What’s that you hear? That, my friends, is the sweet, sweet sound of sandals slapping on sidewalks, sweaty thighs chaffing and rosé swirling in glasses. In other words, the sounds of summer. As the temperature creeps up, you’ll need an equally sizzling arty summer playlist to bump in the subway, at the gym and in the gallery.
Crafting the perfect playlist is an art form in itself, as anyone who has ever used it as a procrastination tactic knows all too well. Not unlike a curator, the playlist maker must take painstaking care that the vibe is right at every moment. Each track must flow into the next as gracefully and naturally as a tropical Hawaiian waterfall at sunset.
Keep in mind that if you make a playlist faux pas, sooner or later you’ll be discovered. Trust me, you don’t want to be known as the girl who played Joni Mitchell in the Uber to the warehouse party. No one will believe or care that it was an accident.
To save you some time—and save you from lifelong shame—we’ve taken it upon ourselves to craft the perfect arty summer playlist. Pop these babies into a playlist, call it what you want, and then go back to work. Because be honest, you’ve wasted enough time already reading this article.
1) Cheap Queen – King Princess
Young queer icon King Princess is back with another banger. “Cheap Queen” is the summer anthem we need to enable all our sloppy warm-weather shenanigans—and remind us that we can be queens while drinking bottom-shelf wine out of the bottle.
2) Summer – Chloe Lilac
Chloe Lilac is the angsty pop princess that you wish you were when you were a teen. As a (semi) grown-up, this track brought up misplaced memories of what I thought the cool kids were doing all summer while I was at nerdy pre-college camps. Plus, her lyrics are brilliant: “James Dean on a fucking city bike,” how good is that?
3) Spice Girl – Aminé
Get ready to meet the background music of your quest for summer love. Aminé makes it impossible not to get up and boogie with this song off his debut album, Good For You.
4) MONOPOLY (With Victoria Monét) – Ariana Grande
Keep the good times rolling with Ariana Grande’s latest single, a vastly underrated collab with Victoria Monét. It’s an unabashed anthem to girlbossery, and it just might make you feel better about having to work late on a summer Friday.
5) Once I Had A Love (AKA The Disco Song) – Blondie
You already know Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” but this stripped-down version serves up a mellower melody, perfect for twirling around the patio in a midi dress, swirling a glass of chardonnay.
6) California – Angel Olsen
We’re taking it down another notch with Angel Olsen’s dreamy ode to California. On any given day, California is already debatedly the best place in the universe, but in the summer, this theory becomes a given (sorry, New York). This sweet and tender love song turns the golden state into a state of mind that can be yours whenever, wherever. Bonus points for listening to it in a floor-length paisley-print floral dress.
7) UFOF – Big Thief
This song might seem simple at first, but don’t be fooled: it’s the ultimate multi-tasker. It’s as light and floaty as your favorite kaftan, and it goes down easy enough to be the perfect atmospheric background music. But if you pay attention to the lyrics, it also packs a heavy emotional punch. Listen at work, on your commute, or in your bedroom.
8) Deadbeat Summer – Neon Indian
Ever feel senseless and beat, but also kind of funky at the same time? If that’s not the epitome of summer, I don’t know what is. No matter how adult you’ve become, you can’t escape that unique summer feeling when you’re not sure if you’re restless, nostalgic, heartbroken or just dehydrated. But why settle on one? “Deadbeat Summer” serves up all those moods on a psychedelic platter.
9) Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John
If you put all the songs on Spotify with “Mona Lisa” in their title in a playlist, it would be five hours long. Everyone, from Britney Spears to Nat King Cole, has been inspired by La Joconde’s saucy smile, it seems. And while I highly recommend that every art girl listens to the full Mona Lisa playlist at one point or another, Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” is a classic. All you gallery girls stuck in the city all summer—this is your anthem.
10) I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan
To end on a high note, we’re bringing it back to disco. After smashing success with Rufus, ‘70s icon Chaka Khan launched her solo career with “I’m Every Woman.” An ode to the witchy woman, this song is the Independent Woman Who Don’t Need No Man’s most exuberant incarnation. Singing femininity’s praises while celebrating its inherent power, “I’m Every Woman” will lift your spirits at any time of year.
So there you have it, your ultimate arty summer playlist. Love it? Hate it? Did I miss something? Slide in the dm’s and let me know 😉
Text by Katya Lopatko.