All the Songs of the Summer of the 21st Century

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Check out our playlist of Every Song of the Summer Since 2000 below.

Sunscreen and the smell of water. Car windows down and speakers up. And music that feels as good as the sun on your face. The song of the summer is a vibe, an idea — one that’s generated debate from at least the 1880s until today.

“About this time look-out for the summer song,” the New York Tribune wrote in 1910 of the popular trends at the time, piano sheet music. “What will it be this season? Will it be humorous? Will it be sentimental? Will it be unmitigated trash? Will it be at least bearable, in text or music, or both?”

More recently, some of them have been all of the above, and these tunes help tell a broader story about the evolution of music. From hip-hop’s radio reinvention in the early 2000s to the feel-good pop of the early Obama years, through Pharrell and Mark Ronson’s soul-sampling revolution, the rise of Bad Bunny, and the culture wars taking over the rest of the culture, summertime playlists have seen it all.

There’s no perfect criteria that separates thee song of the summer from other big hits. In putting together our list, we were drawn to the tunes that highlighted bigger musical trends. So, for better or worse (but mostly better), here are the songs of the summer from each year of the 21st century so far.

2000. Santana feat. Rob Thomas — “Smooth”

Five simple words: Man, it’s a hot one. Since the dawn of the 21st century, it has been simply impossible to make such an innocuous observation on the weather without immediately hearing Carlos Santana’s guitar riffs and Rob Thomas’ sultry vocals in your head. One of the great collaborations between a music icon and a contemporaneously popular artist, “Smooth” doubled-down on its lazy warm tone with a music video that captured a quintessential summer experience: Hanging out in the neighborhood, enjoying good people, good vibes, and good tunes. It has endured as an earworm ever since. — Liz Shannon Miller

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