Summer days, drifting away

CN+R Staff shares their anthems for the summer


Bright, sunny days are on the horizon as summer approaches. While the season of summer won’t officially start until June 21, the warm weather and good vibes start at the end of May, often accompanied by the end of the school year and Memorial Day weekend.

The News + Record staff have created a collection of our favorite songs to bring in the long, warm and sunny days of summer. Join us in channeling the salty sea air and the calm of those summer nights.

‘Cruel Summer’ by Taylor Swift
Picked by Taylor Heeden, reporter and web editor

“Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift has been a staple in every summer or road trip playlist I have created since its release in 2019.

The song takes us through a one-sided summer romance, one where Taylor pours her heart and soul to her partner, while he wants to keep their relationship from surfacing.

“I don't wanna keep secrets just to keep you/ And I snuck in through the garden gate/ Every night that summer just to seal my fate,” she pleads to her love. “And I scream ‘For whatever it's worth/ I love you, ain't that the worst thing you ever heard?’”

“Cruel Summer” has the ability to not only reach into the hearts of all of us who’ve experienced those summer flings and heartbreak, but it also manages to entice audiences with its lively melody and catchy chorus and bridge.

So when you’re in the mood to scream a song on the way to the beach with your gals because you’re heartbroken over someone who screwed you over, “Cruel Summer” is the song for you!

‘Stole from Heaven’ by Ally London
Picked by Taylor Heeden, reporter and web editor

Ally London is a young, up-and-coming artist from Nashville, T.N., and is about to graduate from the Royal Academy of Music in London with her master’s degree in vocal performance. Her debut album, Kaleidoscopes, came out last year, and she’s bringing all of that energy into her new single, “Stole from Heaven.”

“Stole from Heaven” is a catchy summer ballad, filled with images of blue skies and love from the heavens. The guitar riffs will transport you to those summer road trips with friends and will have you humming the tune all day long.

I met Ally during my time at UNC-Chapel Hill as she was one of the people in my fiance’s study abroad group. She’s a very talented and kind-hearted person who puts all of her passion into her work. If you’re looking for a new face to add to your music rotation, look no further!

‘Snapback’ by Old Dominion
Picked by Matt Mercer, editor-in-chief

A summer song is about the vibes. That’s my take and the way “Snapback” eases into a classic three minute, thirty-second classic country music window gets you through the first verse before you barely know it.

This song, like most everyone’s, takes on a personal meaning. For me, this song was always on it seemed like when my now-wife and I started dating. It was on rotation for our Saturday night dance parties (ah, young love).

I saw them perform it when they filled a 3,000 seat amphitheater in 2017 and then two years later when they sold out the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. When those initial chords and “woah oh oh oh” start I get that same tingling feeling I did over seven years ago.

‘Your Love’ by The Outfield
Picked by Matt Mercer, editor-in-chief

Far from easing in, I dare you not to sing along when you hear: “Josie’s on a vacation far away/ Come around talk it over/ So many things that I wanna say/ You know I like my girls a little bit older.”

“Your Love” is an earworm whether you’re listening to the song, a cover band, or someone with enough liquid courage to sing it at a karaoke night.

‘Yo No Sé Mañana’ by Luis Enrique
Picked by Valeria Cloës, intern

Starting with soft vocalizations by Nicaraguan singer Luis Enrique, the song builds momentum to the chorus, the singer bursting with energy as he sings “Yo no sé mañana, yo no sé mañana (I don’t know tomorrow, I don’t know tomorrow)/ Si estaremos juntos, si se acaba el mundo (If we’ll be together, if the world will end).”

This love song transports the listener into the unknown, emphasizing that since nothing is promised and don’t know what tomorrow brings, we must enjoy the present to the fullest.

This particular sentiment — one of staying present — is one of my personal life mottos that has helped me overcome my anxiety.

And that mixed with other hopelessly romantic song lyrics, resonates with my lover-girl personality. The lyrics and salsa beat will surely make for a dance-filled summer.

‘Vivir Mi Vida’ by Marc Anthony
Picked by Valeria Cloës, intern

This song needs little to no introduction. Known around the world by Spanish-speakers and non-spanish speakers alike, “Vivir Mi Vida” will – hopefully – resonate with everyone, and get everyone up and out of their chairs.

Personally, Marc Anthony's iconic song brings me back to summer 2022, when I was on a two-week trip around Italy, which I can proudly say I worked for over three years to pay for.

I was having dinner in a family-owned restaurant in Monterosso al Mare, having a delicious traditional dessert of the region, when my best friend Camila and I suddenly started hearing the tune through the speaker.

Without any hesitation, she and I started dancing and singing in the middle of the restaurant. The owner sees us, turns the music louder, shouts “I love Marc Anthony” and starts singing with us as he cleans the restaurant.

I hope you can have a similar moment listening to this song this summer: living your life to the fullest and soaking in every second of it, with no worries of what others will think.

‘Cast Iron Kettle’ by Joseph Terrell
Picked by Ben Rappaport, reporter

Joseph Terrell, of the Chapel Hill-based band Mipso, released his first solo project earlier this month. The album, “Good For Nothing Howl,” is an ode to his roots in North Carolina and exploring creative expression beyond the everyday.

One way Terell is also exploring that creativity is by moving to Chatham County. Our new neighbor says he was inspired by the trees and nature in his creation of the album.

