Ah, summertime. A time to kick up your feet, pour yourself an ice-cold drink, and put on your headphones and unwind. There’s nothing quite like a summer jam, a song that envelopes you with melody like the warm sun, and then sends a jolt of energy surging through your body like a cool breeze. I’ve crafted a playlist of some of my favorite songs that bring summer to your door all year long. All you have to do is get out the ice cream.
- Red Velvet – Red Flavor (from “The Red Summer”, 2017)
A song as ubiquitous to summer if there ever was one, Red Flavor explodes with energy from the get-go, mixing schoolyard chants with a melody so big you’ll be singing along without even realizing it. Cherry slushies, a big slice of watermelon, strawberry shortcake, Red Flavor conjures up all the best foods of summer. The glorious harmonic bridge always takes me by surprise, ascending the song to new heights just in time to hit repeat.
Further listening: Zoo, Blue Lemonade
- BoA– Feedback (feat. Nucksal) (single, 2019)
BoA’s shimmery summer comeback was pop perfection last year. From the retro guitar flourishes to the commanding vocal arrangement, Feedback has a lot of nuances to offer. The bridge reveals itself like a peacock showing its feathers, perfectly tethered by its brilliant chorus, and culminating in a power note in true BoA style. The feedback is in: we love it!
Further listening: CAMO, Kiss My Lips
- WayV– Love Talk (from “Take Over The Moon,” 2019)
Tropical house is a music genre designed for summer with its breezy instrumentation and pulsing bassline. Nothing quite takes me jet setting on a tropical vacation like WayV’s Love Talk, essential for a day at the pool with one of those fruity drinks with the umbrella. The Caribbean-tinged beat and carefree melody will have you unwinding in no time. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.
Further listening: Domino, Electric Hearts
- EXO– Ko Ko Bop (from “The War”, 2017)
One of the first K-pop songs I heard, Ko Ko Bop is a slice of lemon chiffon cake. Light, airy, with a unique flavor that sits on the palette while it goes down (“down baby”). I love the playful dynamic between the low and high notes in the arrangement, the “ah-oooh” lifting your senses up like you just took your first bite. The easy-going beat thumps along at a leisurely pace helping you relax and unwind after a hot summer day.
Further listening: The Eve, Playboy
- f(x)– Hot Summer (from “Hot Summer,” 2011)
Confession time, I only discovered this song this year, but it has quickly climbed up my favorites list. The repeated refrain is infectious, and the half-sung, half-rapped verses come at you like a sledgehammer, brimming with confidence and swagger. If you take any road trips this season, be sure to put the windows down and blast Hot Summer from the speakers – it’s fast tempo pulses, commanding attention.
Further listening: 4 Walls, Rude Love
- SUPER JUNIOR– Feels Good (from “Mr. Simple,” 2011)
From my favorite Super Junior album, Feels Good appears halfway in with a bolstering mechanical beat that’s somewhere between midtempo and full speed ahead. I love how the verse and chorus are intertwined, both meticulously melodic tent poling the song together. When the music diminishes briefly after the rapped bridge, it comes back like a wave crashing on sand, with a commanding high note to top it all off.
Further listening: Good Day for a Good Day, Skydive
- Girls’ Generation– PARTY (from “Lion Heart,” 2015)
When Girls’ Generation says it’s time to party, you grab your boombox and dance! It wouldn’t be summer without their anthemic PARTY, a blast of bubblegum pop so fun all your cares just melt away. It’s retro, California beach sound is infectious, and the playful “P-A-R-T-Y” refrain is guaranteed to rouse anyone out of a lull. Few songs are as euphorically lifting as this one. I dare you not to smile.
Further listening: All Night, Trick (Typical)
- TVXQ!– Love Line (from “New Chapter #1: The Chance Of Love,” 2018)
Because sometimes you need to relax and unwind like you’re on vacation. Let Love Line work its mellow magic and put you in the zone. It’s breezy, syncopated rhythm and restrained, soft vocals envision being on a sailboat, your toes dipping into the cool ocean waves. TVXQ, known for their dynamic performances, try a softer approach and the result is as refreshing as it is therapeutic. Go on, take a load off.
Further listening: RUMOR, Like a Soap
- SHINee– View (from “Odd,” 2015)
From the calming piano chords at the beginning to the thumping bassline that kicks in at the chorus, View captures a sense of summer nostalgia perfectly. SHINee’s vocals imbue the tune with a lot of emotion and for me, recalls a simpler time – camping with friends, toasting s’mores by a fire, and just enjoying living in the moment. You won’t want summer to end.
Further listening: Good Evening, 1 of 1
- NCT 127– Whiplash (from “Cherry Bomb,” 2017)
A mix between tropical house and hip-hop, NCT 127’s Whiplash is club banger made for summer nights out with your friends. Ride the groove and turn any floor into a dancefloor with this one bumping at the helm. NCT 127 excels at melding spitfire raps with acrobatic vocals, and Whiplash carries their cool confidence with panache. Bring on the body rolls!
Further listening: Highway to Heaven, Summer 127
- EXO-SC– 1 Billion Views (feat. MOON) (from “1 Billion Views,” 2020)
The newest addition on the list, 1 Billion Views is a funky slice of R&B. The “oooh” melody of the chorus carries the song like a kite in the wind, lifting your spirits up and taking any weight off your shoulders. Chanyeol and Sehun’s raps in the verses keep the momentum going, while the lithe guest feature at the bridge adds a little extra sparkle for the final chorus. Views makes me want to put on a linen shirt and sunglasses and feel the vibe.
Further listening: Telephone (feat. 10cm), Closer to you
- Red Velvet – IRENE & SEULGI– Jelly (from “Monster,” 2020)
Red Velvet’s first subunit debuted this summer and delivered a mini album full of bops. B-side Jelly is my favorite, with its sweeping piano flourishes and R&B pop style. Irene and Seulgi command attention with their patented vocals, filling the song with a chic, effortless attitude. Even when summer ends, Jelly will still be putting a little extra sunshine in my strut.
Further listening: Feel Good, Diamond
The SM Summer Mix Tape ‘20
- Red Velvet – Red Flavor
- BoA – Feedback (feat. Nucksal)
- WayV – Love Talk
- EXO – Ko Ko Bop
- f(x) – Hot Summer
- SUPER JUNIOR – Feels Good
- Girls’ Generation – PARTY
- TVXQ! – Love Line
- SHINee – View
- NCT 127 – Whiplash
- EXO-SC – 1 Billion Views (feat. MOON)
- Red Velvet – IRENE & SEULGI–Jelly
*All opinions stated are the author’s own