shade and alone time. Despite being recorded in 1964, “Under the Boardwalk” still gets a lot of airtime when summer rolls around and was ranked No. 489 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time.
‘Cruel Summer,’ Bananarama
Summer songs are usually upbeat, because who doesn’t love the sunshine and memories of not having to go to school? Not so with this ’80s hit from Bananarama. Singer and songwriter Sara Dallin has said of the song: “For me, our hit ‘Cruel Summer’ played on the darker side: it looked at the oppressive heat, the misery of wanting to be with someone as the summer ticked by. We’ve all been there!” At the very least, anyone with a broken air conditioner can relate to “Cruel Summer.”
‘In the Summertime,’ Mungo Jerry
The name might not ring a bell right away, but odds are you’ve heard this bouncy ode to summer. The song has been featured in a number of commercials, television shows, and movies, including Wedding Crashers, The Simpsons, Veronica Mars, The Crying Game, and Despicable Me 2. The 1970 single sounds upbeat but a few of the lyrics are problematic, particularly “Have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find”—which was later used in an anti-drinking-and-driving campaign.
‘Hot Hot Summer Day,’ The Sugarhill Gang
“Hot Hot Summer Day” combines the disco funk of 1976 with the Sugarhill Gang’s signature rap. It’s a simple groove about the arrival of summer, “the best time of the year.” There’s not much depth to this one, but there doesn’t need to be. Relaxing during the summer by the pool is enough reason to make a fun song.
‘The Warmth of the Sun,’ The Beach Boys
“The Warmth of the Sun” is somewhat melancholy but very beautiful. It isn’t so much a celebration of summer as a song about a love that was not reciprocated. All that remains after the love of the singer’s life is gone are the memories that linger “like the warmth of the sun.” The song was never released as a single but is among the best in the Beach Boys’ catalog. It is a gorgeous ballad, though not one to play unless you want the mood to dip drastically.
‘The Heat Is On,’ Glenn Frey
This song was written specifically for the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack but managed to find a life of its own as a rocking ’80s track and summer staple. “The Heat Is On” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, and sports fans at games this summer have a good chance of hearing it—the song has been used by the Miami Heat, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the New York Mets.
‘Hot in the City,’ Billy Idol
The video for “Hot in the City” was a little too hot for TV and was banned by MTV for its depiction of Idol’s girlfriend clad in a bondage outfit and lashed to a cross. The heat in this song may be less related to the weather and more to Idol and the “long-legged lovely” mentioned in the lyrics. Spin this one if the mood requires something less sunny and more steamy.
‘Summer in the City,’ The Lovin’ Spoonful
Rock band the Lovin’ Spoonful found success with “Summer in the City’ in 1966. The song, from the album Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful, spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts and was named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone.
‘Hot in Herre,’ Nelly
Nelly’s advice for cooling down? Simple—take off all your clothes. The 2002 single “Hot in Herre,” from the album Nellyville, was the rapper’s first No. 1 hit and even earned him a Grammy for Best Male Rap Solo Performance. More than a decade later, it remains a highlight of Nelly’s career and is still a staple at clubs.
‘Hotter Than Hell,’ Kiss
Hot, hot, hotter than hell! “Hotter Than Hell” first appeared on Kiss’s 1974 album of the same name. It was never released as a single but was a B-side to “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Written by Paul Stanley, the song has reappeared on several of the band’s subsequent albums.
‘Long Hot Summer Night,’ The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“Long Hot Summer Night” was released on 1968’s Electric Ladyland, the third album from the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the last one before Hendrix’s death in September 1970. The song features special backing vocals from Hendrix and the addition of Al Kooper on piano.
‘Temperature,’ Sean Paul
“Temperature” was released as a single in 2006 from The Trinity, the third album from Jamaican artist Sean Paul. The song spent 17 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 1. Unfortunately for one Sean Paul fan, the song proved to be problematic—it triggered seizures.
‘Heat Wave,’ Martha and the Vandellas
“Heat Wave” was released in 1963 by the female Motown group Martha and the Vandellas on its second album of the same name. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned the group its only Grammy nomination. Written by the popular songwriting trio Holland-Dozier-Holland, the song was covered by several artists in the ensuing years, including Linda Ronstadt on her 1975 album Prisoner in Disguise.