Staff Picks: Summer Song Playlist

We sound off on some of our favorite songs to rock out to this summer.

The sound of summer in New Jersey can be many things: crashing waves, the cry of a seagull, the “Ding!” of a boardwalk game. But music is a vital part of summer too. In fact, it is the most popular time for emerging artists to release albums. From laying out at the beach to road tripping with your friends, your summer playlist is the soundtrack to your life May through August.

Here’s our list of songs to get you through any and every situation this summer.

1. Driving to the Beach

Driving to Beach

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Admora13.

Lauren’s New Jersey Pick: Born in the USA? Absolutely. Born in Jersey? Yes, and don’t you ever forget it. Is there even another Jersey artist that could be a contender for this category? No, because Bruce wins. Bruce always wins (just so we’re clear). There are just so many songs to choose from. I think I had an easier time choosing which college I wanted to attend. In the end, “Born to Run” is a crowd favorite and there is just no denying that. Cruising down the parkway will be a blast with this song playing, but be prepared to hit traffic around Bruce’s hometown.

Our Picks:
Maryrose: “Girl You Don’t Need Makeup” by Amy Schumer. A boy band parody mocking the “you’re perfect the way you are” trope that is also a pretty fun song! Great for rousing your spirits and decimating your self esteem.
Katie: Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise (ft. Nelly)” will never get old, the country crooning plus Nelly’s rap towards the end will make you want to cruise down the Parkway with your arms out the window and wind whipping your hair.
Joanna:Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta” by Geto Boys is the ideal soundtrack for cruising in beautiful weather. I love listening to early ’90s rap in the summer.
Breanne: I love listening to catchy, upbeat songs when I’m on my way to do anything outdoors. Recently I’ve been on a Phil Collins kick so any song from Phil Collins: Greatest Hits works for me.

2. Summer Wedding Songs

Summer Wedding

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: IMG_0518KristyRemy

Breanne’s New Jersey Pick: I’ve already been to one wedding so far this season and as always, “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Jersey band Bon Jovi made the playlist. Without fail, as Richie Sambora’s guitar began to reverberate “whoa, whoa, whoa”—people of all ages began to make their way to the dance floor. Perhaps it’s the unique sound of the chords or the powerful lyrics that get people up and ready to sing their hearts out to this Garden State classic. Whatever it may be, if you’re throwing a wedding in New Jersey this summer, “Livin’ on a Prayer” should be on your list.

Our Picks:
Katie: Ellie Goulding is a beautiful, shimmering goddess. And “Love Me Like You Do” is what I want playing when my life story is made into a movie and my character has her big romantic moment. Part of the only good thing to come from 50 Shades of Grey – the soundtrack.
Lauren: Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars.” Because honestly, what’s more romantic than these lyrics? “‘Cause in a sky full of stars, I think I saw you.” What more could you ask for at a wedding? Well, besides lead singer Chris Martin serenading you, of course.
Joanna:Turn Me On” by Norah Jones is my all time favorite romantic slow dance song.
Maryrose: A marriage isn’t valid until you play “Shout” by The Isley Brothers at your wedding. It’s the law. Look it up.

3. Getting Ready for a Night Out

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Alpha du centaure

Maryrose’s New Jersey Pick: When I’m prepping for a night on the town with my pals, I need my jams to be equal parts danceable and delightful. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by East Orange’s own Whitney Houston is everything great pop should be: buoyant, warm, catchy and fun. This song makes me so happy! When I put this on, I realize I am dancing with somebody who loves me……….my friends. Honorable mention goes to “I Will Always Love You.” It doesn’t feel like summer until I’ve tearfully belted it in unison with the packed bar at Leggett’s in Manasquan.

Lauren: Major Lazer & DJ Snake’s “Lean On,” because all we really need is somebody to lean on. You know, later on in the night, when our feet get tired from dancing so much. Runner up is Duke Dumont’s “I Got You.”
Joanna:Jubel” by Klingande combines beautiful vocals with an uplifting electronic beat—but the saxophone solo steals the show. Perfect for getting ready with friends.
Katie: The Pandora playlist for “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly will forever be the getting-ready go-to for my friends and me. Sing-shouting along to 90s and early 2000s R&B songs gets people as pumped up as aerobics classes did in the 80s.
Breanne:I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross or “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. Classics.

4.  Stuck in Traffic 

Parkway Traffic

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Ted Kerwin.

