Song of the summer 2019: our writers pick their favourite tracks

From Taylor Swift to Goldlink, Guardian critics highlight their favourite songs of the season

MUNA Number One Fan

There are plenty more obvious candidates for blockbuster holiday tunes, but if youre the type who pumps Depeche Mode at the pool party, youre going to detect the summer potential of this LA synthpop trios 2019 comeback single. For MUNA, summer has jumped out. Number One Fan begins from the not-so-gloomy disposition of warbling Europop basslines, so silly as to immediately snap you from your stupor. The chorus is one that demands to be heard long after the sun goes down: Oh my god, Im your number one fan! So iconic, like, big, like, stan, is fortunately a lyric as self-fulfilling as it is audacious.

Number One Fan is a song about cancelling your self-consumed inner neuroses. If youre prone to those, youll know the anxiety hits any time, and can be even worse during months of weddings, barbecues, beach excursions, trips to the zoo, etc. The forced organised fun! knows no bounds. So praise MUNA for this versatile smash, one so multi-purpose I can dance to it in the club, I can bump it in the supermarket, and I can pump it out the windows of an Uber X en route to any and all of the above, all the while serving myself a little self-help reminder to just do you, honey. EB

Goldlink ft Tyler, the Creator and Jay Prince U Say

There are some songs that are so clearly meant and created with the hotter months in mind, oozing a certain airiness that other songs lack. Goldlink, Tyler, the Creator and a barely audible Jay Prince did just that, when they teamed up to create and capture the quintessence of summer in U Say. From the DC natives bouncing album Diaspora, the song mixes several different styles of Afro music, including hip-hop, Afro beats and soft Latin jazz. The soft strum of the instrumental track juxtaposed with the harder bouncing beat binds to create a hypnotizing track, encouraging hip-swaying and proximity to palm fronds.

While his Zulu Screams most definitely passes the car test, U Say enhances and ensorcells. Summer itself feels encapsulated in the song: ice-cream crawls, late-night dancing, daytime rooftop parties, and even lazy beach days. It reminds me of a good twist-out or chunky Senegalese twists I wear during the hotter months: beautiful, carefree and a mix of Afro culture. DM

Carly Rae Jepsen Want You In My Room

There may be no better time to catch feelings than the slow slide of hot summer evenings into sweet summer nights, a magic bottled in Want You In My Room, the fourth track from cult-feelings queen Carly Rae Jepsens Dedicated. The song slinks in like twilight, a breathy slow burn (Dont go, no, the nights not over) that tumbles into confession (I just wanna get a little bit closer). But all coyness melts in the triumphant chorus, a circle of Get Lucky-esque distortion and exuberant proclamations which channels the tension of maybe into here, now (on the bed! / on the floor!) with all of summers (zero) inhibitions (I dont care / any more!). Sliiiiide on through my window, she beckons, as if this is a realistic possibility and not the fantasy of mid-aughts teen dramas.

Ultimately, its a radiant saxophone solo that dances her off into the sunset. In classic CRJ fashion, fulfillment of desire is beside the point; its the existence of it the joy of feeling potential heat up the rooftop, the pool, the backyard barbecue, the season. AH

Kevin Abstract Crumble

Theres late-summer sadness seeping through Kevin Abstracts early summer heart-squeezer Crumble, one of the standout tracks from his sophomore album Arizona Baby. It sees the queer rapper at his most vulnerable (Im tired of fucking crying and hiding behind a dummy he states in one of the songs most heartfelt reveals) as he wistfully looks back on his youth with a more mature perspective. The song matches him with gay YouTuber-turned-singer Ryan Beatty, who recently worked with Tyler, the Creator, as well as up-and-coming SoundCloud singer Dominic Fike and indie pop maestro Jack Antonoff. In Antonoffs crushing chorus, he sings about the desire to crumble outside of a loved ones window and the line has the same effect on the listener, gradually breaking us down with each repetition.

Misty-eyed melancholy might not seem suited for the years hottest season but theres an undeniable balminess to Crumble, a song suited for sadly recalling a lost love or a lost youth while the sun softly sets. BL

Taylor Swift You Need To Calm Down

Ladies and gentlemen, the Queen of Pop has spoken. Redeeming herself after the underwhelming and saccharinely corny Me!, Taylor Swift has gifted the masses the hot weather anthem that is You Need to Calm Down. The hallmarks of such an honor are evident to even the most clogged ears: its singalong chorus, bright message, glistening synths and danceable beat all swirl together in shimmering summer excellence.

