What makes a great summer song?

Summer is here! The sky is blue, the clouds have departed and the sunscreen is out. There are so many things that define the summertime; picnics, BBQs, Wimbledon, and of course, music. Our summers are usually sound tracked by some killer tunes. But what actually makes a great summer song? What’s the secret behind nailing that school’s-out-for-summer vibe?

great summer song

Be radio friendly

Despite the surge in popularity of music streaming platforms, many people still discover and listen to new music via the radio.  That means, to be a great summer song, it has to be great for the radio. There’s more to achieving that than you might think.

For instance, it’s not all about just not swearing (though that does help). Your lyrics shouldn’t be generic or lifeless, but they might do better to skirt around any contentious topics. Keeping things happy, or at least optimistic, is the way to go. Summer is the season of joy, and if a song is going to get heavy radio play, it needs to reflect that as radio stations want to play music that chimes with the mood of their listeners.

Being radio friendly also means not overstaying your welcome. Songs that do well on the radio typically only have a duration between the 3-4 minutes. Any longer and getting regular air time becomes tricky.

Be up for summer

Don’t be down on the summer season. As previously mentioned, summer is a time to feel happy and uplifted. That feeling should resonate in a great summer song.

A quick look back at some of the most popular summer tunes of recent years shows a pattern: ‘Cheerleader’ by OMI (2015), ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepsen (2012), ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO (2011). The common theme here is the bright, buoyant and optimistic tone that all these tracks share. The subject of each song is very different, the moods though are strikingly similar.

Listening to a great summer song should gear you up for a great summer to come or take you back to a great summer gone by. Either way, that’s only possible if the mood of the song is positively buzzing.

Time it right

Some songs soar to the summit of the charts, others make slower, steadier progress up the ranks. Timing the release of a great summer song to make sure it peaks at precisely the right time is as important as it is difficult.

Marketing, the video, live dates and of course, the nature of the song itself, all need to be in alignment to give the song the best chance possible of it being a success. Generally, unless they’re being released by a well-known star, songs need time to gain momentum and popularity. That means, what goes on to be a great summer song, is often actually released in spring. That allows time for word to spread and for radio stations to introduce it to listeners as early as possible.

A truly great summer song is a joy to behold and can really capture spirit of the season. All of the above points are made based on the pattern that can be seen from previous summer hits. However, there is no ‘right way’ to create a great song, as with any art.

Honestly, predicting what people will love is pretty much pointless too. People tend to just enjoy what’s good, that has been created by talented people and offers them something new to experience. If you’re trying to make things you think will be successful, instead focus on just making things you think are good. Success, hopefully, will come as a by-product of that.


Also published on Medium.