Sharps and Flats: A sublime Spotify summer symphony


There’s nothing any student at the College of William and Mary loves more after an arduous semester than summer. The smell of Coppertone sunscreen, a menagerie of tan lines, the drive-in movies, post-beach dinners with sunkissed skin and salty hair and of course, pumping your latest summer mixtape (coincidentally the name of a great album by THE DRIVER ERA) through the stereo of your car. In my book, there’s nothing quite like it. 

I was born in mid-July in some of the brightest Southern sunshine and in the depths of an infamously intense Southwestern Virginia heat wave, making me a summer girl from the very beginning. The season has always been something to look forward to, regardless of whether it’s getting out of school for the year, wearing tank tops and shorts or having a socially acceptable reason to wear shoes as infrequently as possible. However, I’ve always found one of the most characteristic things about this season to be its potential for a serious kicker of a soundtrack — we’re talking a “Mamma Mia,” “Perks of Being a Wallflower” tunnel scene, “Teen Beach Movie”-level of iconic summer playlist.  

Once the weather starts to warm up, and the mornings grow ever-more bright, I inevitably find myself counting the days until the end of the school year, yearning for my summer freedoms. And this countdown always begins when I decide to make my newest summer playlist. 

Especially now that we’re getting to the final days of the semester at the College, the musical architect in me is in full swing. I listen to little bits of everything, and I’d like to recommend to students of the College some of my grooviest, most beloved summer tracks that absolutely scream sunshine in a song (to get the full hand-picked list, check out my personal playlist). I can tell you for certain that these songs will definitely get their mileage in my Honda’s stereo this summer.

I’d like to start off strong with some always dependable classics – many of which I shamelessly took from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” Volumes 1 and 2 playlists. “Southern Nights” by Glen Campbell and “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass are two such songs. Both tunes have mellow, down-to-earth vibes, and tell vivid, complex stories in their lyrics. Every time I listen to these songs, I conjure images of sitting on a screened-in porch at night, listening to the crickets and cicadas and watching the moon rise (especially with “Southern Nights,” which, as you can probably tell from the title, talks about this exact kind of thing). 

I’d also put “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” by the Eagles into this same category. If you’re looking for a more energetic classic summer song, I’d send you the way of the Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan, with the songs “Good Vibrations,” “Think About Me” and “Reelin’ In the Years,” respectively. In this same vein of music is the recently minted band Daisy Jones and The Six, born out of the Amazon Prime adaptation of the Taylor Jenkins Reid novel. Featuring Riley Keogh (Daisy Jones) and Sam Claflin (Billy Dunne) as lead singers, Daisy Jones and The Six is pumping out music reminiscent of bands I’ve already mentioned. If you’re thinking you might like their music, I highly recommend “Let Me Down Easy” and “Aurora,” two of their most iconic and “summery” tracks. 

If you’re looking for something from the more current music scene that could still be called a “throwback,” I’d start with at least a few songs from One Direction. Recently, I’ve found myself choosing “One Thing” and “Diana” over the more well-known and familiar “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Live While We’re Young.” In my opinion, though, you really can’t go wrong with any One Direction song if you’re looking for early 2000’s throwbacks. So much of their music has that kind of pop bubbliness that absolutely screams “summer” to me and has great sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-in-the-car potential. 

If you enjoy One Direction but want something a little more recent, musically complex and with more mature themes and vocals, I would suggest giving Niall Horan’s “Heartbreak Weather” album a listen, particularly the title track and the song “Dear Patience.” His music has a certain honeyed, melodic and sunny quality that helps relieve my fatigue with the trite and traditional pop sounds we often hear with artists like (brace yourselves for a hot take) Harry Styles. Not to mention, Horan is releasing his third album on June 9, and I’m sure it will become integrated into my summer soundtrack; with pre-releases like “Heaven” and “Meltdown,” I’m not sure how it couldn’t be. 

Moving on to other, non-1D related throwback tracks, I will forever recommend listening to Michael Franti and Spearhead. You might not recognize the name, but you’ll certainly know their smash-hit “Say Hey (I Love You),” which is a constant on any and all of my summer playlists. I’d also encourage students to listen to “The Sound of Sunshine”, which is another bright, bubbly, beach volleyball-esque song that sounds like it would play in the background of a nostalgic 2000’s coming-of-age film. 

If you’re not looking for an oldie, I’ll throw out some recommendations that are more fitting to the current music scene, starting with two artists that don’t receive the attention they’re due: George Ezra and Vance Joy. You might know their names from their hit songs — Ezra’s “Budapest” and Joy’s “Riptide” — but the rest of their discography often goes undeservingly ignored. Ezra’s most recent album “Gold Rush Kid” features beautiful and mesmerizing melodies with a vibe that I can’t describe as anything other than tropical – a theme present throughout his other albums, “Wanted on Voyage” and “Staying at Tamara’s.” Two of my current favorite songs of his are “Green Green Grass” and “Blame it On Me,” both of which produce images of the bright summer sun, palm trees and long days spent by the ocean. Also, Ezra’s smooth bass never fails to disappoint. 

Joy, on the other hand, goes in a more folk and pop-like crossover direction with songs like “Catalonia” and “Clarity.” In either case, you’ve got a very recognizable voice singing upbeat, enjoyable melodies with entertaining lyrics. If you want something with a little less energy and more down-to-earth vibes, you should listen to Surfaces, particularly, the songs “24/7/365” and “Palm Trees.” I’d also send you to Declan McKenna’s “Brazil,” which is currently enjoying immense popularity for its unique vocals, melodies and potential as a summer anthem. Last, if you’re looking for something to blast while you’re driving on the interstate at night, windows down, I’d recommend Lorde’s “Buzzcut Season” and “Green Light,” both of which have a certain euphoric sound that rings of summer freedom and adventures. 

And to close out your summer playlist, a few members of the broader College community wanted to offer their recommendations for summer tunes as well.

Emma Allen ’26 is loving the songs “sun keeps on shining” by almost monday, “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift and “I’d Love it if We Made It” by The 1975. Sarah Gresham ’25 says she’ll be listening to two of her favorite artists, Harry Styles and Lizzo, especially their songs “Watermelon Sugar” and “About Damn Time” respectively. Georgi Butch ’26 recommended “Seattle Party” by Chastity Belt, “Australia” by The Shins and “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John.

In all, aligning your summer to the right music can make it something truly special. A summer playlist is more than just a collection of songs with upbeat rhythms and bright melodies – it’s an ode to the feelings and memories we come to cherish as each summer passes by. So, as you wrap up finals and move onto whatever this next summer may bring, I only hope you’ll turn your stereo up that extra notch and “Play That Funky Music” (by Wild Cherry).



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