Thats not even to mention the thesis of the whole shebang, which is to promote equality and materializes into an on-the-nose Pride anthem that even shouts out Glaad and shouts down the homophobes. Whether or not its too on the nose is up for debate, but even if it is: does it matter? While songs of summers past glisten yet lack substance, You Need to Calm Down walks a delicate tightrope between the two, and the sweltering season is better for it. RL

Rosalia and J Balvin Con Altura

Its two years since Despacito ruled the summer, and Latin music shows no signs of relinquishing its seasonal grip. Last year, Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin clinched it with the slinky, trunk-rattling I Like It; the latter returns this year flanked by Spanish flamenco trap star Rosala for a pricklier proposition than last summers boogaloo. On Con Altura, the pair take a braggadocious ride over a stuttering dembow beat by El Guincho (who produced Rosalas El Mal Querer) and Frank Dukes, admiring the spoils of their newfound success with equal parts awe and untamable ego. (British listeners may note an enjoyable similarity to another unexpected summer hit, Panjabi MCs Mundian To Bach Ke.) Totally commanding, infectious and guaranteed to be responsible for more than one slipped disc this summer. LS

Dalex ft Sech, Rafa Pabn, Cazzu, Feid, Khea and Lenny Tavarez Pa Mi

Taken from an album entitled Climaxxx, the cover of which features Puerto Rican pop star Dalex in the buff with a thoughtfully applied shadow hiding his presumably trimmed pubic hair, the messaging is clear: this is the record to play after youve got lucky at your nearest beach resorts foam party. Pa M is the standout and rightfully got the remix treatment, with a stream of new-school Latin stars offering their own verses. This kind of remix can be interminable, but the stunning beauty of the chorus yearning but focused means it never gets old. Of the universally good guest spots, the winner is Cazzu: a gothic Argentinian star (with 3.4 million Insta followers) whose delivery is gorgeously precise. Its the peak in a song that is almost overbearingly sensual, one that exudes the lambent heat of late summer. BBT

(Sandy) Alex G Gretel

Gretel isnt a traditional get your single-use BBQ out – its July sort is song, but the Philadelphians creepy alt-folk conjures the earthy, wayward elements of childhood summers spent left to your own devices: exploring the darker, composty corners of gardens, finding a severed human finger near the train tracks, accidentally snapping a birds beak and coming to terms with your own mortality for the first time. That sort of thing.

Given his grunge and slacker roots, Gs music tends to reside in a perpetual state of lazy summers anyway, and the video, full of crashing race cars and dream-like footage of G leading two small boys around a neon green field (perhaps some reference to Hansel and Gretel) only heightens the eerie nostalgia it makes you feel for a formative summer youve never actually had.

Quietly sinister. The antithesis of Get Lucky. But seasonally relevant nonetheless. After all, with every golden afternoon comes the looming prospect of winter on the horizon. Bring on the gloom. HG

Risn Murphy Incapable

Every year Risn Murphy seems to deliver a dancefloor care package which her dedicated fan base, and critics, mop up yet it always seems to evade a larger audience. Last year there was her EP with house producer Maurice Fulton, which produced half a dozen dance-pop belters, including Plaything and the wonderfully sleazy Jacuzzi Rollercoaster. In 2014, there was Mi Senti, a selection of covers which paid homage to Italian pop. In 2019, Murphy has opted for more house, with a slower BPM than last time out and production from her pal Richard Barratt AKA DJ Parrot. When it came to the imagery, for some reason I wanted a huge perm, said Murphy of her imagined diva protagonist, a character so untouched by the pain of heartbreak she dreamed her up with huge mounds of luxurious hair. Get out your hairspray, forget your broken heart and put yourself in the very capable hands of Mrs Murphy. LB

Lil Nas X Old Town Road

The largely unknown Atlantans disruptive country-trap smash was controversially yanked off the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart after reaching No 19 when it dropped in December, but the ensuing racially tinged controversy (and TikTok ubiquity) helped power the remix with Billy Ray Cyrus to the top of the Hot 100 in April where its pitched camp for a record-pushing 14 weeks and counting, becoming a bona fide cultural phenomenon while topping the charts in 10 other countries.

The strange alchemy on hand Lil Nas Xs easy southern twang cast against a YoungKio-produced beat mixing 808s, hi-hats and a moody banjo sampled from Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I-IV (reportedly purchased for $30 from the Dutch producers BeatStars shop) is both mysterious and familiar, delivering a grand unifying theory of Georgia culture that will be in heavy rotation long after Labor Day. One of the most interesting and provocative pop songs in years. BAG

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