Breanne’s New Jersey Pick: It’s Friday and all you want to do is get your toes in the sand at the Jersey Shore. But—gasp! You chose to take the express lanes on the Garden State Parkway, and as always you hit traffic as drivers in the local lanes fly by. Should you beat yourself up? No! Instead, throw on some “Jersey Boys” songs to cheer up—that’s what I like to do, anyways. The Four Seasons have an array of classic songs with pick-me-up beats like “Sherry “Who Loves You,” and Oh What A Night that will make you and everyone in the car want to sing along and forget your current traffic woes.

Our Picks:
Maryrose: Any Disney villain song. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, “Be Prepared” from The Lion King, “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast, anything that makes me feel like a charismatic monster.
Katie: Of Monsters and Men. The music is perfect for tricking you into believing you are in a meadow filled with flowers, not a hellhole filled with exhaust and blinding metal.
Joanna: “Blinding,” my favorite song by Florence + the Machine, builds suspense with each verse. For some reason, I always enjoy listening to this track while sitting in traffic.
Lauren: Feeling tired? Stop at the Cheesequake rest area and get some coffee, because there are no sleepyheads allowed in this car. Except for Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead,” that is.

5. Outdoor BBQ

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Didriks.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Didriks.

Lauren’s New Jersey Pick: New Jersey native Jack Antonoff’s band Bleachers sings the ultimate feel-good song “Rollercoaster.” Released in 2014, the song is one of 11 tracks from the band’s first album Strange Desire. The music video is guaranteed to have you dreaming of that cross-country road trip. But it’s summer and outdoor BBQ’s are where it’s at. So sit back, relax and enjoy the music that one of our very own brought us.

Our Picks:
: “Open Road” by reggae-rock band Slightly Stoopid is a great track for BBQ background noise.
Maryrose: If I had my way, all barbecues would play nonstop Beyoncé. I am rarely allowed to DJ.
Breanne: Most ’80s songs are great for hanging outdoors with friends and family because everyone can chime in with classics like “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Go’s, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses,” “Beat It” by Michael Jackson… I can keep going.
Katie: Classics. Fleetwood Mac; Kansas; “Sunglasses at Night;” Earth, Wind, and Fire; etc. Rock out with your buns out.

6. Summer Breakup

Summer breakup

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Kaihin Makuhari.

Joanna’s New Jersey Pick: “50 Ways to Leave a Lover” by Newark-born singer-songwriter Paul Simon is probably the greatest breakup song of all time. Simon, half of the classic rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, sings advice to guys named Jack, Stan, Roy, Gus and Lee who are wary of breaking up with their significant others. Turns out, there’s at least 50 ways to dump your girlfriend.

Maryrose: “For No One” by The Beatles is crushing: “You want her, you need her. And yet you don’t believe her when she says her love is dead, you think she needs you.”
Breanne: For anyone who has been through a breakup, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album is a must listen to. Get it. Live by it.
Lauren: Yes, everyone knows Taylor Swift’s smash hit “Bad Blood” and the Kendrick Lamar remix that followed is allegedly a song about a highly publicized girl fight. But, hey music is art and we can interpret it however we want, right? I just so happen to think it makes a great breakup song.
Katie: Sam Smith is the king of breakup songs. Rain and tears running down your face. Holding your hand out to your ex’s headlights, which are speeding away from you…because you’re standing in a parking lot, dramatically crying, blasting “Stay With Me” from your car.

7. Lounging by the Pool

Poolside in Loveladies, Long Beach Island. Photo by Joanna Buffum

Photo by Joanna Buffum

Joanna’s New Jersey Pick: “The heat is too intense for it,” croons the famed Frank Sinatra, a Hoboken native, in his classy tale of sorceress love in “Witchcraft.”  Released in 1957, the swing anthem is ideal for lounging in a chaise by the pool while wearing oversize sunglasses, sipping a Bellini and the occasional back rub (for reapplying sunscreen, of course).

Our Picks:
Lauren: As a lifetime member of the Dave Matthews Band fan club, it pains me to recommend “Two Step” only because it’s probably the most popular, after “Ants Marching” of course. (Never trust someone who claims to be a DMB fan and then tells you that their favorite song is Ants Marching.) But seriously, anything from any of the band’s albums is a great poolside jam. This 2-hour-long best-of mash up takes the work out of choosing just one song.
Breanne: The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack Awesome Mix Vol 1 is tons of fun and includes a mix of songs that are perfect for singing into your pool noodle.
Maryrose: “Everyday” by A$AP Rocky featuring Miguel and Rod Stewart is like floating around on an inner tube of chill for all eternity.
Katie: Any and all songs by Chromeo. Their unique, electronically peppy sound has me bobbing my head as I try to lay in the burning sun as long as possible.

