Featured, General, WFNY Roundtable

The Songs of the Summer of 2015: WFNY Makes Lists

I hate to say it, but as the Facebook school bus photo flood is already mostly over, it’s time to admit that the summer of 2015 is in the rearview. One of the greatest parts of summer is trying to figure out what the coolest songs were. Believe it or not, I had the tape single for Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” back when I was an innocent 13-year-old in the summer of 1992. In 1996 all of Cleveland was listening to Bone’s “Tha Crossroads” as far as I’m concerned. We’re not authorities to definitively name some universal song of the summer, but we’re sharing our individual picks just the same.

Make sure you share yours with us in the comments.

“Waitress” by Hop Along (Craig)

I just can’t pick one of the typical “songs of the summer.” There are a lot of good options this year, but I’d rather pick something that I was absolutely obsessed with for the entirety of the summer. I’ve shared the band Hop Along too many times with you already, but I just have to dissect this song a bit more.

I picked “Waitress” because it’s upbeat, kind of bouncy, and expertly blends simplistic song-writing with intricate guitar rhythms. The vocals are both aggressive and fragile. The verses are half the size of the understated chorus. The song structure feels like it’s there, but it’s all so free form hitting highs wherever the hell the song damn well pleases. And when it hits highs it’s in the female guttural throat of lead singer Frances Quinlan.

Regardless of anything else, this is my song of the summer because it accompanied me all summer long. The album was released in May, but I really didn’t take to it until a month or so later. It accompanied me on my vacation to Charleston South Carolina and I listened to it up and down the highway between. I took it on runs including a few races through the summer’s brutal heat and humidity.

This album will likely crush the competition for the entire year, but even something unseats it, nothing will knock “Waitress” off the top of my list from the summer of 2015.

“Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap (Scott)

Easily the song of the summer, “Trap Queen” has had several chapters to its warm month-success. I’ll be the first to admit that Fetty isn’t exactly easy on the eyes, but what he’s been able to do with this single track over the course of the year has been transcendent in a way that most hip-hop songs cannot, overstepping cultural and demographical boundaries that oftentimes keep tracks like this well below the radar. There was a stretch this year where members of the Kansas City Royals were responding to post-game inquiries with references to the song (“17-for-38,” for example). One of Taylor Swift’s coveted circle of guests—in Seattle, I believe—was Fetty, where the two collaborated on the track in the most T-Swift of ways. It’s a song that has generated well-thought, well-written essays about it’s impact, one referencing it as “our generation’s greatest love song.”

Lyrics to the song have been caption fodder for tweets, Instagram uploads and Facebook posts alike. Countless user-created playlists have featured the track—so much so that it’s been out for months and is still featured on Apple Music’s “Top Songs,” ahead of pop forces like “Bad Blood” and “Uptown Funk.” It’s been turned into dozens of YouTube acoustic covers and even one Jewish a capella. And potentially the most poignant reason for its undeniable place in this summer’s music lore: It’s forced erstwhile unassuming white folks to Google “bando.” I’m like hey, what’s up, hello.

“Dimed Out” by Titus Andronicus (Andrew)

So, Craig said I had to keep this short and brief, which is, for me, quite the challenge. If it were up to me, I would spend a good five to ten paragraphs debating the merits of a “song of the summer” and what that really means. The concept of a “song of the summer” is antithetical to how I think about and process music. Picking an album of the summer would be far easier for me (A$AP Rocky’s “A.L.L.A”), but I’ll be good boy and play along.

My pick for “song of the summer” is “Dimed Out” by Titus Andronicus. Musically, it’s the raucous kind of song that I love to blast at full volume in my car with all the windows down, driving down the freeway and singing along at the top of my lungs. Lyrically, the concept of being “dimed out” refers to having every single knob on your amps, processors, and effects pedals turned up to the maximum 101, a concept which reflects what summer is all about to me.

As Titus frontman Patrick Stickles explains, “People think [“Dimed Out”] means merely making something louder, but these people have never met the feedback loop on a delay pedal or the regeneration knob on an MXR Pitch Transposer. Setting these to ten may not necessarily make the signal louder, but they will certainly make it much, much more extreme.” And that’s what summer is. It’s all about living to the extreme and pushing everything to the extreme. In the story of the Titus Andronicus album “The Most Lamentable Tragedy”, the song “Dimed Out” is about a character expressing his feelings as an artist wanting to live life to its extreme and deriving power from the sun. That’s a sentiment I think many of us can relate to. “But then I saw the sun and felt its light’s power.”

“Asking For a Friend” by the Foreign Exchange (Will)

The idea of summertime as three-month vacation ends once you leave school, but the spirit of that vacation should never die. It’s liberating and necessary, that feeling of the summer months as an escape from whatever ails you. “Asking For a Friend” by the Foreign Exchange, a hip-hop/R&B/electronic group, offers exactly that sensation. The video for the first single off of the album Tales From the Land of Milk and Honey opens with visions of the workday — the business section of the Wall Street Journal, coffee, staplers, and the like — but shifts gears and becomes a dance party.

