The 50 best summer songs: Hit the beach with these summertime tunes

The sun is out, the beach is a bus ride away, and you live in New York City. All you need is our best summer songs playlist and you’re good to go.



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“Suddenly Last Summer” by the Motels (1983)

Despite being named for a particularly grisly one-act play by Tennessee Williams, this ubiquitous staple of early MTV caught on because of its wistful nostalgia for transitory pleasures—and, let’s face it, for the sultry voice and bedroom eyes of singer Martha Davis, who claims she was thinking about ice-cream trucks passing by.—Steve Smith

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“This Summer” by Squeeze (1995)

British new wave pop heroes Squeeze may have made their name with the London-centric kitchen-sink detail in their lyrics, but the giddy lovers in this gorgeous 1995 summer-romance song are only too recognizable, caught in an ecstatic embrace “like two flags wrapped around a pole.” The chorus, too, gives you butterflies: “This summer we pulled all the sheets off the bed / I’m so happy I can’t get you out of my head.” Same goes for the song, fellas.—Sophie Harris

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“Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers (1967)

“All summer long, we spent dancin’ in the sand,” sings rock & roller Johnny Rivers on this urgent, romantic 1967 hit, “And the jukebox kept on playin’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” While your teenage, sandy embraces may have been soundtracked by something far more modern, it’s a blissful head trip to imagine yourself in the middle of this song.—Sophie Harris

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Kool and the Gang

“Summer Madness” by Kool & the Gang (1974)

Madness isn’t exactly the emotional state that this gorgeous, easygoing 1974 instrumental track evokes; instead, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a sultry afternoon spent lazing in the park. Its swooning synth, shimmering Rhodes piano and hazy-day melody have been sampled countless times—notably for DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s ode to backyard barbecuing, “Summertime”—but more than that, the track has served as inspiration for pretty much every chill-out act worth its downtempo groove, from Air to Zero 7.—Bruce Tantum

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“Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg, featuring Pharrell (2004)

Whether you love it or hate it, every ultimate summertime party playlist needs Snoop Dogg’s 2004 hip-hop track “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” From Pharrell’s tongue-clicking to Snoop Dogg’s nonchalant instructions to just drop it, park it and pop it like it’s hot (in any situation possible), you can’t help but bump to this song as soon as it starts.—Rachel Sonis

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“The Joy” by Kanye West, Pete Rock and Jay-Z

Yeezy really spoiled us back in 2010, with his G.O.O.D. Music Friday giveaways, and this track was easily the finest of the set. Together with production genius Pete Rock, West put together an exquisite summer kiss of a song that sampled Curtis Mayfield’s dreamy “The Makings of You” and a snip from Syl Johnson’s “Different Strokes” (that “uh!” sample). Add into that a flow from West that conjures hot sidewalks, sticky summertime sex, and the urban grind, and then a guest spot from Jay-Z. It’s almost too much, too excessively luscious and grimy—just like summer in the city.—Sophie Harris

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“Sunny Afternoon” by the Kinks (1966)

This is 1966 anthem is probably the only tune on the list that doubles as a tongue-in-cheek protest against high progressive taxation: “The taxman’s taken all my dough, and left me in my stately home,” sighs Ray Davies’s bon vivant narrator, adding, “And I can’t sail my yacht, he’s taken everything I’ve got.” Wry and funny. “Sunny Afternoon” is also one hell of a summer tune. From its languid melodies to Davies’s hypnotic vocals, we might as well all be “lazin’ ”—or “blazin’,” depending on how you hear it—“on a sunny afternoon in the summertime.”—Rachel Sonis

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“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry (1970)

A giddy, unguilty pleasure of a one-hit-wonder track, this 1970 best-seller bounces with a feeling that positively radiates effervescent summertime fun. Because of one lyric in particular—“have a drink, have a drive / go out and see what you can find,” the tune also surfaced in a U.K. public service campaign against drunk driving.—Steve Smith

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“Summer Nights” by John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and the cast of Grease (1978)

What would summer be without summer flings? Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey capture the magic of transient teen romance in this clever doo-wop number from their 1972 musical, Grease, which achieved even greater cultural ubiquity in its blockbuster 1978 movie adaptation. The song’s playful he-said-she-said structure enacts (and lightly spoofs) 1950s gender roles: The guys are all about sex and braggadocio, while the girls want to hear about tenderness and status. And the sing-along choruses make “Summer Nights” an ideal vessel for groups at karaoke bars, where you can hear it every night, all year round.—Adam Feldman

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“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” by Meat Loaf (1977)

“On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?” Get past that torrid bit of opening narrative, and what remains is the former Marvin Lee Aday’s first single, and one of his best, a retro-feeling, slightly bombastic paean to discovering first love on a hot summer night.—Steve Smith

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Users say

Martha Johnson
Martha Johnson

The real kick comes from seeing how good a song makes people feel, not making a "best ever list". Still it wouldn't hurt when you do see your song in there with some of these epic summer hits. I sang the original lead vocal on 'Martha and the Muffins' song ECHO BEACH and here it is 33 years later and the song endures. That's satisfaction. MJ


where is--- Surf City by Jan and Dean, and Margaritaville by Buffett. also, Day of the Locusts by B Dylan. i could only read down to # 47. TONY website is always technically F*&^% up

Bill Blagger
Bill Blagger

Did I miss Echo Beach? Did I miss Echo Beach? So far away in time.

Paul Czekaj
Paul Czekaj

Hi my name is Paul Czekaj, Singer/songwriter from New Jersey. I've just released a new music video called "At the Beach." It shows all the fun and interesting things one can do where the sand meets ocean. I hope you enjoy it and add it to your beach list. here's the link: Thanks!


Well, I must say I was rather disappointed to see Sinatra's "Summer Wind" omitted from this list as well as not one Jimmy Buffet song being included. And have NO clue why that Meatloaf song is on a summertime song top 50 list. However, you redeemed yourselves by including my favorite band of all time...The Ramones. Oh, did "Hazy, Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole make the list? I forgot if it was on here, if not then that should have been on here too.

Jack Watters
Jack Watters

"Summertime" by The Sundays is better than about 20 songs on this list. Perfect summer pop song!

Tammy sharpe
Tammy sharpe

Thanks it really helped! We as at a bar and grill and a band was taken requests for songs to sing or play!!! I love surf city, NC;P

Tim A
Tim A

@Martha Johnson  Really? That is on most of my summer playlists. Not sure if you are still in Toronto but they play you a lot on Sundays on 102.1. From 11-5 they go back to the glory days. 

This list is pretty junk anyway. 

TONY summer songs playlist on Spotify

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