It's Not Too Late to Add These Summer Songs to Your Playlists

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Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned


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As COVID-19 protocols continue to disintegrate, cities and towns have begun to buzz and previously isolated friends are poking out their heads for drinks, dates, and daytime debauchery. Much like the rest of the last year, summer 2021 is likely to be unlike anything else we’ve experienced in our lifetimes, but perhaps for different reasons. As always, music will play a large part in documenting and reveling in the absurdity of it all. So as social life begins to pick back up again, we’ve rounded up the best songs for your long-lost summer. From the sexy playful vibes of mainstay stars like Doja, SZA, and Cardi to bops from newcomers like Olivia Rodrigo and Coi Leray, here’s the best music to soundtrack your freedom this season.

“Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat and SZA

In their joint interview with V Magazine, SZA referred to “Kiss Me More” as a “little ditty,” and that’s precisely what the flouncy summer bop is: a mix of Doja’s playful upfront eroticism (“All on my tongue, I want it!”) and SZA’s level-headed independence (“Fucking with you felt like jail”) over an unassuming, catchy disco pop beat.

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“Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo

The 18-year-old teen queen experienced what has be one of the quickest rises of the year, dropping the devastating breakup anthem “Driver’s License” in January to nearly immediate obsession from critics and Gen Z alike. With the agility of a well-trained Disney star (she appears in Disney+’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series), she saw her spot and took it, releasing her debut album, Sour, in May, after a string of equally successful follow-up singles.

“Good 4 U” takes the overwhelming melancholia of “Driver’s License” and swaps it for anger-driven mischief, as she bids facetious well-wishes to her ex: “Good for you, you look happy and healthy,” she sneers while recalling the approachable, 2000s pop punk made famous by Paramore and Avril Lavigne.

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“Count It” by Rochelle Jordan

Rochelle Jordan’s project Play with the Changes is a whole lot of sad, dashed with a pinch of sultry. Even when the Torontonian R&B singer is seemingly stable in her relationship, she’s anticipating inevitable loss. “Count It” is a shiny and soft ode to what she deems a “fuck off fund,” a.k.a. money set aside specifically for post-breakup spending. “I might be lonely … but I won’t be begging,” she says, her gossamer voice floating in and out of a metallic distortion, echoing her lyrics in its electronic detachment.

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“Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon

“Peaches” finds Justin Bieber at his best, which is straightforward and smooth R&B-laden pop. The song runs on playground nursery rhymes and regional shout-outs, bolstered by a silky smooth verse from Daniel Caesar and the surprising baritone of newcomer Giveon.

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“Itty Bitty Piggy” by Nicki Minaj

Like so many of her peers (or as Nicki might prefer to call them, “sons”), Nicki Minaj’s rap commencement took place at the height of the early-2000s blog era, a time when unofficial mixtapes ruled supreme over albums and EPs. One of the shiniest relics from that time is Miss Minaj’s Beam Me Up Scotty, the 20-track masterpiece just was added to streaming services for the first time this year. The tape now plays like a celebration of what rap once was, complete with air horns, hype men, and bountiful guest verses.

Fan-favorite track “Itty Bitty Piggy” still pokes out amid the lunch table beats, with Minaj delivering up to four minutes of nothing but exceptionally airtight bars, capped off with an iconic outro monologue, fit for a supervillain: “Give it up … I win, you lose,” she cackles.

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“Black Tame” by Topaz Jones

“Black Tame” finds New Jersey rapper Topaz Jones combining an old-school Kanye flow with a neo-funk swagger that rivals Anderson .Paak’s. “I can never make up my mind / I’m thinkin’ ’bout the other girls,” Jones cheekily admits on the chorus. It’s a frisky indulgence that will likely be a familiar sentiment in summer 2021.

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“Levitating” by Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby

Seated at the front of the disco revival is Dua Lipa’s glimmering “Levitating,” a track that understands the immense appeal in the genre’s glitz but brings things back to Earth a bit with DaBaby’s baritone modernity. Lipa has left her high-heeled footprint on the last year, and she’s showing no signs of stopping, scattering disco-renaissance pop hits throughout her reign.

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“Best Friend” by Doja Cat and Saweetie

Saweetie and Doja are certainly not the first rappers to mention the evil genius mainstay whip that is the Tesla in their raps, but there’s something about the way Saweetie jeers, “Is that my bestie in a Tessie?” in the track’s opening verse that just seems to hit different. Everything else in “Best Friend” is equally playful and ridiculous, as the two besties hype each other up and brag on their respective beauty. It’s a delightfully unapologetic bop, making for a silly and infectious club banger for the summer.

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“Lemonhead” by Tyler, the Creator featuring 42 Dugg

Tyler, the Creator is an omnipresent force: a producer, designer, composer, and curator, who just so happens to also be a rapper. On his most recent project, Call Me If You Get Lost, he has seemingly rediscovered his love for the genre, with his sound traveling back in time, returning to the gritty and undone beats that flooded his days as the leading instigator of L.A. collective Odd Future. “Lemonhead” is menacing, splattered with the sound of ringing phones and pausing itself for especially noteworthy bars from Tyler and his featured guest, Michigan rapper 42 Dugg.