It’s basically a take on a house song, defined by producer Nicolay’s open hi-hats and layered percussion. Frontman Phonte Coleman puts on a London gentleman’s accent, reportedly borrowed from Rick James, as he sings about his life of industry that leaves no time for the proverbial party. He isn’t the one looking for the party; as he explains, he’s merely asking for a friend.

It’s a fun and funny song, one meant to get your mind out of the office and onto the dance floor. Summer may no longer mean months’ worth of vacation, but this tune offers a similar feeling for at least a few minutes.

“Spring” by My Morning Jacket (Kyle)

I’m probably not the best person to ask about “the song of the summer,” because none of the tunes flooding the airwaves and spilling onto the sidewalks from car windows this year meant anything to me personally. Any top-40 answer I give would just accompany the explanation, “because it’s catchy and the kids between ages 12 and 16 seem to like it”? Sure, The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel my Face” and Jamie XX’s “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” feat. Young Thug and Popcaan are catchy as hell and make me move my hips in a way that can only barely be construed as “dancing.” But that still just meant they were the songs I was most likely hearing as I wished I was doing something else.

I suppose I (like Andrew) subscribe to the “the windows down and the car stereo at 11” test for a summer song, because I identify with music that’s less about dancefloors and more about open roads, endless possibilities, and unbridled freedom. And because the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica” (maybe the most summery song ever), Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream,” and Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” didn’t come out this century let alone this year (and Ryan Adams has only released his tracks covering Taylor Swift’s 1989 in snippets via Instagram), my song of the summer is My Morning Jacket’s “Spring (Among the Living),” from The Waterfall, released in May.2

Rapid-fire guitars and percussion combine with Jacket’s southern rock charm to create a sound like Interpol impersonating Lynyrd Skynyrd, playing over the lyrics, “Boy, I was ready. Boy, I was ready for spring. Its beauty changes; Changes everything.” To me, the songs of summer aren’t the ones that were the most heard over the course of one summer, but the ones that bring summer with them wherever they’re played. And nothing clears up my winter SAD (aka Seasonal Affective Disorder) better than the Jim James primal howl. Maybe it’s more appropriately called the “song of spring,” the tune’s symbolic rebirth necessitates the exuberance of summer — after all, you can’t have summer without “Spring.”3

“Cheerleader” by OMI (Jessica)

Pardon me for saying, but this song is catchy AF. I started hearing it months ago on the embarrassingly titled “Pop Chillout” playlist on Spotify, and I’ve been pretty hooked ever since. The beat of the wood block. Can’t miss saxophone in a way that doesn’t make me think of “Careless Whisper.” My ears were in love.

I had never heard of OMI, and I kind of assumed no one else had either. Then, all of the sudden, this song was a thing—and it was everywhere. I did a little digging, and it turns out “Cheerleader” was originally released in 2012. (Wait, what?) Producer Felix Jaehn got his hands on it two years later and remixed it. He stripped out some of the reggae, turned up the tempo and now… here we are. It’s a fun little Jamaican-pop gem and I dare you not to smile when you listen to it. Sure, OMI has a bit of “one-hit wonder” written all over him, but who cares? This upbeat track has been perfect for summer. (PS, in case he’s not a OHW, it’s pronounced “OH-mee.” You’re welcome.)

“House Party” by Sam Hunt (Josh)

This song may have debuted a year ago, but it finally hit the hot charts earlier this summer, with Sam Hunt becoming more popular as well. Being a huge country music fan, I had a hard time choosing just one song as my favorite “Song of the Summer.” Some people may believe that all country music is the same (pointing at you, Scott), but this song is all about the party, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to party?

It’s one of my favorites because “House Party” is a fast-paced song, with not only a great beat, but plenty of good, party-type lyrics as well. The song reminds me of some of my favorite parts of summer (besides sports.) We played this one during tailgates at Blossom. It was a staple hanging out with my buddies, and the not-so-often house parties in Medina, Ohio, because let’s be honest, there aren’t many parties in Medina.

Sam Hunt may not be the most popular artist in country music, but this song is amongst the most popular of the summer, not only for me, but for the country music world. Whether you are a country music fan or not, you’ve got to like a song like this.

It’s me, Craig again. So there you have it, WFNY’s songs of the summer. I’m super proud that nobody picked “Shut up and Dance.” I mean if you like that song, fine, but just realize that you might as well be listening to Jon Secada or some equally middle-of-the-road adult contemporary music from the late 80’s or early 90’s replete with vapid lyrics and monotone four-beat march-like rhythm. Just a hint people, but if you can also clap on the ones and threes as well as the twos and fours, the song might not be all that cool.

Enough with the negativity. Tell us the other great songs of the summer that we might have missed.

  1. Unless we’re talking about Spinal Tap’s famous Marshall Amps which go to 11, thus being “one louder”. []
  2. It’s admittedly a lazy choice, as they’re one of my favorite bands and I’m not really stepping outside my comfort zone here. []
  3. There’s a cool Song Exploder episode about the making of this song, if you’re into that sort of thing. []