You are what you listen to.
If you’re anything like me, summer is when you switch from your sad music playlist to your happy music playlist. (Actually, if you’re really like me, it’s when you switch from your sad music playlist to your slightly-more-upbeat sad music playlist. I like acoustic guitar, OK? Sue me!)
Whatever your genre of choice, there’s no arguing summer is the best time to kick back and crank up the volume. So, IGNITE decided to curate the ultimate summer playlist. Songs were recommended by students, for students — so you know they’re good.
In fact, the recommendations we received were so good, we couldn’t fit them all in a single article. You can scroll down to listen to the full playlist on Spotify, but here are my personal favourites:
If You’re Over Me – Years & Years
Have you ever met someone who doesn’t want to date you, but they also don’t want you to date anyone else?
First of all, get that person out of your life; you deserve better. Secondly, go listen to this song. In fact, listen to this song even if you haven’t met somebody like that—I promise you’ll still like it.
British synth-pop band Years & Years, headed by frontman Olly Alexander, released this bop with their second studio album, Palo Santo. The record is full of songs with a driving beat and a hint of nostalgia—but, there’s something special about this one. It takes the frustrations of young love and expresses them in such a fun, upbeat, pop-y way that you can’t help but forget all your worries and dance along.
Makeup Drawer – Isaac Dunbar
What do “cheating at Monopoly” and “a 17-year-old releasing music this good” have in common? They’re super unfair. I mean, come on. When I was 17, I spent my weekends doing chemistry homework. Isaac Dunbar is casually writing, producing and recording life-changing anthems. But, it’s fine. I’m not mad.
Makeup Drawer, released as part of his latest EP Isaac’s Insects, is Isaac’s musical message to the people who made him feel inferior. The song addresses his struggle with internalized homophobia through the analogy of makeup, proclaiming, “I shattered mirrors to cope, you made me hate what I saw.”
However, despite its heavy subject matter, the track maintains a message of radical self-love and a blend of intense yet sunny instrumentals. It’s a confidence boost in music form.
2003 – Todrick Hall
If you aren’t on the Todrick Hall train yet, I truly don’t know what to tell you. He’s a singer-songwriter-choreographer-actor-director-YouTuber-Broadway star who has mastered nearly every musical genre.
2003 was released as part of his 2018 concept album Forbidden, which hosts a whopping 30 songs ranging from rap to pop to ballads. The album dissects power struggles surrounding race and sexuality, making it as pivotal as it is pleasurable.
I spent a good half hour trying to narrow myself down to a single Todrick song for this playlist (believe me, it was not easy). In the end, I chose 2003 because it sounds like childhood. As the title suggests, it’s about love in the early 2000s—MySpace and flip phone references included.
It’s the teenage summer romance I wish I’d had. I can feel the butterflies in Todrick’s stomach when it plays.
Street Punks on a Freight Train – Bryce Vine
If early 2000s pop punk met modern day hip hop, it would sound like this. It’s angsty, it’s electric, it’s infectious and it’s forceful. ‘Nuff said.
Also, Bryce Vine is absolutely the most stylish person on this list.
Stock S.O./Soldier – Valley
I tried to limit this playlist to one song per artist. I really, really tried. But, Valley‘s music is just too good. Oh, and did I mention they’re from Toronto?
I’ve never met the members of this band, but it feels like I have. Their modern yet reflective sound fills me with an overwhelming sense of comforting familiarity.
They’re the kids from your elementary school who wore jean jackets and had record players that you always wanted to be friends with. They’re the kids from your high school who skateboarded to school and played guitar in their mom’s garage. They’re the Toronto locals putting a unique spin on indie pop that you should definitely check out.
Enjoy Ya Life – Jared Brady
Jared Brady‘s voice is soothing and striking, kind of like running through a sprinkler on a hot day. Enjoy Ya Life, from his most recent release Enjoy the Disco, toggles between high energy and laid-back vocals while remaining firmly rooted in a unique hip-hop sound.