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“END” by Chai

“END” by Chai sounds like a Beastie Boys track filtered through a Japanese girl group. The explosive all-girl quartet takes on a late-’90s guerilla rap beat and pairs it with a brassy electronic buzz, bolstering it with cheeky, rageful lyrics. It’s a fever dream of a track that sounds fit for a blockbuster heist scene or a high-speed car chase.

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“Transparent Soul” by Willow featuring Travis Barker

Oscillating between unperturbed and shamelessly vengeful, Willow Smith’s “Transparent Soul” is a master class in updated pop punk. Harnessing the female front woman prowess of her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith—who led nu metal band Wicked Wisdom in the early aughts—Willow’s vocals skate in a way that’s equal parts gritty and glossy. “You’re not the only Black girl who wishes she could flip her hair to the side, and wear black eyeliner,” Willow recently urged to her fellow Black punk fans.

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“Busy” by Erika de Casier

Erika de Casier sounds truly exhausted when she exhales, “I’m way too fucking busy.” The Danish singer-songwriter—who seems to pull inspiration from Aaliyah and Ashanti in her airy vocals—informs the suitors who are blowing up her phone that she has a whole lot of self-care to get to. For now, she’s gracefully declining all sleazy invites and offers.

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“Up” by Cardi B

Cardi B’s confidence has never evaded her. “Once upon a time, man, I heard that I was ugly,” she sneers before the beat in “Up” even drops. What follows is almost three minutes of uninterrupted self-love proclamations, eventually inviting the crowd in with her: “Broke boys don’t deserve no kitty,” she chants, before a chorus of female voices yell, “I know that’s right!”

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“Moscow” by 03CAS

“Moscow” is London-based rapper 03CAS’s latest, and it’s a head rush of distorted sounds that eventually come together for a calming, hypnotic ride. With a beat held up by chopped and screwed vocals, “Moscow” sounds like the dizzying heat of a 90-plus degree day, as its far-out sound settles into a soothing, understated groove.

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“Lay wit Ya” by Isaiah Rashad featuring Duke Deuce

After a multiyear hiatus, Isaiah Rashad—one of Kendrick Lamar’s longest-running TDE signees—emerged from the shadows to announce a new album. To celebrate the momentous reemergence, he joined forces with buzzy Memphis rapper Duke Deuce (known for last year’s ginormous track “Crunk Ain’t Dead”) for the menacing “Lay wit Ya.” The pair ends up filling in the spaces for each other, as Rashad holds steady on his cool, laid-back flow and Duke hops in and rattles the floorboards.

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“What’s Next” by Drake

For nearly a decade, Drake has consistently dropped a summertime smash for the masses. This year, he lent his Midas touch to “What’s Next,” a steady and unrelenting performance with Drake’s usual good sense of humor poking through his arrogance: “On Valentine’s Day I had sex, okay?” he quips.

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“No More Parties” by Coi Leray

“No More Parties” has been a mainstay online for a minute, as Boston-born newcomer Coi Leray teased the track across social media for weeks on end. Though the snippets clocked in at a mere few seconds, the undeniable catchiness of Coi’s mesmerizingly playful sing-song rap falsetto, on top of dangling piano keys, was all it took to set fans ablaze. “No More Parties” is a simplistic gem for the sung rap era, as Coi hypes herself up and promises nothing but the best in the future: “only doing shit that’s gonna make me elevate,” she says stately.

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“In My Bag” by Thuy

The “In My Bag” beat sounds familiar, the sort of go-to trap-heavy R&B beat that’s omnipresent on most pop radio stations. But the song excels with Thuy, the rising Bay Area singer who rides the track with an expert-level flow and a tightly tailored hook. Thuy is onto something big as she tells her listeners, “Who knew I would be the one? Yeah, I knew, I knew, I knew.”

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“Thot Shit” by Megan Thee Stallion

About two years ago, Megan Thee Stallion declared it a Hot Girl Summer, and we’ve been channeling the phrase—nay, the lifestyle—ever since. This summer, she’s coming through with a continued crusade for the hotties, but with an updated message for the subsequent haters. “Thot Shit” is the usual celebration of sexual freedom, with a campy thriller video that finds Megan tormenting the conservative men who love to sexually shame her online. “The women that you accidentally tryna step on are everybody that you depend on,” she quips. Rapping over a beat with a slurred reverb that is undeniably Houston, Megan purrs, “I’m the shit per the Recording Academy.”

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“Twerkulator” by City Girls

The City Girls have no fear. Taking on the classic and unmistakable beat from the 1982 track “Planet Rock”—later popularized via iconic house producer Cajmere a.k.a. Green Velvet’s “Percolator—is no small feat. But through the power of twerking and the inimitable guiding hand of Missy Elliott on the video, anything is possible. “Twerkulator” found what made the iconic beat so infectious, then simply added a bit of bounce and City Girl swagger to make it official.

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Listen to all the songs in the playlist below and follow Harper’s BAZAAR on Spotify.

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