With the 4th of July in our rearview, the ninety consecutive days of outdoor alcoholism we call “summer” starts to kick into high gear. The front yard is a patriotic wasteland of red, white and blue cans and bottles, the backyard littered with mangled lawn furniture and beer koozies that got used as midnight pocket pussies. The clerks at the liquor store have set up a collection jar in your honor, but it’s really just a dead pool with betting odds favoring you choking on someone else’s vomit. All your real world troubles seem miles away when you’re peeling sheets of dead skin the size of concert fliers off your back, or Snapchatting your sorority sister’s slow descent into barbecue spare rib dependency to all of Tri Delt. Live well and live large, my friends, for these are the golden days of summer. All too soon, you’ll be back to merging with your sofa and lamenting your pasty thighs, but in the meantime, fix yourself another summer mix on Spotify, grab something tall and a frosty, and settle in for Part II or our in-depth look at the quintessential summer jams.
“Steal My Sunshine” by Len
Like Lena Dunham, or a bad staph infection, this song came from outta nowhere. It would be easy to confuse “Len” with a Venice Beach ecstasy dealer who has a neck tattoo of the SoBe geckos, but in point of fact, they’re just a Canadian (of course) one-hit wonder fronted by convicted cultural arsonist, Marc “The Burgerpimp” “Mumble C” Costanzo. Every human being alive is allowed to listen to “Steal My Sunshine” a total of ten times. After that, you are legally required to get your downstairs mix-up pierced at a strip mall kiosk and wait for a tetanus infection to develop. This song will make you late on alimony payments you didn’t even think you had and before you know it, you’re wrestling stray boardwalk mutts for Slim Jim money and robbing gumball machines just to pay for your Mountain Dew Code Red habit. Since you’re too far gone already, try on a nice Red-Headed Throb: equal parts Jäger and peach schnapps topped off with plenty of cranberry juice for your inevitable UTI.
“California Gurls” by Katy Perry
On the surface, there’s not much to see here. “California Gurls” is a bubblegum pop delight that brings all the surf and sun of the Golden Coast to your party with none of the smog or failed child actors. But underneath the ice cream bikini tops and licorice thongs is a string of playfully phallic references that would make a Craigslist sex pervert blush. Seriously, whisper the lyrics into some guy’s ear and see if he doesn’t immediately hunch over and scuttle off to the bathroom. There’s a time for sensible blouses and skirts that fall below the knee, and there’s a time to rock an American Flag bikini while you slurp on a matching rocket pop and watch the weak willed come writhing through the sand dunes just to open your beer for you. You need a notebook full of Lisa Frank stickers in a glass, a tasty Technicolor treat befitting a unicorn princess who giggles at her own horn. Try the Raspberry Beret—two parts chilled vanilla vodka, one part chilled chocolate liqueur and one part Chambord topped with whipped cream. If the diabetes doesn’t steal your heart, some handsome so-and-so will.
“Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line
What could be simpler than a summer afternoon drive in your truck? With a cooler full of cold ones and your busty country darlin’ riding shotty, you’re the coolest guy to never pass the third grade. I kid. See, country music is almost too easy a target; it’s like trying to fight a guy who can’t stop punching himself in the face. But taste is subjective, and modern mainstream country is nothing if not an instructional guide on how to blow off steam to maximum effect. Usually, this involves catching your lover cheating, binge drinking a case of domestic beer, then making love to a suicidal rodeo clown inside a burning cop car. Or something like that. I don’t listen to a lot of country’s top 100. But this isn’t about me, it’s about you and the man-boys from Florida Georgia Line. You like your beer cold, your neck red and your music breezy. You’re not worried about pleasing the tastemakers or impressing anybody with your musical acumen, you just wanna pack a lip and try to get a quick beej on the tire swing before everybody spills outside for the shotgunning competition. Kick back and sip on a Tough Mudder—2 oz. black rum, 2 oz. SoCo, 6 oz. cranberry juice and a splash of club soda shaken well and served over ice. You’ll be smoking firecrackers and lighting off cigarettes in no time!
“Work From Home” by Fifth Harmony
Is it premature to declare this the Summer Jam of 2016? The ladies of Fifth Harmony are sitting pretty atop the charts, and it’s hard to imagine anybody unseating the dynamic swagger of “Work From Home.” Hell, this is every bit the Millennial anthem twenty one pilots’ “Stressed Out” is—just with a decidedly NSFW vibe. Here’s a song for those who live for life outside the confines of a nine to five, for the people who seize the weekend and cram those fleeting forty-eight hours with as much depravity as the space-time continuum can hold. You may be “Mallory from corporate” or, “Chet from sales” Monday through Friday, but during the weekend you’re just a pony keg with a face. While you’re busy living fast and dying young, pair this Fifth Harmony groove with the Summer Cocktail of 2016, a throwback, the Singapore Sling—1 oz. gin, ½ oz. cherry brandy, ½ oz. grenadine, and ½ oz. pineapple juice. Pour over ice and fill the glass with soda. Garnish with cherries; leave the stems so you can tie them into knots with your tongue—it sends a classy-but-definitive message.