The ‘song of the summer’ will always be immortalised by comedian Limmy and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky but we decided to dig a little deeper and find out the true songs of the summer, from the last 30 years.
We’ve trawled through the rhythmic archives to find the 30 songs that encapsulate 30 years of British summers: from 1992 to today. We've chosen the best song from each year, from 1992 onwards.
UPDATE: While we wait, with our coats and gloves still on, to see what will be the best summer songs of 2023, we have chosen Beyonce's Break My Soul as our song of the summer in 2022. Here's to brighter days soon and more melodic pop to get us in the holiday mood.
Here’s our pick - while each track has a specific year, feel free to mess up the timeline and vote your favourite top…
Best summer songs
1. 2000: Spiller feat. Sophie Ellis Bextor - ‘Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)’
A summer dominated by commercial dance tracks, with Sonique's ‘Feels So Good’ taking the top spot for three weeks in June, and Modjo taking the tail end of summer with the Chic-sampling ‘Lady (Hear Me Tonight)’. A strong contender for the Song of the Summer came from Kylie's triumphant hotpant-featuring single ‘Spinning Around’, but the one for us is Spiller's ‘Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)’, which was on every radio station throughout the summer months. Featuring the vocals of Sophie Ellis-Bextor, it also stopped Victoria Beckham and Dane Bowers getting to number one with the vocoder-tastic ‘Out Of Your Mind’, so it deserves the award just for that.
2. 1998: Stardust – ‘Music Sounds Better With You’
Another football tournament summer arrived and Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds scored another number one, with the reworked ‘Three Lions '98’ topping the charts throughout June (still didn’t win). A procession of transient number ones followed, with B*Witched's ‘C'est La Vie’, Another Level's legitbanger (literally) ‘Freak Me’, Jamiroquai's ‘Deeper Underground’ and Spice Girls' ‘Viva Forever’ all taking top spot, but the song of the summer was undoubtedly the unmistakeably dangaa-dangaa riff of Stardust’s epic banger ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ which blared out on dancefloors and radios across all of Europe for good reason: it was amazing.
3. 2013: Daft Punk - ‘Get Lucky’
The ultimate song of the summer for obvious reasons. People were justifiably excited about the return of Daft Punk after an eight year absence, but no-one quite expected their comeback single to have quite the impact it did. Moving away from their electronic roots, just as America was waking up to, they instead enlisted the services of the hugely underrated guitar genius Nile Rodgers who, together with the soulful vocals of Pharrell, created a monster of a summer track. But just as ‘Get Lucky’ looked to have the title, along came Mr Robin Thicke who, after five previous albums without a significant breakthrough, he was propelled into the stratosphere with the infectious ‘Blurred Lines’ - again featuring Pharrell (alongside T.I.) and a truly NSFW video built for teenage boys the world over. The winner? Both absolute 24 carat bangers and no mistakin’, but ‘Get Lucky’ was – and still is - just an utter joy.
4. 1994: Warren G feat. Nate Dogg - ‘Regulate’
The reggae takeover continued unabated in the summer of 1994, with Big Mountain, Dawn Penn, Red Dragon and Aswad all making appearances, but none laying claim to being the definitive summer track. Unfortunately, in terms of sales, there was no competition, as the song that dominated 1994, Wet Wet Wet's Four Weddings behemoth ‘Love is All Around’, spent 15 weeks at number one throughout the summer months. However, the true sound of the summer belonged to a slinky Michael McDonald sample, Warren G's flow, and Nate Dogg's luscious tones - which combined to create ‘Regulate’: an all-time hip hop classic.
5. 2004: The Shapeshifters - ‘Lola's Theme’
Like 2003, two behemoth contenders, with The Streets' seminal anthem ‘Dry Your Eyes’ capturing the hearts of music fans everywhere, especially in the wake of (yes, again) England's traditional football tournament surrender in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out. However, the tune of the summer was surely The Shapeshifters' ‘Lola's Theme’: a song so ridiculously uplifting it should require a prescription.
6. 1992: The Shamen – ‘Ebeneezer Goode’
Prepare your body for shudder mode, because 1992 was, in the main, the summer of line dancing. Yes, for some unknown reason, your mum decided that the best thing in the world would be to wear denim and go to large sports halls with 50 other like-minded mums and do really stupid dancing to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ (little Miley was conceived early in 1992 so it was a big year all round for Billy Ray). Thankfully, though, we’re able to remember the summer of 1992 without wanting to cry due to the last-minute intervention of The Shamen, whose absolutely-definitely-not-about-drugs song ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ crashed into the top spot in August and saved us all.
