Saturday was the official start of summer, so we’re here with picks for the songs to get you through the sweaty season.
There’s a bounty of pool-ready tunes at hand this year, led by a strong contingent of female vocalists who, to varying degrees, are lighting up pop music with their own spin on the tried-and-true.
But enough chatter – let’s get down to our 10 favorite tracks heading into 2014’s sun-scorched stretch of days.
La Roux, ‘Uptight Downtown’
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The lead single from La Roux (nee Elly Jackson)’s hotly anticipated sophomore LP, “Trouble in Paradise” (due out next month), is a scintillating, synth-laced gem straight out of the mid-’80s. Riding a percolating beat and Jackson’s elegantly clipped vocals, “Uptight Downtown” is the ne plus ultra of summer ‘14 jams.
Iggy Azalea, ‘Fancy’
If you’ve been anywhere near a radio in the last couple months, you’ve heard this irresistible banger – and, just as likely, people shouting along to the chorus (“I’m so fancy …”). As odes to conspicuous consumption go, “Fancy” – which gets plenty of juice from rising star Iggy Azalea and a scorching Charli XCX cameo – sets a high bar, and marks Aussie rapper Azalea as a force to be reckoned with.
Ariana Grande, ‘Problem’
Zigging when most others would zag, pop starlet Ariana Grande (hailed by some as Mariah Carey 2.0) fuses a naggingly catchy sax riff (shades of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty”) with a counterintuitive, whispered chorus a la Ying Yang Twins’ immortal “Wait.” Her skyscraping vocals, contrasted nicely with guest Iggy Azalea’s roundhouse contribution, make this a guilty pleasure with punch.
Pharrell, ‘Marilyn Monroe’
“Happy” may be the song fast wearing out its welcome, but Pharrell’s uneven LP “Girl” contains a few other pleasures, namely this tribute to screen icon Marilyn Monroe and fellow “helpless romantics.” More than any other cut on “Girl,” this tune lays bare the producer/performer’s time spent with Daft Punk – squint a little and it’s not hard to imagine the robots doing wondrous things with this tune.
DJ Snake & Lil Jon, ‘Turn Down for What’
This year’s prime example of a little going a long way, this surprisingly spare smash hit catapults Lil Jon back into the spotlight (remember when he’d turn up on a song like this like clockwork?), just as it introduces rising French star DJ Snake (aka William Grigahcine) to Stateside ears.
Sam Smith, ‘Stay With Me’
Poised to be one of the year’s breakout stars, British vocalist Sam Smith soars on this lead-off single from his just-released debut album, “In the Lonely Hour.” He was an undeniable highlight at this year’s South by Southwest, before wowing a national audience on “Saturday Night Live” earlier this year. Just try listening to this and remaining unmoved.
Coldplay, ‘A Sky Full of Stars’
Although most of the British superstars’ latest long-player is a downer, “Ghost Stories” does contain this soaring anthem, co-written with EDM giant Avicii. A throbbing throwback to the world-beating early days, “A Sky Full of Stars” infuses uplift with pathos, and the result is heavenly.
Rixton, ‘Me and My Broken Heart’
Sometimes, nothing satisfies like saccharine pop. Brit boy band Rixton, the latest act folded under Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun’s wing, is just beginning to gain traction in America, thanks to this totally fluffy but amazingly infectious song.
Ed Sheeran, ‘Sing’
A tender-hearted troubadour takes an intriguing left turn with the first single from his just-released album “X” (which he pronounces “multiply”). Sheeran embraces hip-hop rhythms – even going so far as display his rapping prowess – on this falsetto-fueled earworm.
Miranda Lambert, ‘Automatic’
Lambert casts a fond glance backward on an ode to a more simple time, evoking her poignant smash “The House That Built Me” as she pushes forward on her new album “Platinum.” Although she’s singing about life in general, it’s not hard to imagine Lambert would approve of a summer spent around the swimmin’ hole catching fireflies.