Finally! After what has felt like an eternity in the land of always winter, summer has arrived. And every summer is coronated with a fantastic three-day weekend. Who could possibly complain? Memorial Day weekend is meant for frosty drinks, something grilled up hot, feeling some heat on your skin, and of course, the perfect soundtrack. So all of us at Uproxx put together some of our favorite summer kickoff tracks together in a playlist that has something for every listener at your cookout, barbecue, beach day, staycation, or whatever you want to do.
Jefferson Starship, “Jane”
Sometime in the early 2000s, a friend called me up and said, “I just watched a weird movie that you’d love. The humor is completely idiotic.” Unoffended, I quickly developed a deep fondness for Wet Hot American Summer and many years later, its anticipated Netflix sequel/series, First Day of Camp. “Jane,” a late ’70s terrible, but also excellent rock ‘n’ roll song, airs during the opening credits of both, and it’s just the perfect introduction to the offbeat phenomenon that is Camp Firewood. On a larger scale, it seems to encourage ridiculous shenanigans that one can really only pull off during the summer (i.e., rejecting a love interest because he or she “tastes like a burger”), and what is Memorial Day, if not the opening sequence of summer? I’m so past the point of being embarrassed by my love for this song that I don’t bother to put my Spotify settings on “Private”; nor do I care if a person next to me in traffic sees me headbanging and wailing along with it.
– Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)
2Pac, “I Get Around”
Have you ever seen the “I Get Around” video? That’s exactly how I want my BBQ — here in California, we call them BBQ’s, not cookouts – to look on Memorial day. All of it. Herringbone chains, pagers, brick cell phones, special edition white Interscope 2Pac snapbacks, some tennis, a pool, some food on the grill, a bubble bath and even Shock G and his purple shirt. Every single detail. Of all the amazing things Tupac has given us, nothing says Memorial Day BBQ or makes me happier than this song and video. I want sunny, happy, Tupac filled BBQ on the magical Monday with no work. Please and thank you.
– Bansky Gonzalez (@Bansky)
Chance the Rapper, “Family Matters”
Chance is the rare musician who can have “uplift” as his driving message without it ever ringing false. This song, a riff on Kanye’s “Family Business,” is filled with joy and sepia tinged nostalgia. Just look at that video: It ends with the electric slide! That’s what you need on Memorial Day. “Family’s all that matters / You are all that matters. This is just business / See you right after.”
In those simple opening bars, Chance nails what a holiday cookout should feel like.
– Steve Bramucci (@stevebram)
The Ark, “One of Us Is Gonna Die Young”
This song makes me so happy; ridiculously happy. It makes me want to drive fast; it makes me want to talk loud. I hear this song and I want to proclaim ridiculous proclamations that have little grounding in reality to them. It encourages me to be slightly more unhinged than I would normally be. But I also think that played at the right level, it would make you, someone who may have never heard this delightful number from this equally delightful Swedish glam/rock band, feel the exact same way.
– Ryan O’Connell (@ryanoconnell79)
Alvvays, “Archie, Marry Me”
This song is so dope. I’d listen to it in any circumstance. I’ll play it at my funeral. I’ll play it at your funeral. However, it’s perfect for the summer, and for laid back situations associated with said season. It sounds very summery, there are birds chirping in it, and talk of sailing on the Atlantic. Plus, it’s a love song, so you know it’s not going to lower the energy level at your gathering. Frankly, you can throw Alvvays’ entire self-titled album on, but, of all the songs on it perfect for summer listening, “Archie, Marry Me” is the best of the best.
– Chris Morgan (@ChrisXMorgan)
Fat Pat, “Tops Drop”
For a lot of the south, Memorial Day is almost the end of fun in the sun because June through August becomes a hellscape where temperature and humidity, locked neck and neck, reach for triple digits. But, Pat’s classic H-Town anthem is so damn bouncy, you either cut the AC and roll down the windows in the car, or you go outside and crank this song, which I will always contend is the Unofficial Summer Jam, 1998 – Infinity.
– Jessica Hudnall (@LegKickTKO)
Camp Lo, “Luchini”
The beginning of summer should be about feeling good. Vacation, cookouts, no more teachers and all that. “Luchini (a.k.a. This Is It)” is what happens when someone captures all of those feelings on one record. There’s no way this song won’t bring a smile to your face unless you are in fact the saddest person on the planet. It’s a perfect blend of hardcore hip-hop and pop sensibility with two brothers rapping their asses off using throwback slang and sounding fly as hell in the process. I normally equate this song with Spring, but more and more it’s become a summer anthem that reminds me of barbecues and water gun fights.
– Marcus Benjamin (@abstractpo3tic)
David Bowie, “Win”
Memorial Day is a time where people gather to embrace Summer and all of its bounty. It is also the ideal time to reflect on the pain and sorrow of Winter. David Bowie’s “Win” is a bittersweet ballad that will cause all who partake in Memorial Day festivities to give pause and reflect on the death of Bowie, as well as the people who have died during wartime. Then hopefully it will lead to some discourse about war and you can throw these lyrics at someone: “Life lies dumb on its heroes/ Wear your wound with honor, make someone proud/ Someone like you should not be allowed/ To start any fires.”
– Chloe Schildhause (@chloish)
Nelson, “Love and Affection”
It’s arguably the greatest song ever written and recorded. Play it on New Year’s Eve, Halloween, Arbor Day, National Waffle Day… it doesn’t matter, it’s the perfect song for any occasion. For Memorial Day, it’s the song that you should play at the beginning and end of a party or cookout, because your guests will remember both entering and leaving with a feeling of complete happiness.