7. 2012: Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe
The summer of 2012 could not have been more memorable for the UK. The Olympics made us feel proud, the opening ceremony gave us more belief about the British spirit than we had since the end of World War II. Unfortunately BoJo and the government has ruined this since, actually devastated this, but let's think back to the summer of 2012 and the banger that was: Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson. The perfect pop song, filled with the hope that the person you just met may well be the one for you. Maybe.
8. 2002: Nelly - ‘Hot in Herre’
Highly commended also-rans for the title this year came from Blazin' Squad, who covered ‘Crossroads’ to surprisingly good effect and the JXL Elvis remix of ‘A Little Less Conversation’, which sat atop the charts throughout June and July. However, the biggest summer song came courtesy of Nelly, with ‘Hot In Herre’; produced by the Neptunes during their imperial phase, it spent seven weeks in the top ten and soundtracked a thousand sweaty summer discos where it was, literally, getting hot (in here).
9. 2003: Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z - ‘Crazy in Love’
Beyoncé (with a little help from future hubby Jay Z) properly launched her solo career with the epic ‘Crazy In Love’. A summer anthem with a video tha led to girls across the world trying to replicate the Bey booty-shake. You can't argue with results like that, and it’s a results business we’re in here.
10. 1993: Chaka Demus & Pliers - ‘Tease Me’
While the summer chart-toppers were Gabrielle, who spent three weeks at the top with ‘Dreams’, and Take That, who scored their first number one with ‘Pray’ (scoring extra summer marks for a beach video), the real sound of the summer was undoubtedly reggae, as Inner Circle, UB40, Ace of Base and Shabba Ranks all scored hits with bona fide total bangers, every last one of them. The biggest of them all though was Chaka Demus and Pliers' bootylicious ‘Tease Me’, which spent ten weeks in the top ten through June, July and August, peaking at number three. If you didn't buy 100% Reggae that year, you missed out on hands down the greatest compilation album of all time.
11. 1995: Outhere Brothers - ‘Boom Boom Boom’
The early stages of Simon Cowell's reign of terror, the TV double act of Robson & Jerome ruled the hit parade over May, June and July with their double A-side of ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘(There'll be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover’. However, seeing as very few people bought that who were either: a) under 65, or b) not a fan of Soldier Soldier (or both), the real song of the summer was undoubtedly the Outhere Brothers' highbrow follow up to ‘Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)’ which took the formula and perfected it: creating the four-week number one hit ‘Boom Boom Boom’. It is scientifically impossible for anyone to say those words and for you not to respond with "Let me hear you say way-o" before the other person agrees, stating: "way-o". All conversations should really start this way to be quite honest with you.
12. 2017: Despacito (Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber)
A ridicuously catchy tune that became the most streamed of the year, Despacito will definitely be the song that reminds you of 2017. If this was done by pure critical acclaim (we have to add popularity in the mix), then we would have given 2017 to Kendrick Lamar's Humble but Despacito was such a constant presence in 2017 that you would hear it whether you went to a BBQ, a wedding or in your doctor's waiting room.
13. 1999: Ricky Martin - ‘Livin' La Vida Loca’
The year of the Latin invasion, the summer belonged to Ricky Martin and Lou Bega. How on earth to choose between ‘Mambo No. 5’ and ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’? Both amazing and both so summery you can smell the aftersun lotion - but, due to its slightly more seasonal chart-topping date (Ricky ruled in July, while Lou hit top spot in September - although imports had been doing well for some time prior to this), we're going for the Puerto Rican superstar. A massive, massive tune.
14. 2008: Eric Prydz - ‘Pjanoo’
A vintage year for summer tunes, with Dizzee Rascal making a break for the mainstream with the irrepressible ‘Dance Wiv Me’ (featuring Calvin Harris' amazing turn as a barman in the video) and Katy Perry announcing herself to the world with the salacious ‘I Kissed a Girl’. However, looming large over the summer months was the three-chord motif of the mighty Eric Prydz's ‘Pjanoo’.
15. 2016: Justin Timberlake – ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling!’
