Certain sounds remind us of summer: the jingle of a Mr. Softee truck, the shrill whistle of a lifeguard at an overcrowded pool, and of course, the radio’s decision to overplay the same five songs like they’re the only ones that exist. These are the songs of the summer, say what you will about them. But whether you think they’re derivative and overrated like a summer blockbuster or pure strokes of genius, these songs are anthems, and have the power to transport even the most cynical of us back to the days of sunburns and sticky ice cream fingers.
As temperatures rise, songs clamor up the charts in hopes of becoming the next song of summer. So while nowadays Cardi B and Bruno Mars battle Blueface and Ariana Grande for the top spot, Street has ranked some of the best summer anthems of the 2000s—thus far.
5. “Hot in Herre” by Nelly
Before there was Pitbull there was Nelly, who pioneered being the kind of rapper who could make hits like they were lay-ups. “Hot in Herre” changed the rap game, superimposing a sample of a classic jazz record onto an image of a packed club. It’s more than a party anthem—it’s a song about getting to the party and leaving it with the hottest person in the room. It tells a story, and soundtracks a summer full of heady energy, humidity, and “steez,” or effortless swag.
4. “Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani
Beginning as the ultimate clap back to the ever–infuriated Courtney Love, “Hollaback Girl” quickly became an anthem for underdogs everywhere. With a punchy drum beat, spitfire vocals, and the catchiest bridge of all time, the song explodes. Like the season in question, “Hollaback Girl” brings heat in unexpected ways, so commanding it makes the hair on the back of our collective necks stand up.
3. “Low” by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain
The first in a litany of Flo Rida’s transcendent, if unmemorable, singles, “Low” transports us back to a time when we were all Flo Rida fans. The song slaps, with a heavy basses and verses that roll and flow over the beat with impactful precision. Not to mention T–Pain’s signature reverberate and auto–tuned vocals sound fresh and innovative. “Low” connotes memories of middle and elementary school summers, where many of us used the song as a gateway to maturity. “Low” is loud and brazen and steamy, making it the kind of song that fogs up windshields.
2. “Party in the U.S.A” by Miley Cyrus
“Party in the U.S.A." gave us many things: the “edgy Miley” phase, the end of Hannah Montana, calls for a newer, more contemporary national anthem, and patriotism unbridled by images of our government and military. Now her most iconic single, the song closed out summer with celebratory zest. Upon first listen, “Party in the U.S.A.” is nothing more than a palatable pop hit that fades into the background. But what makes that enduring kind of special is Cyrus’s wide–eyed view of America and the things that make it beautiful—cowboy boots, Jay–Z and Britney Spears, and a culture that lets them all exist. Not to mention, the chorus is pretty catchy, too.
1. “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
“Call Me Maybe” foreshadows, if subtly, modern day Carly Rae Jepsen, who understands that all you need to make good pop music is an earnest dose of E•MO•TION, relatable imagery, and an inspired beat. “Call Me Maybe” packages all of this in a tidy, little bow. It’s orchestral, with a melody ringing of violins. It’s tangible, with the kind of potent imagery you can touch—a warm breeze and a long stare. It’s hopelessly authentic, with Jepsen so excitable and desperate she sounds like your best girlfriend when she has a crush. “Call Me Maybe” dominated the charts in 2012 partly because it was catchy, but also because it was contagious. Street stans Ms. Jepsen, queen of bangs, telephones, and most of all, summer.
“Good Girls Go Bad” by Cobra Starship featuring Leighton Meester
2009 was the year of the emo crossover—Paramore’s Brand New Eyes competed for chart dominance with Taylor Swift and Beyonce, 3OH!3 branded a wave of antagonist pop, and leather jackets were all the rage. Enter Cobra Starship, a band formed in the shadows of Warped Tour and club music, and Leighton Meester, who played the mean one on Gossip Girl. This song looks and sounds like a cheesy time capsule. With a hefty dose of tasteful autotune, bad boy sensibilities, and formulaic synths, “Good Girls Go Bad” is the right kind of self–indulgent.
“Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry
While it's been a while since Katy Perry has been certifably relevant, it was hard to go anywhere that year without hearing her nasally version of a West Coast fantasy. “California Gurls” had single handedly ended the East Coast versus West Coast argument and “Last Friday Night” soundtracked every basement rager. But no song quite captured summer like “Teenage Dream,” the kind of euphoric love song that makes people want to watch a sunset, have a picnic, or do some other cliche romantic gesture for their significant other. The song feels like a first kiss, teeming with youthful energy and the bubbly aura of mainstream pop song.