How Music Changes During the Summer

Mason Rath, Staff Writer

With summer comes sunshine, days by the lake or pool, freedom from school, and time to spend with friends. Another change that most do not realize is happening during summer is that music is also changing. Slower, sadder songs tend to be exchanged for upbeat, quicker tracks. Summer brings out a different music taste than winter or fall. Surprisingly, experts believe there could be a scientific explanation.

The Environmental security hypothesis sought to prove that as economic and social conditions were poor, people would be more drawn to mature, meaningful media or entertainment. This theory was demonstrated when a study demonstrated that during hardship, slower, more comforting songs about sadness dominated the Billboard top charts. On the flip side, during carefree periods where people were generally happy, the charts reflected an interest in upbeat, positive music. Terry Pettijohn was inspired by this study to pursue the question of whether this same principle could or could not be applied to seasons. In Pettijohn’s experiment, college students were questioned on what type of music they felt most like listening to. Some were interviewed during the fall, while some were interviewed during the winter. PsychologyToday explains that “both sets of college students favored blues, jazz, classical, and folk music (i.e., reflexive and complex) during the fall and winter months, and rap/hip-hop, soul/funk, and electronica/dance music (i.e., energetic and rhythmic) during the summer months. The fondness for more complex and serious music during the harsher and more threatening seasons of fall and winter, and more lively, active energetic and rhythmic music during the less burdensome spring and summer seasons, that are rife with social activity, remains consistent with both prior research and the Environmental Security Hypothesis.”

Freshman Evan Doan’s thoughts also align with this data, as he says that during the summer, “Pop and upbeat music are the most popular.” These results suggest a connection between summer and periods of social and economic stability. Push explains that the reason these types of music seem to connect with different seasons is because “with jazz and folk music, people tend to be in a calmer setting, not necessarily crowded by people. However, with EDM people are usually found in the middle of a rave or festival, surrounded by strangers. Alongside this, their mood changes. They are likely to be much more upbeat and happy within the warmer months. In the Winter, it is likely they will favour softer, more comforting sounds rather than loud, vibrating tracks. This comparison of seasons to environments in which people listen to music stems from the fact that during the summer the environment also changes. People are out and about, and more excited, just like the example of a festival. However, during winter, most are less likely to be out and about with the cold and dreary weather. Seasonal depression could also play a role in this shift in taste. With less sunlight during the winter months, Vitamin D levels in many can decrease. This lack of Vitamin D manifests in drowsiness and a drop in mood. This melancholy relates more closely to the slower, more thoughtful songs that students chose during the winter. However, in the summer, the sun is shining all the time and Vitamin D, as well as general energy derived from the sun, shows itself in a wish to listen to more upbeat songs that reflect the mood.

This change of taste during the summer is not only a reflection of music listeners, but the music industry as a whole. As people want to listen to more upbeat music in the summer, producers and songwriters must capitalize. “The Song of the Summer” is an annual designation given by the Billboard charts to a song that is being listened to by a lot of people during the summer. The system for choosing a song is similar to that of picking the top charts for each week. Picking the “Song of the Summer” for each year is greatly anticipated by many music listeners, regardless of their preferred genre. Insider lists songs such as Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U,” Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” and Katy Perry’s “California Girls As past songs of the summer. The most recent song of the summer in 2022 was Harry Styles’ “As It Was.” While the official song of the summer for 2023 has not yet been picked, many possible choices have been thoroughly discussed by anticipating fans. This is exactly why the music industry invented the song of the summer in the first place.

Besides being a fun way to showcase a popular song, the song of the summer’s purpose is to garner attention for music artists, to the point where many artists specifically create songs that have the best chance to benefit from this summer chatter. Senior Alexa Seivert explains that being catchy often is more important than being a good song for a song of the summer “as whenever I find a song of the summer, it is usually annoying because it is so catchy.” Sophomore Benson Huang also adds that a song being well known could also be more important than quality as “if the song is really widespread, it could be a really bad song but the fact that everyone knows it makes it the song of the summer.There is also a certain formula for the release of a song of the summer. Mic also adds that “the top-performing summer songs of the last decade (with the exception of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” released Jan. 25, 2011) all came out in the summer song sweet spot of mid-March to mid-May, allowing for just the right amount of build-up to occur. They all tend to be fast and around 3:48 in length.” Many of the most popular summer songs also include a dance, which creates a certain cultural movement along with the song. One of the most famous examples is “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),” a song with a dance that is still relevant in 2023. Appearing in movies also helps songs achieve popularity independently of quality. Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, which appeared in the iconic movie Rocky, is one of the best examples of this. Finally, Mic adds again that one of the bast ways to create a feeling of relevance for a summer song is “by making culturally relevant claims. Way back in the day, George M. Cohan’s World War I propaganda anthem “Over There” certainly did that. It may not share immediate similarities with Eminem’s celebrity culture-bashing “The Real Slim Shady,” but both found summer success through engaging the important events of the day and suggesting that they were already in the conversation.”

Whether the song of the summer is a marketing tool or not, it manages to bring a lot of people together. Junior Nya Justice says that picking a song of the summer of the summer is “about being for the people.” Songs that people are talking about create a sense of community. In the end, this makes perfect sense for a song representing summer. If the season where everyone is celebrating and spending time together has a signature song, it is only right that it represents this feeling of community.