“I started writing songs about trees, but I think it ended up being more about that feeling of paying attention,” Terrell told Axios Raleigh in an interview about the new album. “There are these things that are always all around and they really make up the fabric of the world that we live in. It's amazing how much we don't pay attention.”

“Cast Iron Kettle,” the single off the new album, speaks of paying attention more to the places we call home, and appreciating its intricacies. And the ways feeling home can reinvigorate our souls with a sense of place and renewed energy.

Summer can often be a time of vacation, or feeling jealous of the places other people visit while you’re stuck at home. Terrell reminds us, with this song and his album at large, that there is beauty to appreciate in our own backyard if we stop and listen to the sycamores, persimmons and all the howls Chatham County has to offer.  

Oxen’ by Chatham Rabbits
Picked by Ben Rappaport, reporter

Bynum natives Austin and Sarah McCombie found success in the folk and Americana music scene as Chatham Rabbits. The duo, which got their start playing shows on Bynum Front Porch, leans on stories of Chatham and its roots as a mill community as fodder for their tunes.

In “Oxen,” a single containing the titular lyrics off their sophomore album “The Yoke is Easy, the Burden Is Full,” they speak of the power of community to uplift and carry people into the future.

“There’s strength in numbers/ And we can share the load,” Sarah sings. “Look over your shoulder/ And there you’ll find your hope.”

I’ve always found summer to be a period of transition — from one school year to another, a break from the hustle and bustle. In those transitions, the McCombies remind us the importance of leaning on friends and loved ones.

“When we decided to take the plunge I just remember the Chatham community being so incredibly encouraging,” Sarah told the News + Record earlier this year. “No one thought we were crazy because it’s such a strong arts community.”

While Chatham County is growing by the day, its roots as a close-knit rural community remain. This summer, let’s remember the words of “Oxen” and be there for one another through this transition into the unknown future.

‘Strange Fascination’ by Chatham County Line
Picked by Ben Rappaport, reporter

The bluegrass melodies of Chatham County Line offer a sense of return-to-nature that remind me of the desired bliss of summer.

“Strange Fascination” is the local band’s most popular song and title track off their 2020 album of the same name. Like other songs from local artists, It shares themes of being entranced by nature and the power the rural landscapes of Chatham County have in centering us amid a chaotic world.

“Strange fascination/ Reach for a shooting star,” lead singer Dave Wilson sings in the chorus. “Don't know how lucky/ Don't know how lucky you are.”

The song’s peaceful tones are a reminder of the serenity summer can bring, and the ways being surrounded by loved ones in this sunny season can enhance those feelings.  

‘National Anthem’ by Lana del Rey
Picked by Lauren Rose, design editor

Combine “hot girl summer” with “sad girl summer” and you’ve got a clear hit — and perhaps a potential emotional roller coaster (but no judgement there).

Though known for her sultry, “sad girl” aesthetic, Lana del Rey’s single “National Anthem” takes a split from that persona to indulge the listener in instrumentals and lyricism that can’t help but radiate “summer vibes,” and the chorus speaks for itself: “Red, white, blue is in the sky/ Summer’s in the air and baby, heaven’s in your eyes/ I’m your national anthem.”

Life, love and luxury are prominent themes in this single, and paired with a distinct Los Angeles summer-energy, this single makes for an essential song to add to the summer playlist this season. I promise this one will be your “Summer Anthem” by the end of the season.  

‘Island in the Sun’ by Weezer
Picked by Lauren Rose, design editor

Well, it seems the title speaks for itself for this choice.

If Lana’s “National Anthem” brought on the feels, then Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” will definitely mellow them out.

Opening with laid-back guitar strumming, you can already tell this single is going to have a chill energy to relax with by the pool. Soft vocalizations carry the listener into lyrics describing the peak summer experiences for the chorus: “On an island in the sun/ We'll be playin' and havin' fun/ And it makes me feel so fine/ I can't control my brain.”

I literally can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing on summer break than playin’ and havin’ fun. Can you?

‘Long Beach’ by Kota the Friend, Hello O’shay and Alex Banin
Picked by Jeremy Vernon, sports editor

It wouldn’t be summer without summer love, and Brooklyn-based rapper Kota the Friend rhymes to that effect in this single from the album EVERYTHING, which came out back in 2020.

As the title suggests, Long Beach is peak summer vibes. The song opens with waves of electronic sounds, rather than ocean waves, but they carry the tune through its upbeat chorus and two light-hearted verses.

“I can change the story if you let me/ Promise in the mornin' won't forget me/ Lately, I been missin' California, I am far from perfect/ But you get me.”

Relatable and versatile, Long Beach is a song for any situation, whether it be a day on the beach, a night on the town or a low-key night in with your summer love.

‘Slide’ by Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean and Migos
Picked by Jeremy Vernon, sports editor

This single from pop artist and producer Calvin Harris came out in February of 2017, but it always reminds me of the summer season.

From the first few notes, which are played on my favorite instrument — the piano — Slide takes hold of you and transports you to a place where all the worries of your normal life melt away. This song came out during my senior year of college, and it always reminds me of my last semester at UNC and my first summer out on my own after graduating.

While Frank Ocean, Quavo and Offset provide the vocals for Slide, Harris played a new version of the song at Coachella this year that included a verse from the third member of Migos, Takeoff, who was killed in a shooting in Houston back in November. It was a nice tribute to who I personally thought was the best rapper of the Atlanta-based trio.

Slide is all good vibes.