Glastonbury and the solstice have passed, and the hot season is in full swing. High time to decide on the summer song of 2023 – with a bit of helpful guidance from the experts.
In what feels like something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, streaming giant Spotify recently published its annual Songs of Summer predictions and trends round-up, complete with a playlist.
A list of “red-hot hits” assembled by their “global curation team”, a crack squad of data-crunching hipster tipsters who I like to imagine all look a bit like the late John McCririck dressed in a bikini (sorry for putting that image in your head).
Long gone are the days when summer smash hits were innocently literal like Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday (1963), or cheerfully sexist like Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back (1992) or came with a fun novelty dance routine for the whole family like Los Del Río’s Macarena (1996).
Coming up with the evocative soundtrack for pool parties, barbecues and rainy caravan holidays in Whitley Bay is serious, big-money business, full of complex human emotions, heavyweight guest features and autotune applied as liberally as warm lager and sunscreen.
Here’s our hot take on six of this year’s sweltering belters. But will we still love them come autumn?
Guide to summer songs 2023
4EVA – Kaytraminé feat. Pharrell Williams
The super duo comprising US rapper Aminé and Haitian-Canadian record producer Kaytranada team up with one of the most nailed-on hitmakers ever to do it for a hazy-addictive Afrobeat jam that promises to be all over not just this summer but all the summers to come. Pharrell’s smooth chorus of “that means forever” floats in wistfully as if on the warm breeze. But if gently yearning was meant to be the mood, then Aminé didn’t get the memo, with horndog rhymes leaving nothing to the imagination.
Cruel Summer – Taylor Swift
The only song in the list to fulfil the surely important summertime anthem criteria of containing the word “summer” in the title is neither a Bananarama cover, nor indeed a new song, being as it originates from Swift’s 2019 album Lover. A throbbing synth-pop heartbreaker about ephemeral seasonal romance, Cruel Summer is resurging in popularity right now thanks to being a staple of TayTay’s Eras Tour setlist. If you’re that droopy lad from The 1975 whom she reportedly dumped a while back, this song may make a lot of sense to you.
Not Strong Enough – Boygenius
Headlining festivals everywhere from now until end of August, Boygenius – AKA Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus – are the BFF supergroup of the summer. With the soaring emo indie-rock of Not Strong Enough they’re here to fulfil that niche but important requirement for a summer anthem that doesn’t make you want to drink six Aperol spritzes and do something regrettable in a fountain, but rather slump sullenly in the shade all alone dressed in black, writing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg. Feeling bad never felt so good.
Dance The Night (from Barbie: The Album) – Dua Lipa
The theme song from what promises to be the blockbuster film of the summer, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, is a suitably campy-fun electro-funk banger by English-Albanian disco queen Dua Lipa. It’s the first taste of a full soundtrack album put together by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, featuring Charli XCX, Haim, Ice Spice, Lizzo, Nicki Minaj and, um, Aqua (those Europop Danes of Nineties novelty hit Barbie Girl fame). Plastic fantastic!
A good grasp of Spanish is required to appreciate the finer points of whatever Puerto Rican superstar rapper-producer and occasional professional wrestler Benito ‘Bad Bunny’ Ocasio is on about in this moody and thumping Latin trap floor-filler. Though the bit near the end where he throws in a sprinkle of English (“I wanna feel that pussy again!”) may provide a clue. A sinisterly recurrent gun-cocking sample slightly upsets the sexy flow, but a man with bad in his name has to keep up appearances.
Miracle – Calvin Harris with Ellie Goulding
A song so fiercely evocative of being in a provincial nightclub circa 1995 that you can practically smell the pong of ingrained vomit off the ancient carpet, squeaky-voiced trance-rave throwback Miracle might have been better titled “I can’t believe it’s not Robert Miles!” It finds Mr Summertime Anthem Calvin Harris reuniting for a third time with Ellie Goulding, as she ponders “Are you too cynical to believe in a miracle?” while sounding like she’s huffing on a great big canister of helium.
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