Music

These are the feelgood hits of the strange summer

Although the holiday season will yet again be too close to home for most, this year’s bangers will help us imagine sunnier climes, says Malcolm Jack

Unless you and the #lads are plotting a big mad one in Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, the South Sandwich Islands or some other obscure green list overseas territory, chances are your holiday plans look distinctly un-exotic this summer. Does that mean feelgood summer anthems too are cancelled? You can bet your uncashed traveller’s cheques that they are not!

Whether you’re raving it up on a campsite in Walton-on-the-Naze, seeking B&B heaven in Devon, rocking a Rhyl static caravan on its telescopic dampeners or just taking a few days’ annual leave to potter about the house doing overdue chores, rest assured that pop stars are setting synthesisers to “hazy” and trying to think of words other than “fun” to rhyme with “sun” (Tier 1? Stay-cay-shun?) sufficient to ensure that even your long weekend clearing out the loft will go off.

In doing so these musicians valiantly maintain a long and proud tradition of songs from Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday through to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP which, in their own generationally particular way, make you want to shed layers like a lizard, bake pink in the sun, drink 17 Aperol Spritzes then do something regrettable with a practical stranger on the back of a Vespa.

From sun-kissed EDM to riotous punk-pop and more than one song about fruit, behold the hits which are about to become synonymous forevermore with halcyon memories of this, the long, lukewarm, stay-close-to-home-again summer of 2021. Sun lotion not included, nor even required.

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Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar Photo: Courtesy of PR

Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar

Wait, isn’t this literally last summer’s feelgood anthem? Yes, it is! But such is the ever-ripe power of jumble sale rummaging ex-1D heartthrob Styles and his fructose banger Watermelon Sugar – and if there’s any one thing to be said about a nice big watermelon it’s that it goes a very long way – it’s climbing the charts all over again. It’s like eternal summer! RATING: FIVE SUNS

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Calvin Harris – By Your Side (feat. Tom Grennan) Photo: Courtesy of PR

Calvin Harris – By Your Side (feat. Tom Grennan)

Like a good gardener deadheading their perennials, Scottish superstar DJ Calvin Harris grows gazillions-streaming big sunny anthems the same but different every summer, such that they might as well rename summertime “Calvin Harris Time”. With its trademark silly squiggly hook and towering drop, By Your Side featuring British vocalist Tom Grennan, hits like a pure shot of synthetic Vitamin D. RATING: THREE SUNS

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Lorde – Solar Power Photo: Courtesy of PR

Lorde – Solar Power

At last, a pop song that debates the relative merits of subsidies on solar panelling versus the feed-in tariff! Or something like that. New Zealand’s pop royal is back with her first music in four years, a blissed-out carefree sizzler with vibes lifted from Loaded by Primal Scream which finds Lorde – the self-styled “prettier Jesus” – shirtless and shoeless, dancing in the sand, chucking her phone in the sea. RATING: FIVE SUNS

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Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U Photo: Courtesy of PR

Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U

Less a feelgood anthem than a feel good about feeling bad anthem, Good 4 U by Disney child actress turned teenage pop-punk sensation Rodrigo is already the sound of the summer insofar as it’s dominating the singles charts both sides of the Atlantic. An angsty dig at an ex who moved on with suspicious haste, part-No Doubt, part-Taylor Swift, it’s a song for sweating away in your Doc Martens, brooding on that summer romance that never was. RATING: FIVE SUNS

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Justin Bieber – Peaches (feat. Daniel Caesar and Giveon) Photo: Courtesy of PR

Justin Bieber – Peaches (feat. Daniel Caesar and Giveon)

Taking inspiration perhaps from last summer’s feelgood anthem Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles, J-Biebz raids the fruit bowl and presses his own juicy-sweet R&B groove, smooth, no bits. “I got my peaches out in Georgia, I get my weed from California,” sings our five-a-day bad boy, like a stoned Man from Del Monte. Guest singers Daniel Caesar and Giveon subsequently trade smooth verses in what fast descends into a kind of smooth-voiced smooth-off. RATING: THREE SUNS

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