Truth be told, Mix of the Summer 2012 has been ready for about three weeks now but it’s taken me a while to actually put it out (sorry!) for a couple of reasons.
Namely, I’m lazy and haven’t had much free time to sit down and burn these puppies. Still haven’t done that actually.
But more importantly, I’ve used the preceding days as a sort of “soft” launch for the latest entry in my series of trashy pop goodness. And I like to think the finished product has turned out better as a result of this exercise.
Playing these stone cold winners on baller day trips to Six Flags, on party buses to upstate work retreats or at backyard pool birthday parties has afforded me the opportunity to test the waters of this latest set of hits and wannabe hits, confirming the gems, weeding out the stinkers and reiterating why I make a new one every year: to share good tunes and fun hangs with the people I love!
So here’s the music I think you should jam to this glorious summer season. I would say these are in no particular order but, let’s be for realsies, I’m not playing games and this is in a very particular order.
- “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction | I remember seeing these little pipsqueaks on The Today Show about four months ago and thinking to myself that I was getting old because I had absolutely no idea who they were. I also thought that they would be gone within a matter of weeks. I was right about the former but wrong about the latter because this adorable little declaration of inner and outer beauty is infectious. And not like an STD! It peaked on the charts a little while back and I think they have bigger songs now but there’s no other choice for the lead track this year. Also, if you haven’t checked out the “What Makes You Beautiful” web video made by the Broadway company of Anything Goes, do yourself a favor and get on that train.
- “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen | There’s really nothing left to say about Carly Rae Jepsen that hasn’t already been said. She came to us from the exotic land of Canada, Beiber “discovered” her and brought her to our prosperous terrain, she released the catchiest song of all time and BAM, a million YouTube videos were launched. I’d just like to state for the record that Carly Rae is eerily older than this song might lead you to believe (26 going on 27!) and that Sean Lynam, Margaux Cornelison and I still hold the record for clutchest “Call Me Maybe” YouTube rendition. Get into it.
- “Some Nights” by fun. | If I had released this mix several weeks back I might have been able to gain some sort of cool kid cred for “calling” this song before it actually hit. Alas, it’s already been included on pretty much every other summer playlist this year so my claims at trailblazing are pitiful at best. But what’s not to love about pulsing drum beats and random autotune falsetto? The trio that also brought us “We Are Young” build upon their cuddly alternative package with style to spare, this track clearly being the best example of said cuddliness.
- “Domino” by Jessie J | Sure, this song was released toward the tail end of last summer, but it didn’t get big until several months later and I could not think of a slinkier, sexier, carefree July-time opus than this killer tune from the vocally acrobatic Jessica Cornish. Sure her range is elastic, but the real clincher to this song for me is the composition. It’s perfectly structured with clever lyrics to boot. I would expect nothing less from the lass who also penned “Party in the U.S.A.” Just call me Jack Dawson because I’m going to press repeat and never. let. go.
- “I Feel Better” by Gotye | That scruffy Belgian crooner known as Gotye gave us such a walloping surprise smash earlier this year with “Somebody That I Used to Know” that it’s unlikely he’ll ever reach the same heights of commercial success ever again. But if ever there were a worthy heir to his mini-empire of indie rock wonderment it’s this track from his breakthrough album Making Mirrors. It’s funky, soulful, drenched in horns and makes him sound a little bit like Cee-Lo. Which is a marvel. I mean look at the guy.
- “Starships” by Nicki Minaj | It’s a beautiful thing when a song immediately conjures in your mind great memories and a specific date / time / event / place in your life. When the chorus on this song hits, I will forever think of swinging kettle bells and soldiering through side planks with a crazy set of Snatched ninjas over at the Mark Fisher Fitness clubhouse (amidst a barrage of f-bombs and inappropriate sexual references of course). Mind you, sexy gym ubiquity is the highest compliment that can be paid a song in this here city. So I’d say Nicki is doing pretty well for herself. Thanks for the memories GURL!
