Today is important for two reasons. A. Mix of the Summer 2011 officially drops and you can all stop wondering what in the world to listen to during your beach-bound road trips and backyard barbecues. B. I have finally come to the realization that this blog is now merely a receptacle for announcing my mixes because I clearly haven’t posted an update since last year’s release date. Excuse me while I blush in embarrassment.
I will say, though, that if there were any reason to revive this ole relic of a web log, it would be the time-honored tradition of picking 20 carefree summer jams and packaging them into a nice little compilation for my friends everywhere! Before delving into my mix-making philosophy and a little commentary on each of this year’s selections (unabashedly stealing this idea from the equally gifted mix master Dawn Kusinski), please remember that I do not make these mixes to be highbrow and I do not make these mixes to predict the next chart toppers. I make these mixes because they make me happy. And I can only hope they make you happy too.
- “Bright Lights Bigger City” by Cee Lo Green | The most important ingredient to any mix CD is the first track. If it sucks, chances are your listener will abandon your efforts right then and there. Cee Lo’s up-and-coming selection from his Lady Killer set does not disappoint and I would also be so bold as to argue that it’s better than his better known tune “F*ck You” which is destined to live in the outer realms of ubiquity until the Lord comes home. “Bright Lights” is ghetto epicness at its finest and I dare you not to put it on when you’re primping to go out prior to a night on the town.
- “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)” by Katy Perry | There were several Katy Perry cuts that could have easily made the list this year, but there’s something so bubbly and tickety-tack about this song that made it the clear winner when all was said and done. Props to you if you can successfully memorize the litany of mistakes that make up the chorus (it took me a few weeks but I’ve got it down pat now!) and double props if you immediately watch the accompanying music video, featuring cameos by Rebecca Black, Hanson and Debbie… I’m sorry Deborah Gibson.
- “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” by NKOTBSB | I’m not gonna lie. I’m slightly ashamed that this song is on the CD. In all honesty, I wasn’t intending to put a boy band song on this year’s mix and, quite frankly, I was mildly surprised to discover that boy bands were still around. Although these guys will obviously never return to the height of their respective popularities, they can still maneuver their way around a guilt-inducing infectious pop ditty. And for that I am grateful. And I know (secretly) you are too.
- “What the Hell” by Avril Lavigne | Unbeknownst to America, there was a neck-and-neck race between this Avril track and her new single “Smile” (which is quite cute, given the source) to make this year’s summer mix, but I opted for this frothy confection of oh-so-transparent angst because it’s Avril doing what Avril does best: laying down an earnest lyric of nonconformity over the catchiest pop rock melody you’ve ever heard. You’ve gotta love the irony. I almost made this the lead song of the collection, but I didn’t want to get too repetitious for any longtime subscribers who would immediately notice I did the same thing with her playground jam “Girlfriend” on Mix of the Summer 2007.
- “Marry You” by Bruno Mars | I didn’t have to think very long to decide that I would not include any songs from the Glee kids on this year’s mix. I mean, they steal people’s music, they vacillate between adorable and annoying like the two are going out of style and, most importantly, these things have to be evergreen, people! If I looked back at this mix in 2045, I would undoubtedly judge myself for including such material. That being said, the episode where they sang this at the nuptials of Finn’s mom and Kurt’s dad was totes presh… and I had no idea it was Bruno Mars at the time! I have since corrected this oversight and find it to be an altogether winning summery serenade.
- “I Do” by Colbie Caillat | Did anyone else really like William on this season The Bachelorette before that God-awful episode with the roast (that Ashley clearly greenlit, btw)? He was seriously my first pick until that moment based on his goofy first date that found the two traipsing through Vegas and “almost eloping” before stumbling upon (surprise!) Colbie Caillat performing a private concert of this song just for them. Suffice it to say, this track is heads and tails above “On the Wings of Love” and it’s under three minutes which is great from a mix-making standpoint. That is to say, you have to have a small selection of short tracks to ensure you’ll have enough room for the longer ones you really love and still meet your 20-song quota.