Only one winner here, with a song that was, clearly, calculatingly written precisely to be a summer smash yet – due to that writer being pop god Max Martin, and the singer being Justin Timberlake - it was simply so good that cynicism had to be put to one side while you just danced-danced-danced-danced. Big rubbery bass, funky guitar, a feelgood vocal and fingerclicks during a singalong breakdown bit – tick, tick, tick, tick. Well done everyone.
16. 1997: Will Smith - Men In Black
A strong summer of hits in '97 saw highly commended awards go to Hanson, for the are-you-sure-that-lead-singer's-not-a-girl ‘MmmBop’, which topped the charts for three weeks in June, and the Police-sampling Biggie tribute, ‘I'll be Missing You’ performed by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans and 112 (not as good as 911), which spent a total of six weeks atop the chart. However, the sound of the summer that year was Will Smith's epic funkathon ‘Men in Black’, which was number one for a month from the middle of August. A funk sample, big Willie on the mic and some dancing aliens, you really can't go wrong.
17. 2005: Amerie - ‘One Thing’
Imagine the glory of 2003, then imagine the absolute polar opposite. A dark, dark year for music, the two biggest hits of the summer were - wait for it - Crazy Frog's ‘Axel F’ abomination, and James Blunt's ‘You're Beautiful’, which crawled its way up to number one, then refused to let go for five long weeks over July and August. As if this wasn't enough, Charlotte Church, Fightstar and Lee Ryan all scored top tens. What were we thinking? In the absence of an obvious winner, we'll go with Amerie's ‘1 Thing’, a brilliant pop song, featuring a truly infectious beat and hook. Without this song, we'd have probably all given up on both music and the summer altogether and just gone to live in a cave until we dropped dead. So thanks for that Amerie.
18. 2010: Yolanda Be Cool vs DCup - ‘We No Speak Americano’
Only one possible contender for this year, as Yolanda Be Cool vs DCup created the unstoppable ‘We No Speak Americano’. Much like DJ Otzi's ‘Hey Baby’, this swept away all competition to reach number one across the world, was utterly inescapable for a few months, and now no-one plays it anywhere. Yolanda Has-Been Cool right guys? Ahaha. Guys? Guys?
19. 2011: Calvin Harris - ‘Feel So Close’
Another strong year for summer hits as LMFAO's ‘Party Rock Anthem’ arrived in May and refused to leave the chart - predominantly due to it being unexpectedly brilliant. Likewise, Rizzle Kicks helped Olly Murs have a hit with the equally unexpectedly excellent ‘Heart Skips a Beat’. In a third case of a good song from a dubious source was Pitbull, Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer's ‘Give Me Everything’, but the winner for us was The Inbetweeners Movie-featuring ‘Feel So Close’ courtesy of Calvin Harris. A bona fide summer anthem.
20. 2006: Fedde Le Grand - ‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit’
After the terrors of the previous year, 2006 saw a return to summer hit form, with Shakira and Wyclef's ‘Hips Don't Lie’ dominating the chart top spot. Lily Allen narrowly misses out on our crown, despite the extremely summery reggae-tinged ‘Smile’ conjuring up images of a sunny London day (and crack whores). No, instead that accolade goes to a track that built and built throughout the summer - although it only received a full UK release in October - the inescapable ‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit', courtesy of Dutch DJ Fedde Le Grand. Fun fact: the video was filmed in the vacant offices of what used to be the headquarters of the Safeway supermarket chain at Hayes, Hillingdon. Thanks for that, Wikipedia.
21. 2020: Watermelon Sugar - Harry Styles
One of the smoothest summer tracks since Will Smith's Summertime, Watermelon Sugar was a huge streaming hit and for good reason: it's a breezy pop song that cemented Styles as a pop star in his own right and wiped away all the memories of him being in a manufactured boy band. It also helped that the song was a viral hit, thanks to TikTok.
22. 2009: Black Eyed Peas - ‘I Gotta Feeling’
In years to come, it will be known as "Guetta's Summer". And still no-one will know exactly how you're supposed to pronounce Guetta. ‘When Love Takes Over’ was a Kelly Rowland-featuring smash, ‘Sexy Chick’ (‘Bitch’ if you’re feeling the distinctive un-feminist version) was an equally giant hit, but his biggest moment came with the Black Eyed Peas worldwide monster, ‘I Gotta Feeling’, which he produced. The biggest selling digital single of all time, and guaranteed to be played at every birthday party, wedding and, probably, funeral, for the rest of eternity.
