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A Paean to the Music of Summer

Yes, the summer is upon us. But what, I ask you, does this lighthearted season of frivolity mean for the serious music lover?

Everyone knows that people who grow up in cold, sunless climates are dour, unfriendly, alcoholic smokers who create darkly foreboding art about the end of mankind that they take very seriously.

On the other hand, people who grow up in warm, sunny climates, have warm, sunny personalities: They're friendly, lighthearted, attractive, physically fit, vapid ignoramuses who drive with the top down and create marshmallow art for beach parties.

Oh, that's just bad typecasting, you say. What about the Spice Girls, Abba and any number of other purveyors of pop froth from the northern climes?

Well, that's exactly my point. The fact is, all their scoffing and frowning notwithstanding, you know there's a side of those cold climate folks that really wants to lighten up and have fun. When the summer arrives and the thermometer hits a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and all their pasty white bodies are suddenly and frighteningly revealed.

Then everything changes, and all bets are off. The musical snobbery melts away like the last of the spring snowfall. Maybe that's just how it should be.

I know we're grown-ups now, and we're embarrassed to go around acting like a bunch of musical teenagers. But it's hormonal, man. It's, like, biological.

So this summer, let it all hang out. Don't worry about playing by the rules. Don't let some high-art, cold-climate music critic harsh your mellow. Whatever it is that you need to catch the sunny vibe, break it out. I declare summer to be a critic-free zone — and that includes self-criticism. Go forth, go crazy, take it all off and dance in the summertime sunshine.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

(Soundbite of song "Dancing in the Streets")

MARTHA AND THE VANDELLAS (Musical Group): (Singing) Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat? Summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the street. We're dancing in Chicago…

COHEN: You may be getting ready for the Fourth of July holiday, stocking up on apple pie and hotdog buns. Don't forget about that all-important soundtrack for your Independence Day festivities. Here's music journalist Christian Bordal with his selection of summer songs.

(Soundbite of song "In the Summertime")

Mr. MUNGO JERRY (Musical Group): (Singing) In the summertime, when the weather is high, you can chase right up and touch the sky. When the weather is fine…

CHRISTIAN BORDAL: Yes, the summer is upon us. But what, I ask you, does this lighthearted season of frivolity mean for the serious music lover?

(Soundbite of song "Summertime")

Ms. JANIS JOPLIN (Singer): (Singing) Summertime, time, time. Child, the living's easy.

BORDAL: Everyone knows that people who grow up in cold, sunless climates are dour, unfriendly, alcoholic smokers who create darkly foreboding art about the end of mankind that they take very seriously.

(Soundbite of "Rhyme for the Summertime")

G. LOVE and THE SPECIAL SAUCE (Musical Group): (Singing) August, the third month, summer with sunrays, while the sun blazed, my eyes are kind of glazed, cream in my coffee, I'm making a call…

BORDAL: On the other hand, people who grow up in warm, sunny climates have warm, sunny personalities. They're friendly, lighthearted, attractive, physically fit, vapid ignoramuses who drive with the top down and create marshmallow art for beach parties.

(Soundbite of "Blisters in the Sun")

VIOLENT FEMMES (Musical Group): (Singing) Let me go on like a blister in the sun. Let me go…

BORDAL: Oh, that's just bad typecasting, you say. What about the Spice Girls and Abba?

(Soundbite of "Summer Night City")

ABBA (Musical Group): (Singing) Summer night city.

BORDAL: and any number of other purveyors of pop froth from the northern climes? That's exactly my point. I mean, the fact is, all their scoffing and frowning notwithstanding, you know there's a side of those cold climate folks that really wants to lighten up and have fun. And when the summer arrives and the sun finally pokes through the clouds and all their pasty white bodies are suddenly and frighteningly revealed, then everything changes. All bets are off. The musical snobbery melts away like the last of the spring snowfall. And maybe that's just how it should be.

(Soundbite of "That Summer Feeling")

Mr. JONATHAN RICHMAN (Musician): (Singing) When the cool of the pond makes you drop down on it, when the smell of the lawn makes you flop down on it, when the teenage car gets the cops down on it, that time is here for one more year and that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life.

BORDAL: I know, we're grown-ups now and we're embarrassed to go around acting like a bunch of musical teenagers. But it's hormonal, man. It's, like, biological. That summer feeling hits you and before you know it you're humming things like… (Singing) Good, good, good, good vibrations. Bop, bop…

Or maybe…

(Singing) But, uh-oh, the summer nights. Tell me, tell me, tell me more. Tell me more, tell me more, did you get very far? Tell me more, tell me more, like does he have a car?

(Soundbite of "Summer Nights")

PINK LADIES (Grease Cast): (Singing) Tell me more, tell me more, like does he have a car? Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh…

BORDAL: It's summer, man, let it all hang out. Don't worry about playing by the rules. Don't let some high-art, cold-climate music critic harsh your mellow. If that old Monkey's album is calling your name, or maybe it's Michael Jackson or Blondie or Edie Brickell or Barry White or Pink, or whatever it is you need to catch the sunny vibe, break it out, dude. Go for it. Just, well, you know, if you find yourself reaching for like Hillary Duff or 'N Sync or something, then… oh, all right, anything. Whatever it takes.

I declare summer to be a critic-free zone, and that includes self-criticism. Go forth. Go crazy. Take it all off and dance in the sunny summertime sunshine.

(Soundbite of "Legal Man")

BELLE & SEBASTIAN (Musical Group): (Singing) Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba,

COHEN: For more of the songs you just heard from music journalist Christian Bordal, go to npr.org. You can also suggest your own summer classic for a compilation that will appear on our Web site. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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