- “Love on Top” by Beyonce | “Run the World (Girls)” is too bizarre and “Best Thing I Never Had” is legit but a little too melancholy for the summer mix so Ms. Knowles is represented here by this sizzling effort from her upcoming fourth studio album. The whole set is essentially her getting in the mood to have Jay-Z’s babies (thought courtesy of Rachel Perkins) which primarily results in slow jam sexytime music. This is hands down the most effervescent song of the bunch and it’s hard not to ride the waves of euphoria with Queen B (she changes keys, what, like five times?!) as she wails of her love for her man. Think of it as “Dreamlover” but 18 years later.
- “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj | Finally, I think I get Nicki Minaj. She’s been buzzy and overhyped for the better part of two years (granted I’m not her target audience) which has resulted in a number of satisfying featured slots on other artist’s singles but nary a huge hit of her own. Until now. I don’t think “Super Bass” will be a blockbuster, but it’s her best shot, mind-boggling rhymes, infectious hooks and all. She has a really distinctive, guttural style to her rapping… and her sentiments are pretty lovely too: “He might sell coke”? That’s awesome! Bring him home to mom! We’ll just say this one is #winning.
- “The Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga | I had many sleepless nights agonizing over which Gaga track to bless you with on this anthology. Well maybe not sleepless, but I did give it some good thought. To that end, “Government Hooker” and “You and I” are just so dandy they merit mixes of their own. (Maybe I’ll make a B-Sides album this year!) Current single “The Edge of Glory” won out in the end and, indeed, has it all: pulsing dancey vibe complete with unforgettable chorus (oh hey Cher’s “Song for the Lonely”! Is that you with a weave?!), bawse vocals, and that no-brainer Clarence Clemons sax solo. God rest his retro-licious soul.
- “Jet Lag” Simple Plan featuring Natasha Bedingfield | This song brings to mind a myriad of questions… Is Natasha Bedingfield dating against the pop star food chain and doing the nasty with one of the kids from Simple Plan? Don’t all throwaway pop acts live in L.A. and, if so, why are these two having such insurmountable time zone issues? And, holy 2002, how is Simple Plan still together?! In a case such as this, it’s best not to think too hard and just enjoy this cute collab which is simultaneously tuneful and completely out of left field. Special thanks to James and Marissa Rosano for notifying me of this offering… over margaritas and an ebonics primer.
- “I Feel Like Dancin’” by All Time Low | The lyrics to this song sit right up there with Plato in my opinion. There’s something about the idea of partying like it’s my civil right that just sits so right with me. Furthermore, the line that says “Now I know how Ke$ha must be feeling” in reference to some guy touching his junk made me literally laugh out loud (or LOL for those of you who don’t speak longhand). Just call it my sly way of getting Ke$ha on the mix without actually having to put Ke$ha on my mix. This one narrowly beat out Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight, Tonight” for the completely sugary alt-pop slot. I’m glad it won.
- “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn | Let me just say that Robyn was very low on my maybe list for inclusion on the mix this year (shameful, I know) until one enchanting evening when Emily Bines proceeded to play it on repeat for what must have been at least 10 times during a fateful Williamsburg dance party. Welp, now it’s essentially my anthem for the summer even if it was released back in the dark ages of 2010. But for good reason! Its sly approach to the subject of infidelity is downright cheeky. Of course we would expect nothing less from our favorite Swedish pop tart!
- “Someone Like You” by The Summer Set | What up Razor and Tie?! I had no idea these guys existed until my darling roommate turned me onto their latest single, which I later learned is off of their sophomore LP (due out next month). And no, this little gem is not the theme song of the similarly titled classic Ashley Judd / Hugh Jackman romcom about bull mating and sexual politics, but it’s equally as endearing. Think acoustic pop, meets guy lead singer who almost sounds like a girl, meets sweet sentimentality and you’ve got all the fixins for this ever-lovin’ summertime track.
