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Ryan Johnson, Published August 15 2013

Johnson: Skip the summer song showdown for classics

FARGO – Who will win the much-hyped battle to have 2013’s song of the summer?

Who cares.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some good tunes during the best season of the year, a time when music goes well with just about everything.

But why bother changing up our summer soundtrack every year, choosing today’s hit songs that will fade away by fall when there’s so much great music that’s stood the test of time?

I understand the appeal of having a fresh batch of tunes for a summer party, and not every song of the summer is bad.

I still crank up the radio for Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” the inescapable summer song of 2006.

This summer, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” have played on a never-ending loop in my mind, and I’m still not sick of them.

Both songs are among the nominees for the newly created “Best Song of the Summer” category of the MTV Video Music Awards, which airs Aug. 25.

But the other contenders – One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Calvin Harris – prove that many summer songs are better off not constantly playing in the background of every get-together.

Look no further than the song of 2012, the insufferable “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, to see just how bad it can be.

Here are some songs from the past that belong on every summer soundtrack.

“Under the Boardwalk” – The Drifters (1964): With vivid lyrics about the hot days of summer and plans to fall in love, it’s hard to get much better than this.

“California Girls” – The Beach Boys (1965): The hit that has become the undeniable theme song of The Beach Boys shows no signs of losing its summer appeal almost 50 years after its release.

“(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding (1968): There’s nothing particularly summery about this classic from one of the best singers of all time. Still, I can’t think of a better song for a lazy summer day.

“In the Summertime” – Mungo Jerry (1970): An ode to the carefree days of summer, this song will work for anyone (but don’t follow the singer’s advice to have a drink and a drive).

“Vacation” – The Go Go’s (1982): You can’t go wrong using this song to start every summer vacation.

“Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (1991): This Grammy Award-winning Will Smith classic is meant to play at full blast with the windows rolled down on every summer cruise.

“Steal My Sunshine” – Len (1999): I liked this song when I was 14, and I still like it 14 years later. The ’90s nostalgia works for me, but anyone can appreciate the one-hit wonder that sampled 1976 disco single “More, More, More” for a song that oozes summer with every beat.

“Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley (2006): The pulsing beat, the amazing vocals of Cee Lo Green and the cryptic lyrics all add up to a perfect summer song.

“Constructive Summer” – The Hold Steady (2008): Loaded with pop culture references and an undeniable optimism about planning the perfect summer, this is one of my favorite songs for the start of each summer.

Honorable mentions: “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful; “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley; “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts; “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone; “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587