Every year, we indulge in a meaningless (but fun) debate over what three-minute slice of music deserves to be crowned the “song of the summer.” And the summer of 2021 seemed poised to be a season that absolutely required a joyous soundtrack of upbeat music — we were going to celebrate our emergence from beneath the shadow of COVID by flashing our vaccination cards, tossing out our masks and partying all summer. It was going to be our “Hot Vax Summer.”
No such luck.
Instead, we stumbled — largely for reasons of our own making — into the summer of the delta variant, with COVID cases reaching, in some states (like Oregon) all-time highs and intensive-care units throughout the nation crammed past bursting with patients. Most of us had to put our masks back on — even in some outdoor settings. In other words, it hasn’t been the “Fun, Fun, Fun” summer we expected it to be — in fact, our daddy came and took all of our T-birds away.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some music. So I’ve pulled together a playlist for the actual summer of 2021 — 10 songs that might be taken completely out of context but still have something to say about this season.
Here are annotated comments on the songs:
- “Delta Dawn,” Tanya Tucker. This is the obvious song to kick off the playlist. It has been cool to see Tucker making new music — and winning Grammy nominations to boot.
- “Right Back Where We Started From,” Maxine Nightingale. Love is good, love can be strong — but so can delta.
- “Do It Again,” Steely Dan. I bet you didn’t know that Waylon Jennings once covered this song. Waylon’s version doesn’t have the electric sitar solo, though.
- “Oops … I Did It Again,” Britney Spears. One of two Britney songs on the list. The other one is pretty obvious, if you think about it. Don’t peek.
- “Deja Vu,” Beyonce featuring Jay-Z. I know everybody thinks this is just a knockoff of Beyonce’s earlier smash, “Crazy in Love.” Speaking of crazy — I think you can make the case that “Deja Vu” is a better song than “Crazy in Love.” Want to fight? Fine … but show me your vaccination card first.
- “Fever,” Peggy Lee. Another obvious selection, in the definitive recording.
- “Delta City Blues,” The Michael Brecker Quartet. An outstanding track from one of our greatest saxophonists. Unfortunate title, though.
- “Toxic,” Britney Spears. Did you guess correctly? Of course you did. You should know that I’m not being ironic in the slightest when I say that this is one of the greatest singles in the history of pop music. I’m serious. Really. I’ll leave it at that.
- “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” Frank Sinatra. This is such an obvious selection that I laughed out loud when I thought of it. Unfortunately (and this is true), I was at a church service at the time. Masked, of course, but still. (Confidential to certain state governors: Use your mentality. Wake up to reality.)
- “Soul Vaccination,” Tower of Power. This probably is not the only song with the word “vaccination” in the title. But it is the only one featuring the Tower of Power horn section. Play it loud and proud when you get your booster.
Can you think of other songs that should be on this list? I bet you can. Note them in the comments section below or send me an email at this address: email@example.com.