– Ashley Burns (@mayorburnsy)
Tegan and Sara, “Boyfriend”
I have a feeling that the first single off of Tegan and Sara’s upcoming album, “Love You to Death” will be played at a lot of vegan barbecues this summer. Think of it as a response to last year’s bi-curious summer anthem, “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato. The song is fun with a ‘90s Euro pop sound and a chorus that will get stuck in your head from now until the Fourth of July. Not only can you put it on your Memorial Day barbecue playlist, but it can carry over to your Pride Month playlist, as well.
– Kayla Layne Crawford (@klaynecrawford)
Kim Mitchell, “Go for Soda”
As a Canadian (see you on November 9!), I’ve never experienced a proper Memorial Day Weekend. Aside from panicked mattress retailers NEEDING to slash prices, it sounds like loads of fun. I’ll go with a tried and true hoser classic that we bust out on Victoria Day which comes a week before Memorial Day. Kim Mitchell’s “Go for Soda” is a masterpiece of goofy dad rock that doubles as a reasonable nudge for your DD to not get trashed on fortified wine on the patio. Bonus: The emphasis on drowning in the lyrics means you can make up your own Phil Collins style urban legends. Everybody wins!
– Dan MacRae (@danmacrae)
Prince & 3rdEyeGirl, “ANOTHERLOVE”
Look, this year has been a kick in the pants for the world of music, and while Memorial Day is a day to remember those who served in the armed forces, it’s probably a solid time to think about other losses, as well. The loss of Prince has been downright devastating. People rag on his later work and, well, anything that came after Sign O’ the Times that didn’t sound like Purple Rain, but the thing is, he did some awesome stuff near the tail end of his career. The stuff that he did with 3rdEyeGirl is proof enough of that. This weird, very Prince cover of a low key Alice Smith song and turning it into a funky, hard-hitting ballad is exactly the kind of stuff that I’m gonna miss getting from him. It’s a celebration, but also deep reflection. “But I’m the greatest living soul you’ll ever know.”
– Dave Walsh (@dvewlsh)
Sweet Micky, “I Don’t Care”
“I Don’t Care” by Sweet Micky is nearly nine minutes long because you have to let that ’80s-’90s Haitian kompa beat rock. All those minutes are needed, so one take in and appreciate every single instrument working beautifully to provide Micky with the perfect sound to troll his haters. A kompa sound fit for Micky jubilantly singing about how he doesn’t have the slightest of effs to give because he’s rich, he’s handsome and his music bops. It’s pretty much what being a happy drunk sounds like.
– Delenda Joseph
OutKast, “Take Off Your Cool”
At the Memorial Day party, you and your significant other are having a great time, but something’s amiss. You’re sticky hot and you notice your beau innocently flirting with someone else. You decide to play it cool because you know you’re awesome. More importantly, you know that your boo knows you’re awesome. So you do some dancing and eat some ribs. You’re about done with a beer when your boo comes up to you and this song comes on. You look at each other deeply, and those around you shuffle back, knowing this is an intimate moment best left private. Everything drops away and you’re both done frontin’. You can both see right through all the posturing to the real you that exists beneath the surface of all of us. You decide you’re gonna start a family that night, and the rest of the summer turns into a dream you tell your grandkids about some day.
– Spencer Lund (@spencertyrel)
Boosie Badazz “All I Know”
Spending time with family in relaxed settings pushes the mind into reflect mode. It’s then that you realize that your job, your bank account, you worries and such don’t matter as much as they seem to a daily basis. It’s then that you realize what matters most is loved ones, laughter, memories made and more positive things. Boosie’s song and video “All I Know” both capture those vibes and provide a keep-your-head-up soundtrack to really remind us what the point of it really is.
– John Gotty (@JohnGotty)
Regina Spektor, “Eet (Live in London)”
What is the best part of summer? Barbecues. What’s the best part of barbecues? Food. What’s the best part of food? When you EAT it. Sure, this album was recorded in November, indoors and in London, where the sun hasn’t shined since dragons ravaged the city in 1735, but why can’t it be a summer song? Also, that’s not how you spell eat. Eet and eat are different words, but they sound the same. Actually, eet may not even technically be a word. It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite language. I’m also pretty sure I’ve never heard this song at a barbecue. I may have misunderstood the assignment here. Great song, though.
– Dave Lozo (@davelozo)
Ween, “Freedom of 76”
Here’s a song that’s practically a custom-made Memorial Day theme. With Gene Ween’s impeccable falsetto singing the joys of freedom, and a little about the filming locations of 1987’s Mannequin, while Dean Ween lovingly strums away at major seventh chords. It’s the warm, breezy song that lazily ushers in the summer season.
– Christian Long (@cuneform)
The Notorious B.I.G., “Big Poppa”
“Big Poppa” captures the vibe of chilling with a cold beer in hand while having a good conversation, right as the sun sets over your first BBQ of the year. With its Isley Brothers sample and hypnotic beat, the song gets people in the right kind of mood for flirting, dancing, or a mixture of both — and just as importantly, everyone seems to know at least some of the words. I know I’m at the right party if someone takes the auxiliary cable and puts on “Big Poppa” because really, it’s not summer without some Biggie Smalls.
– Eddie Fu (@eddiefu)
Roy Ayers, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”
When I think of an ideal summer snapshot, what comes to mind is those totally blissed out moments. When you’re on a beach at 100% chill or perhaps in that halfway tipsy, halfway full state of euphoria at a friend’s cookout. It’s not even that you don’t have a care in the world, but rather you’re too chill to even notice. Roy Ayers’ classic “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” captures that vibe exactly — it’s no surprise it’s been sampled so many times. I don’t know about you, but I know I plan to achieve this mental state this summer, starting with this weekend, and this track will absolutely help carry me there.
– Michael Depland (@mdepland)