The track also includes an incredible feature by what I think is a pan flute (although, don’t quote me on that—I’m by no means an expert), adding an element of serenity to a cheerful song about appreciating the little things.
If Epicurus were alive today, this would be his favourite song. It’s ataraxy in a bottle.
’90s Kids – LaPeer
Can you tell I’m nostalgic for my childhood? LaPeer, whose stage name derives from the town in Michigan where he grew up, pays tribute to the not-quite-millennials, not-quite-gen-Z-ers with this rock-influenced indie anthem.
It’s the perfect thing to blast while zooming down the highway on a summer road trip.
Fill Into Me – Anju
Anju‘s Instagram bio calls them a “maker of homegrown music.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Their voice feels like putting on a fuzzy sweater straight out of the dryer. It’s green tea and your favourite movie. It’s a slow Sunday morning.
Fill Into Me feels slow-moving compared to the eclectic energy of the rest of this playlist, but I’d argue that’s its greatest strength. It’s the deep breath you need after a nonstop day.
The love and care Anju pours into every measure is crystal clear.
Til I Get to You – Keala Settle
You might remember Keala Settle as the radiant lead vocalist on This is Me, the popular track from Grammy award-winning movie musical, The Greatest Showman (2017). You might also know her as the original Becky in Sara Bareilles‘ Broadway musical Waitress.
Personally, I know her because if you search up the word “powerhouse” in the dictionary, it’s just a picture of her face.
Settle’s 2017 solo EP, Chapter One, opens with this rock-y, jazz-y, funk-y masterpiece about falling for all the wrong people and holding out hope for finding true love.
Song 32 – Noname
Her most recent single, Song 32, is brief but deliberate; it’s full of carefully crafted references and jazzy instrumentals married so seamlessly you have to listen more than once to even begin scratching its surface.
The song contains powerful comments about American economic inequality in the form of masterful metaphors and allusions; yet, Noname’s silky-smooth delivery and production mean it’s also the perfect listen on a sunny afternoon.
Cheerleader – Sir Babygirl
Sir Babygirl‘s Cheerleader is, in a word, ethereal. It’s 2020 bubblegum pop, longingly honouring the shallowness of high school politics. It’s bright enough for a beach day, with just a touch of sourness—kind of like pink lemonade.
It makes me want to wear glitter and dance in a field, so of course it made the list.
Savage Remix (feat. Beyoncé) – Megan Thee Stallion
OK, you’ve probably heard of this one. But, I don’t think we’ve given Megan Thee Stallion enough credit. I mean, this woman secured a Beyoncé feature on her first album. A Beyoncé feature. On her first album.
Savage Remix has all the flavour of the original, but with a side of Queen Bey. Need I say more?
BODYGUARD! – JPEGMAFIA
The latest from Maryland-born rapper JPEGMAFIA is fluid and glossy. It elegantly embodies the comfort of finding a person who, just, gets you. It’s the song you listen to at a late-night summer bonfire or on a midnight drive. It’s about slowing down and reflecting while feeding a giddy excitement for a blossoming relationship.
Altogether, it’s sticky-sweet like caramel.
Make A New Dance Up – Hey Ocean!
Hey Ocean! has been one of my favourite bands for as long as I can remember. That might explain why this song is from so long ago. Yet, I couldn’t help but include it.
Make A New Dance Up is hopeful, joyous and golden. It’s aged like fine wine; I still want to dance along every time I hear it. I hope it does the same for you.
Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys) – Rina Sawayama
This is it, friends. The electro-disco-pop-funk anthem of your dreams. British singer Rina Sawayama mixes a fun, clubby sound with lyrics that criticize the expectation for women to act masculine in order to be considered confident.
Sawayama said, “smash stereotypes, but make it disco.”
Now that you’ve heard my take, run on over to Spotify and celebrate the sounds of summer with IGNITE!
Rake it in while you jam out with these side hustles you can start while self-isolating.