- “Different” by Ximena Sariñana | What up Q Prime?! The lovely Anna Pandorf also turned me on to this stone cold winner and I’m not just putting it on the mix to make her happy. (Though I will gladly welcome any and all perks its inclusion might afford me via your client roster, AP!). Ximena has a cool pop/rock/jazz vibe going for her that doesn’t necessarily point to her Mexican roots (well, not here anyway) but it does highlight her extreme adorability. Think Sara Bareilles meets Ingrid Michaelson. And if those two artists are the same to you then you will probably hate this whole mix and why have you even read up to this point? For a bonus dose of cuteness go look up the lyrics video (different that the music video) for this track. It stars a puppet who is obsessed with Ximena. Weeeeee!
- “MoneyGrabber” by Fitz and the Tantrums | These guys were actually the first track I knew would go on the mix and one Ms. Holly Darnell confirmed their needed presence during our glorious Grayton Beach vacay earlier this summer. They fall at the beginning of a three-track section I lovingly call the Under the Radar set. This track is all Motown horns and neo soul. Please partake of its wannabe retro goodness immediately and thank me later.
- “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People | This song could very well be the lovechild of Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” and the theme song to The Drew Carey Show. (You know the one… “All the little chicks with the crimson lips go, ‘Cleveland rocks…’”) I know that might not sound like a compliment, but it is. “Pumped Up Kicks” goes down as entry #2 in the Under the Radar section and it’s best not to listen too closely to the lyrics as they are ambiguously disturbing. Some kid named Robert finds a gun and his daddy comes home bringing a surprise? I bet it’s not a puppy! I also bet I don’t care because this song is eerily delightful.
- “Young Blood” by The Naked and Famous | Closing out the Under the Radar trio is this precocious offering from the New Zealand quintet The Naked and Famous. I should really clear up what I mean by Under the Radar at this point… essentially it means that the number of songs these bands have had played on Gossip Girl most likely outweighs their album sales by a 2:1 ratio. But no matter. Even if they don’t become any more famous (or naked?) than they are now, these kiddos will ride the groove of their atmospheric indie rock all the way off into the sunset of your heart.
- “Put You in a Song” by Keith Urban | Call me a sucker for missing Music Row, but the country section of the summer mix has been expanded from one song to three this year. And leave it to me to pick the three most homogenized country songs on the radio right now! Chief among them is Keith Urban’s ode to love so uncategorizable he must sing about it. And not just in any song… this song! What’s that you say? A country song with gimmicky word play? I’ve never heard such a brilliant idea! Urban is the king of windows down, sunshiny anthems and this is a worthy addition to his canon. That Kidman chick must feel pretty dern special.
- “Mine” by Taylor Swift | Sometimes I think about not putting T. Swift on a summer mix. And then I die a little bit inside. What’s not to love? She’s young, she’s talented, and her songs are simple but they have such a sweet honesty to them that most people would be lucky to concoct by artificial means. Pretty sure Tay Tay sang this at a special concert I attended with Kira, Betz and Brenty prior to her third album selling a patrillion copies. All the new cuts were vaguely catchy at first but I knew every last one of them would eventually end up stuck in my head. They always do. That saucy minx.
- “Don’t You Wanna Stay” by Jason Aldean featuring Kelly Clarkson | I know what you’re thinking. “Why would Andrew end such a peppy mix with such a low key slow burn?” And to that I answer: because it’s tradition! I can’t think of a better slow burn than this bluesy duet between Jason Don’t-Own-Another-Song-By-Him Aldean and Kelly She-Should-Never-Leave-Country Clarkson. It’s standard paint-by-number perfect Nashvegas balladry with Clarkson’s ballin’ pipes thrown in for good measure. Listen to her effortless riffs at the end of the second verse (“it’s a sad goodbyeyeyeyeye”)… a fitting farewell to this year’s summertime collection indeed!
So there you have it: Mix of the Summer 2011. If you live in the NYC area, chances are you will have one of these forced upon you by me in the coming weeks. If you don’t live near me and would like a copy, e-mail me your address and I will try my darndest to snail mail you one but know that I have to pay Manhattan rent once a month and I might need to wait until my next paycheck to afford the postage.
Happy Summer to all!