Whenever I hear Nelly's Hot In Herre (yes, with two Rs), I'm taken back to my first and only visit to Chicago's Wrigley Field in the summer of 2002.
The Cubs won an extra-inning afternoon thriller, the postgame bar scene sizzled with Nelly's infectious hook and the DJ invited girls — and only girls — to take the stage. When a legendary Cubs fan joined them, I waited for the bouncers to pull him down, but they never did. The girls hugged him and the guys applauded.
The day I met Ronnie "Woo-Woo" Wickers remains etched in my mind.
In the summer of 1983, my new girlfriend and I visited my sister in Daytona Beach, and songs from Michael Jackson's Thriller album blended with the sand and surf. The group to the left blared Beat It from their car, the people to our right jammed Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' under their umbrella with a beat box, and farther down the shore, a gaggle of girls sang along to P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).
Inspired, I decided to buy us matching souvenir shirts.It seemed like a good idea — until she got engaged to another guy at the end of the summer.
Suddenly, she was no longer a P.Y.T.
At the age of 14, I joined friends at Pizza Hut in the summer of 1978 after toiling for a week at a Florida State basketball camp. In less than two months, I would go from a small Catholic grade school to a big public high school, saying goodbye to most of my old classmates. When Wings' With a Little Luck came on the jukebox, it perfectly reflected all my hopes and thoughts.
I could go on, because for every summer, there is a song. It's the tune you hear when you get out of the car and the tune you hear again when you get back in an hour later. It's the jam you take to the beach in the day and the jam that fills the dance floor that night. The summer song rises in your mind as the days grow longer, but it's seldom a song about summer.
Last year, Robin Thicke took the mantle with Blurred Lines, a song that channeled Marvin Gaye's Got to Give It Up and included a rap by T.I., giving it old-school appeal with hip-hop flavor.
This year, Billboard tells us the song of the summer comes to us from Australian native and hip-hop sensation Iggy Azalea, the artist of the summer. Fancy, Azalea's boastful rap, has been at No. 1 for the past five weeks, while her duet with Ariana Grande, Problems, has been No. 2 for at least that long.
But in a year in which a number of music critics have penned columns about what will earn the title "song of the summer," Azalea actually has competition. The African-flavored Am I Wrong by Norwegians Nico & Vinz continues to rise on the charts, the aptly named Summer by Calvin Harris fits the season, and Ed Sheeran's Sing should get a boost with the debut of his sophomore album.
But because I never lose touch with my old-school soul, Paramore's Ain't It Fun — an upbeat, gospel-tinged jam from a band more known for pop punk — stands as my summer song. With the chorus serving as a sarcastic retort, it's edgier than the title suggests, but that's fine with me.
It's the tune that reminds me of my sons, who will soon be in the real world. It's one of the few songs my daughter and I sing together in the car, and it's the song the whole family listened to the last time we were all together. It's also the song I'll play when I cruise the route in the Brandon Fourth of July parade in a convertible Mini Cooper.
Every summer song becomes emblazoned with the season's best moments and grows into an eternal vessel for your memories.
Don't let the summer go by without picking your summer song.
That's all I'm saying.