Have you found a summer song yet?
A summer song is not necessarily the same thing as a “song of summer,” which is a banger that everybody can agree on, a song you can’t escape during the months spent darting into stores in search of AC. No, a summer song is uniquely yours. It’s a song that comes on at the exact right moment — let’s say at a rooftop party when you’re wearing a sundress and the strap falls off your shoulder and the right person decides to fix it. Or when you meet someone at a picnic and you realize you’re going to be friends for a very long time. It might come on while you’re driving next to a person you love and you look over, and they look over, and you know that for the rest of your life every time you hear that song you’ll think about how they were looking at you right at that moment.
Like summer romances, the best summer songs have a casual serendipity to them. Discovering your summer song has the random pleasure of finding something you didn’t go looking for. Picture Elio watching Oliver in his short shorts, dancing to “Love My Way” and you’ve got the idea.
I found my summer song kind of late into the summer, actually, and I found it accidentally, as one should, on the radio. I love the radio, because even though Spotify’s algorithms get me pretty well, they don’t have that magic quality of an old-school DJ on a Friday night. If you happen to be in range of Long Island, I highly recommend Ed German, the host of “Friday Night Soul” on WPPB. He plays the kind of James Brown tracks that last 30 minutes and are mostly sex noises. (Back in the day no one wanted to interrupt the flow and flip the record.) Last weekend he played the 1974 recording of “Summer Breeze” by the Isley Brothers. I’ve heard that song before but never this version, which has a naughty, yearning quality. It’s the musical equivalent of just the right amount of Mezcal, or a late afternoon on the beach when you’ve been there all day and realize you might be there all night, too. Maybe you’ll never leave. Maybe you’ll just be on that beach till you die of happiness.
Perhaps this song became my 2018 summer song because the temperature was perfect when it came on, or maybe because it had finally stopped raining and there was a massive, full, orange moon out the window. Maybe it became my summer song because it was the first time all summer that I felt truly relaxed.
Later, on the radio, I was listening to a musician talk about how he thought about his music as “a dream, without the isolation of sleep.” And that seems like the best description of August I’ve ever heard. August, my favorite month in New York City, has that bittersweetness of being summer’s final stretch — a hot, waking dream in which anything is possible. If you haven’t found your song yet, there’s still time.