8. Dancing the Night Away

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Sara Edwards.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Sara Edwards.

Katie’s New Jersey Pick: Roseland band, Cash Cash, has taken off and I don’t see them coming down any time soon. I believe anyone who does not get swept away by Bebe Rexha’s voice in the chorus of “Take Me Home (ft. Bebe Rexha)” is a robot and/or dead inside. Every time this or “Surrender” play, I star in my own mental music video and I may or may not act it out in public.

Our picks:
Maryrose: “Fade Into Darkness” by Avicii always reminds me of the summer. Specifically, of the time my friend and I heard it playing at Jenk’s and sprinted from one end of the boardwalk to the other to get inside and dance to it.
Breanne: If we’re talking singing, dancing and having fun with friends—any Disney song. If we’re talking dancing at bars, don’t ask me because I have no idea.
Lauren: Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” as the name suggests, is the perfect song for doing just that. We promise not to judge if you put your bags down and dance in a circle, girls (or guys, yeah guys can do that too). Bonus: if you haven’t watched the compilation of the best movie dance scenes with this song playing in the background, get to it.
Joanna: I first heard “Get On Up” by electronic jazz band Big Gigantic at last summer’s Hudson Music Project festival in upstate New York. It was the band’s closing song, it had been 90 degrees all day long, we were dripping sweat in a crowd of mostly-naked millennials, and suddenly the clouds rolled in. It started pouring right when beat dropped. And then fireworks exploded overhead. Pretty epic.

9. Beach Day

Beach Day Spring Lake

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Dcaprood.

Katie’s New Jersey Pick: “We are yoooouung, so let’s set the world on fiiire, we can burn brighter than the sun!” Doesn’t that just make you want to seize the sunshiny day? Because it makes me want to throw frisbees, serve volleyballs, eat pastel-colored ice cream on the boardwalk and run into the frigid water before screaming my way back out. Bergenfield-native Jack Antonoff’s band fun. has a number of hits that will make you embrace your younger self and inspire you to take advantage of our nearby beaches and their various activities. Summer has officially started, so get out there, you Jersey whippersnappers, you!

Our picks:
Joanna: The hilarious song, “Guide to Safely Petting Cougars,” by the largely-unknown rapper King Fantastic is my go-to beach day jam.
Breanne: Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” or “Seaside Rendezvous” from Queen’s best-known album A Night at the Opera. So good.
Lauren:Welcome Home” by Radical Face is the perfect background sound for a relaxing day at the beach. Besides, what true New Jerseyan doesn’t feel like the Jersey Shore is home during the summer? And, the song’s wind chime sound effects will literally set the tone for a windy day by the water.
Maryrose: “Lunette” by Made in Heights is mermaid music, ideal for dragging an unwitting sailor to the bottom of the sea.

10. Song of the Summer

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: flattop341

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: flattop341

Maryrose’s New Jersey Pick: The Song of the Summer is a precious jewel, a jam that is infectious as it is inescapable. Summer 2015 unquestionably belongs to Paterson native Fetty Wap. His banger “Trap Queen” peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and is sure to continue heavy radio rotation. Fetty’s hypnotically bizarre delivery is captivating and at times hilarious. Who would have thought a song about cooking crack would be so fun?

Katie:Boardwalks” by Little May, an all-girl band from Sydney, will make you want to embrace every beautiful, lingering ray of sunlight this season.
Breanne: Every time I hear “Want to Want Me” by Jason Derulo…wherever I am…I can’t help by sing along to the music. It’s a super catchy, feel good song and that’s what I’m looking for in a summer song.
Lauren: The definition of summer is “running wild and running free,” indisputably making X Ambassadors’ “Renegades” the song of the summer. The upbeat yet still mellow tune and relatable lyrics make this the perfect song for any of the above summer scenarios.
Joanna: I first heard Naomi Scott’s “Hear the Bells” in a Deleon tequila commercial, and I have listened to it almost every day since. Her melodic voice combined with the tribal rhythm and meaningful lyrics always gets me going.

What are you listening to this season? Got recommendations for us? Sing ’em out in the comments!

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Comments (2)

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  1. TC Mann

    No list of summer songs would be complete without “Summertime is Great” by Three Beat Slide. This quirky group has written the greatest summer anthem of all time! If you haven’t heard it, get ready to play it loud and let the Summer in!