23. 2018: Childish Gambino — This Is America
Although Janelle Monae's Prince-sounding Make Me Feel almost pipped it, as did the Latino-infused I Like It by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin, the summer of 2018 belonged to Childish Gambino. His catchy polemic This Is America was both a searing indictment of just how politically polarising America had gotten and a bloody brilliant banger.
24. 1996: Peter Andre – ‘Mysterious Girl’
The summer where football came home, the nation believed, and then we lost to the Germans on penalties again. The soundtrack to those epic moments - Gazza's wonderstrike, the Shearer & Sheringham-inspired destruction of the Dutch, winning a penalty shoot-out against Spain - was provided by the best football song ever written: ‘Three Lions’ (alright, alright, it’s not as good as ‘World in Motion’), courtesy of Ian Broudie's Lightning Seeds and Fantasy Football stars Frank Skinner and David Baddiel’s manful attempts at singing. However, while it was the sound of Euro 96, we have to be honest and say that the real sound of the summer was provided by a ludicrously-muscled Australian and his good friend Bubbler Ranx with ‘Mysterious Girl’. Let’s be honest here, it’s a massive tune.
25. 2021: Good 4 U - Olivia Rodrigo
Heavily inspired by Paramore, this rousing pop-rock hit is still an absolute joy to listen to. With a crunch of guitars Rodrigo sings an anthem of scorn, for all those who have been dumped and find out their former lover has moved on much faster than expected. Brilliant stuff. Kiss Me More by Dojo Cat was close in our 2021 list, as was Dua Lipa's superb Levitating but we just couldn't see beyond Good 4 U for the top spot.
26. 2015 – Sigala – ‘Easy Love’
An absolutely vintage year for summer bangers with Years and Years making two bids in the form of ‘King’ and ‘Shine’, David Zowie having his five minutes in the sun with ‘House Every Weekend’, ‘Black Magic’ by Little Mix, ‘Shut Up and Dance’ by Walk The Moon, The Weeknd’s ‘I Can’t Feel My Face’… we could on. But the real winner was the none-more-summer sound of Sigala. A Jackson 5 sample, a big four-to-the-floor groove, house pianos and some steel drums? Get the beachtowels Sigala: you’ve pulled.
27. 2019: You Need To Calm Down - Taylor Swift
2019 was a strong year for summer sizzlers. We're were close to putting Lil Nas' Old Town Road in at the top spot and you can't forget Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello's Señorita. But Taylor Swift edges it, with another pop classic to add to her oeuvre, with her take on those who get het up about things that really aren't worth it.
28. 2022: Beyonce's Break My Soul
Beyonce hit the best summer song top spot in 2022 with her house-inspired track. Free Yourself by Jessie Ware is also another massive contender, as well as About Damn Time by Lizzo and Bad Bunny's Yo No Soy Celoso are also the very essence of summer. Grammy also liked Beyonce's house-inspired sound, giving her the best Grammy for dance album in 2022.
29. 2014 – MAGIC! - ‘Rude’
Full marks to Calvin Harris for his Ronseal attempt to take the song of the summer crown this year by releasing a song called ‘Summer’ but, unfortunately, for us, it wasn’t the biggest tune this year. Why ‘unfortunately’? Well, because, comfortably, the sound of the summer came from Canadian reggae fusion band MAGIC! with their infuriatingly catchy song ‘Rude’. God it’s annoying us listening to it on YouTube again but 1 billion views can’t be wrong can they? Yes, yes they can.
30. 2001: DJ Otzi - ‘Hey Baby’
The summer where UK Garage 2-stepped into the charts, with DJ Pied Piper & The Master of Ceremonies hitting top spot with ‘Do You Really Like It’ in June, and So Solid Crew doing likewise with ‘21 Seconds’ in August. However, the real sound of the summer was released late - September 22 - but had soundtracked every single European holiday over the preceding months. Yes, the utter monster that was ‘Hey Baby’ by DJ Otzi was inescapable and unavoidable. You’re singing it already aren’t you?
NOTE: This is an updated article, originally written by David Fawbert with additional reporting by Marc Chacksfield.