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Analyzing 50 Years Of Summer Jams

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spotify's Eliot Van Buskirk predicts Rita Ora's 'I Will Never Let You Down' will be the summer jam of 2014. Spotify's Eliot Van Buskirk predicts Rita Ora's "I Will Never Let You Down" will be the summer jam of 2014.

What makes a good summer jam? Is it the infectious hook? The beat? The carefree mood it evokes? 

To get to the bottom of it, Spotify data storyteller Eliot Van Buskirk and the Spotify team have crunched 50 years of hits and assembled a list of some of the best summer jams -- including everything from the shortest (the Beach Boys' "I Get Around"), to longest (Prince's "When Doves Cry"), and even the most danceable (Nelly's 2002 "Hot In Here").

Spotify's 50 Years of Summer Jams playlist:

From that, he's come up with some of the key defining qualities of a classic summer jam: most have a positive vibe, a 4/4 time signature, and are in a major key. Still, nailing down the similarities doesn't make it easier to reverse-engineer a hit: Van Buskirk says he's heard many attempts, but that the qualities of a successful summer jam are best "studied after the fact.

But what about this summer's contenders for summer hit? Van Buskirk has put together the ultimate playlist for the summer of 2014



Spotify's Summer Jam Superlatives:

Most Danceable: Nelly, "Hot In Herre" 



Happiest: Vengaboys, "We Like to Party!"



Saddest and Slowest: Heart, "Alone"


Longest: Prince, "When Doves Cry"



What’s the greatest summer song ever? We're making the ultimate summer song mix. Leave a comment below, tweet us at @Soundcheck, or leave us a voicemail at 866.939.1612.


Eliot Van Buskirk

Comments [9]

ccrss from BK

I guess I have to join Spotify to see/hear the #1's of 2014 ? Listener supported? Yeah...Is this show now a data mine? Not too troll, but...I love wnyc. I listen to it everyday (for like seven years, I am still new). But when a radio show makes me join something like Spotify to reveal what I thought would be revealed through it's own journalism, (if this is still music journalism), I need to step back. I am an avid supporter of wnyc/brian/soundcheck. Don't leave. Just be mindful of the setup. I might just be inept...It's like trying to launch a program I don't have...from my powerbook...well, who needs a computer and an analyst that probably is not a drunk that has been going out for a while, and more importantly, who doesn't dance publicly like a fool at Output, to tell me what to dance to in 2014?...leave it to the aggregate who are not on smartphones....Spotfiy is like a stock exchange... What does 4/4 feel like? Thanks!

Jun. 06 2014 01:33 AM
Susanh from Sofia, Bulgaria

I think the list of WNYC listeners' summer songs is terrific. I was happy to be able to contribute, and find many songs I know & love and some great ones I hadn't heard before. The Spotify list, however, sounds like it was done by market research formulas - so much of it is commercial junk, just dreadful, to my taste. I would turn the radio off if I heard 90% of those songs - but the WNYC list had me downloading music the next day. Thanks, John Schaeffer and audience!

Jun. 01 2014 11:37 AM

I forgot to include "Summertime" by Will Smith in my last comment. Great song - evokes summer - and such a great party song - you can't help but dance.

May. 30 2014 10:28 AM

Not sure if these are summer songs or not - what is the criteria, if they were popular during the summer? Anyway, some good old Cure songs come to mind - Just Like Heaven and Boys Don't Cry. Also, If You Leave, by OMD.

May. 30 2014 10:24 AM
karaokequeen from brooklyn


May. 29 2014 12:12 PM
Julian from Brooklyn

Dancin' in the Streets, by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas should be on every summer playlist.

May. 29 2014 12:09 PM

I don't understand why the Spotify playlists can't be found within the Spotify app or website. The link goes to the website but the playlist doesn't appear. It's also not coming up on searches with the app. Very poor user experience.

May. 29 2014 10:39 AM
M. G. K. from Lynbrook, NY

"Light My Fire" stirs up memories of being at Jones Beach, "Sun-In" in my
hair, baby oil on my skin, listening to everyone's transistor
Radio blaring the same station. My favorite summer song is "Up on the Roof".

May. 29 2014 09:10 AM
Dylan DeFeo from Northport, NY

I, for one, feel like the ultimate summer song of summer songs is "Light My Fire" by The Doors. Not only does it have unique hooks and licks (such as the Bach-inspired Vox organ introduction played by the late, great Ray Manzarek), but a catchy chorus and driving rock beat that gets people up and dancing! The lyrics aren't complicated but are seductive and unique, the guitar slinking in between it all. In 1967, when the Summer of Love was on the rise and things were beginning to spark up socially, politically, and consciously, the song fit perfectly in the context of the time and epitomized what that summer was all about. When I hear "Light My Fire", regardless of the season, it always evokes the summertime in my mind and all the freedom and possibilities that accompany it!

May. 28 2014 09:21 PM

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