- “One More Night” by Maroon 5 | Another reason for the delayed release on this set (I should stop making excuses already… but this one is legit) was to wait until one new Maroon 5 song, any new Maroon 5 song, was released that was not “Payphone.” I’m glad I waited because this lead track from their new LP Overexposed is slow burn pop / reggae chic / hypnotic swagger in audible form. If you don’t immediately warm up to it like some of their other ear candy, give it a few spins. I promise it will work its voodoo magic.
- “Dark Side” by Kelly Clarkson | I had a pretty philosophical debate with fellow mixmaker and road press agent Justin O’Neill several weeks back about why this Kelly Clarkson song should be included on mixtapes made this summer over other offerings from her latest album. I thought it was a little too melancholy and he played the “But it’s her latest single and you pretty much have to do it” card which is always hard to beat in my book. Even if it’s not happy-go-lucky in sentiment, it makes up for it in sheer earnestness. Plus, it’s a nice little break amidst the frothiness of some of these other songs. Seriously go buy this girl’s album though. She can sing her face off. #oldnews
- “Drive By” by Train | After the seeming anomaly that was “Hey Soul Sister,” I was content to return Train to their proper place in my life. That is, listening to their self-titled debut about once a year and sneaking listens of “Drops of Jupiter” on any day that ended in “y.” And then along came this ludicrous cut from their California 37 release with its dance club underpinnings and blatantly atrocious lyrics. Creepy Pat Monahan is pushing 60 at this point I’m sure, but I still have hope that he’ll find that two-ply hefty bag to hold is love. Until he does, we have buh-mazing songs like this to comfort us as he makes that treacherous journey.
- “Baby Come Home” by Scissor Sisters | Jake Shears and Co. certainly know their way around a sinful little dance tune, eh? Perhaps you’ve recently heard the term “kiki.” As in, let’s have one. For the uninformed, non-dance party elite amongst you out there, “kiki” is shorthand for “party.” Whereas that song is an extended exploration into the exhilarative pleasures of merrymaking (and way too long to include on a summer mix), this song is a blink-or-you-missed-it, bouncy ball of sassy fun. If Elton John were still making music today (by the way, is Elton John still making music today?), he would surely come up with something along these lines.
- “Brokenhearted” by Karmin | Just think of engaged couple Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan as this decade’s Savage Garden. Except they’re not from Australia. And they’re actually together in real life. And really the only thing they have in common is that they write unflinchingly sugary capsules of happiness. Their songs are in-your-face pop in every sense of the word but they like to pepper their ditties with words like “Cheerio” to make it seem like they’re from across the pond. But they’re not. I will not lie to you, the chorus on this song simply owns.
- “Fine by Me” by Andy Grammer | I found this guy while browsing iTunes for under-the-radar folks to include on this year’s collection and I was immediately taken by this jam’s paint-by-number catchiness and Mr. Grammer’s carefree, laid-back style. Jason Mraz and John Mayer were putting out really sleepy stuff this year so I threw caution to the wind and said, “Forget it! I’m gonna put some rando in their place and I’m gonna be happy about it!” His album came out last year but this is his new(er) single so I’m claiming it as a 2012-er for my own selfish purposes.
- “I Want You Back” by Cher Lloyd | I know what you’re thinking, “Who in the world is Cher Lloyd?” She’s not even big enough to be one of the featured artists at the tail end of a Now That’s What I Call Music! release. To you I say, don’t be a player hater and just listen to this girl grunt with white girl angst just about every 10 seconds in this song. I truly cannot stop listening to her Ritalin-exposed rumination on lost love. It’s nothing like the Jackson 5 tune with which it shares a moniker, but it’s similarly spiffy in all senses of the word.
