Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ten On Tuesdays: Ten Great Non-Canonical Summer Songs

Hey everyone. In what has been typical of this blog, long stretches of time pass between posts, but today is a new era people. In order to keep some sort of consistency, I will be doing a new feature called on Ten on Tuesdays, which I want to start off as bi-weekly at first, but hopefully when I get in the swing of things, it will become weekly. Ten on Tuesdays is basically a top ten list where the category is different everytime and will try to be as inventive as possible. The inaguaral category for Ten on Tuesdays will be "Ten Great Non-Canonical Summer Song", where I try to delve a bit deeper than typical vaunted and legendary summer fare like "I Get Around" or "School's Out For Summer" which is used in montages or even contemporary faves like "Nuthin' Like A G Thang" or "Crazy In Love." Those are great songs, but here are ten that deserve another shot at summertime immortality.

"Another Summer" by 213 (can be found on The Hard Way, 2004, TVT)

Eddie Kendricks' "Intimate Friends" is one of those songs that gets sampled about a few times every decade, from Sweet Sable's "Old Time's Sake" to more recently, Alicia Keys' "Unbreakable," but it's Snoop, Nate Dogg and Warren G's take on it that sticks closest to the breezy laid back vibe of the original. We all know the members of 213 are in their comfort zone rapping over a soul sample, so it's given they're gonna sound good, but instead of reverting to their classic G-funk personas, we get a more positive and dare I say, joyful approach as they describe summer scenes filled with family and fun. Perfect for a backyard barbeque.

"Why Don't We Fall In Love" by Amerie, (can be found on All I Have, 2002, Columbia)

History will look back on Amerie's "1 Thing" as a breakthrough point and one of her artistic heights, but it's scary to think that the lead single from her debut may largely go unnoticed. While it did peak at #23 on the Hot 100, it failed to capture the attention of a nation the way that "1 Thing" did. A damn shame since "Why Don't We Fall In Love" is just as good. It's perfect block party music that harkens back to the days before Mary J. Blige discovered drama. Amerie's request in the song is simple enough: hey you, why don't we fall in love? Sure, she's gorgeous and the chorus soars, so the answer may be easier than you think at first, but it's really producer/songwriter's Rich Harrison edgy but radiant use of a Dave Grusin sample over a classic early 90's drum pattern that brings out the aural sun rays and convinces you to accept Amerie's plea.

"Girls Dem Sugar" by Beenie Man featuring Mya (Art Of Life, 2000, Virgin)

Before The Neptunes literally took over all of radio, they delivered this gem of a dancehall tune to Beenie Man, which became a modest hit. Dancehall and summer time go hand in hand with each other, but out of the dozens of songs from this genre that could have made the list, I think "Girls Dem Sugar" typifies the emotions of summer the best. Mya's delicate delivery of the chorus is like a soft refreshing breeze rolling against your face and provides the perfect complement to the blazing heat of the production and Beenie Man's flow.

"Head Over Heels" by The Go-Go's (can be found on Talk Show, 1984, I.R.S.)

One of the biggest hits on this list, but time appears to have been kinder to "We Got The Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed." Who knows how long it's been since you've thought of this song, but dammit, now is the perfect time to get reacquainted with it. You've got those eighth stabs on the piano that open the song, which I don't know about you, but it screams sand and volleyball to me. And then there's the chorus in it's all grand pop greatness complete with handclaps and "ohhhhhh-ohhs," which is perfect for driving down the street with the wind in your face. Hell, the entire song needs to be heard anywhere outdoors when there's a potential for catching a tan. Don't wait till it appears in a commercial for it to be cool again. Start blasting it out your car right now while the sun is still out.

"A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill" by Jens Lekman (can be found on Oh You're So Silent Jens, 2004, Secretly Canadian)

One of the first songs that came to my mind while compiling this list, if only for the opening lines, "Oh I still remember "Regulate" with Warren G/Could that have been back in the sweet summer of 1993?" I'm already smiling after the "Regulate" reference, but when you couple that with the indie pop-meets-Motown vibe of the song, you can't help but to gleam continously. In the song, Lekman reminsces about summers past in Hammer Hill and all the fun times he had, with an eye for detail that will have you flipping through your mental photo album in search of your own summer memories.

"Feel Me Flow " by Naughty By Nature (can be found on Greatest Hits: Naughty's Nicest, 2003, Tommy Boy/Rhino)

Same case as with The Go-Go's, "Feel Me Flow" was a big hit, but "O.P.P." and Hip Hop Hooray" often overshadow this later effort. Naughty By Nature was always great at crafting hip hop that was hard enough for the streets but still polished enough for radio. "Feel Me Flow is one of the best examples of that kind of synergy. While it leans more on the pop side of things, The Meters' sample employed keeps it funky enough to crank out on the system when driving along the highway on a sunny day. This is 90's hip hop at some of its most catchiest.

"Mass Romantic" by The New Pornographers (can be found on Mass Romantic, 2000, Mint/Matador)

If Neko Case is singing lead on a New Pornographers song, you best believe it's gonna be stuck in your head for a few hours. "Mass Romantic" in certain points is a throwback to the summer days of AM radio with dashes of ELO, The Zombies and a morsel of new wave thrown in the mix. From an album packed with suitable summer songs, I'm going with "Mass Romantic", not only because "Letter From An Occupant" is too obvious, but it provides a vivacious sugar rush that is often overlooked. Many times has this song brought brightness to a grey weather day for me. I nearly lose it when the sun is actually in my face while I have this on my headphones.

"Summer Is Almost Here" by Pas/Cal (can be found on the Pas/Cal/La Laque split single, 2005)

I know it seems a bit odd to include a song titled "Summer Is Almost Here" on a list dealing directly with the event of summer, not its arrival, but I don't mind bending the rules a bit for this one. There are enough elements working here that conjure up a summer mood. "Summer Is Almost Here" sounds like a chamber pop band with ADD who spent their summer vacation in San Francisco.

"I Love Your Smile" by Shanice (can be found on Ultimate Collection, 1999, Hip-O)

About as innocent and as perky as you can get in modern R&B. The charm here lies all in the chorus and its melodic scatting, which you can catch on to with one listen. Bubblegum funk doesn't exist any more and it almost seems unfair because it can provide for some of the best summer music, as seen with "I Love Your Smile." This is very cutesy, but I promise that it's far from annoying. While it was a big hit back in 1992, the joy and exuberance that the song gives off is timeless and deserves to not be forgotten, especially during such an effervescent season.

"Harmour Love " by Syreeta (can be found on True Motown, 2005, Spectrum)

After the sun has set and the party has wound down and everyone is either too tired to dance or too full up on burgers and franks from the grill, you all sit around on the back porch or the front, really doesn't matter, grab those wine coolers from the fridge, find a comfortable spot, put on this song and bask in the slow night wind. "Harmour Love" brings the tropics right to your own home, while exploring all the romantic possibilities that may be. You cuddle up to your significant other gazing at the fireflies, and if you don't have a S.O., now is the time to walk up to whoever you've been eyeing and tell them about that funny, funny feeling down in your heart.

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