Seeking the Jam of the Summer

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, and summertime is officially over, and you’re regaling your friends with tales of Canadian girlfriends and Mexican boyfriends and getting tiny coffins sent to you in the mail, it’s time to ask: What was the jam of the summer?

First you have to set some parameters: Was the jam of the summer that one song you and your friends sang along to at three in the morning on more than one occasion in the past three months—and rarely outside your car? No, it’s not. That’s your jam of the summer and it’s OK if it was Panic! At the Disco or We Are Scientists. It’s your jam, but it’s not the jam of the summer. If the Boston Globe is to be believed, the true jam of the summer was Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (“an oddball R&B ballad about insanity”). Given its chart-toppery and the fact that I heard a drunk singing it at a bar on Flatbush, the Globe gets partial credit on this one. Because “Crazy” couldn’t have been the absolute summer jam—did you even like it that much?

No, the jam of the summer cannot be a divisive issue; it is, after all, the song upon which we all agree. Despite this, I’ll say I had my own personal summer jam: Loudon Wainwright III’s “The Swimming Song,” which was linked in the very first installment of this column—at the beginning of the summer. Many thanks to Said the Gramophone for tipping me off to that one.

» Hear “The Swimming Song” at The Rawking Refuses to Stop!

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Over at Scissorkick, Steve Marchese sets the bar for the summer jam: “If you think Sinbad would be into it at Reggae Sunsplash.” That sounds about right. He points to Tommy Guerrero as the source of this year’s summer jam, at least for East Coasters.

» Hear “Just Ain’t Me” at Scissorkick

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Could Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” be the jam of the summer? Please no—and there goes its unanimity. But speaking of radio hits, how about Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man?” It was late to the summer, but that shouldn’t compromise its contender status.

» Hear “Ain’t No Other Man” at The Daily Growl

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Which makes me wonder if we’ve even heard Summer 2006’s jam yet. JP at Music for Robots reminds us all the 2003 summer jam—one of the greatest of all summers—wasn’t even out until fall: Outkast’s “Hey Ya.” JP’s pick for the jam of this summer is Pigeon John, who’s label-mates with Tommy Guerrero on DJ Shadow’s Quannum records, which means maybe DJ Shadow is working the summer jam angle?

» Hear “Higher” at Music for Robots

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On the other hand, Peter, Bjorn, and John may have secretly been storing away the summer’s best song. Though it won’t qualify as the jam of the summer, it’s superb, and remarkably summery. Don’t miss this.

» Hear “Young Folks” at CrazyTalk

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Beyond compare, however, the all-time greatest summer jam is “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. This song, and the great feeling it evokes, is the singular reason Smith still has a career. From the moment this record hit, the sky was the limit: become a movie star, get put on a thousand magazine covers—and nothing, not even starring in two movies with Martin Lawrence, has yet brought him down. “Summertime” was his ticket to everlasting goodwill. Download it today and play it for four months from now, and you’ll understand why.

» Hear “Summertime” at Indie Don’t Dance


Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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