- “Hollywood” by RAC feat. Poison Penguin | If you know me, you know I don’t consciously seek out artists that find themselves most comfortable as the background music at a Willimasburg bonfire night (I’m physically just not that cool) but you also know that I have friends who majored in this type of music in college (almost literally) and every now and then I’ll hear a song that fits this bill that I can call my own. This is such a song. RAC is an Arizona-based alt surfer boy outfit that apparently specializes in breezy concoctions that make me smile. And I’m guessing Poison Penguin is one of the villains in the new Christopher Nolan Batman flick? Discuss.
- “She’s So Mean” by Matchbox Twenty | If you know me at all, you know I’m obsessed with the 90s. And, more specifically, 90s music. Matchbox Twenty almost singularly represents this golden era in music for me… something about Rob Thomas’ precise lite rock vocals, their approachable grooves, or the fact that almost every radio format can get away with playing something from one of their albums. When I saw this single to their upcoming project North (due in September) pop up online, I knew before I even listened to it that it was destined for summer mix glory. And then I listened to it, with its hummable pre-chorus that builds into a sensible, contained pop/rock denouement and it was like these guys had never left my life for the past 10 years. Welcome back.
- “Be Careful What You Ask For” by Everclear | Speaking of the 90s, you guys, Everclear is still around. I’m not kidding. Their brand new effort Invisible Stars takes their signature sound and puts it squarely in the middle of today’s predictable radio dial while still remaining true to their “I Will Buy You a New Life” / “Father of Mine” glory days. I’m pretty sure no one on this song was around for those earlier years (except probably the lead dude) but it’s not like we’re talking about rock royalty here. It’s Everclear! They’re disposable. And so is this song. (And I mean that in the best possible way.)
- “Hard Way Home” by Brandi Carlile | There are certain artists I include on these mixes not because they will become the next radio darling but simply because they are credible artists who make good music. I’ve been a fan of Brandi since Day One and her new album makes me want to move up into the mountains, chop wood, and drink something warm. Not sure if that makes it the most likely contender for summer mix inclusion, but this jaunty little gift fits in just fine with its upbeat pacing and Ms. Carlile’s soothing vocals.
- “Watching You Watch Him” by Eric Hutchinson | Remember that cute little Eric Hutchinson song from a couple years ago called “Rock and Roll”? (True devotees will know it more readily as Track #19 on Mix of the Summer 2009. Snap.) Well apparently that guy is still around! This was actually the first song I decided to put on the mix this year. It was a free iTunes single several months back and I downloaded it on a whim because I liked that other song he had. This is a wistful little number and let’s not pretend like we all haven’t been there… watching someone you like like someone else a heckuva lot more than they like you. Sounds more fun we he sings it!
- “One Way Ticket” by Carrie Underwood | I’m going to go ahead and give all the credit to this find to one Ms. Katie Scipioni. She heard of my quest to find the most summerworthy jamz over beer and shrimp salad at a surprisingly non-sketchy Jersey Shore watering hole after a day of nothing but roller coasters. She simply mentioned that I should include this album cut from Ms. Underwood’s Blown Away offering in my consideration pool. How right she was. The message of this song is completely in line with the spirit of Mix of the Summer, perhaps more than any other track, and the approach could not be more playful, fun little whistles and all.
- “Summertime” by Luke Bryan | Country songs can be really gimmicky. Summertime country songs can be even more so. Summertime country songs named “Summertime” have gone so far past the gimmicky line that, well, they’re just kind of brilliant. Luke Bryan’s slow-burning ballad to a girl that makes his speakers go “boom-boom” and rates a “9.9” (which FYI is essentially the same thing as saying there’s a least something a little bit wrong with her) is the only way to end a summer mix. It’s commercial country crooning at its best and will make you want to immediately listen to One Direction upon completion. Lather, rinse, repeat y’all!
So I’m going to be spending the next few days (weeks, months?) pressing these things. I actually put aside a budget for mailing them this year. So if you want one, let me know and if I get my act together (that’s a big if) your mailbox might be graced with one.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!