Playlist, List, Programming, Summer, Broadcaster

10 Playlist Ideas to Brighten Your Summer

A summer without good music is like a s'mores without the chocolate bar in the center, or a day at the beach without the ocean. Summer is one of the most musical times of year. That's because there's a plethora of different occasions exclusive to the summertime where music is not only appreciated, but expected. It's the reason why several artists release their most dance-worthy tracks in June, July, and August - all in an effort to compete for the title of "Song of the Summer"!

Looking to create some fun summer playlists but stumped on ideas? Keep cool, 'cause we've got you covered. Below are 10 themed playlist ideas to help get you started.

1. Vacation/Road Trip Playlist

What do many people do once summer hits? Plan a trip away from home! It's great to get away from typical daily life and relax for a week or two. However, before you're going on rides at Disney World or downing limoncellos in Italy, you've got a 7-hour flight or an all-day road trip to endure.

In those situations, music is one of the best ways to pass the time. This is where a playlist comes in handy! Whether it's for yourself or for your traveling companions, creating a vacation playlist will help make those hours of doing nothing tick by more quickly.

You could make a playlist full of songs about the destination you're heading. (For example: including songs like "California Dreaming" by the Mamas and Papas or "Coming Into Los Angeles" by Arlo Guthrie if you're flying to LA.) Or if you're in a car with your gal pals, make a fun playlist full of nostalgic, upbeat tunes for everyone to sing along to! Definitely check out our Best Road Trip Songs list for that specific scenario.

And you don't have to stop there; you could also make another playlist of tunes you love once you've made it to your hotel or AirBnB, and are settled in your vacation spot.

2. Beach Playlist

If you're not up to listening to the waves, lifeguard whistles, or what other pedestrians are blasting on their radios, we recommend bringing along a beach playlist to relax to. You could listen to energetic pop hits that have been dominating the summer charts, or you could use the sandy scenery as an opportunity to play more tropical-sounding tunes you don't generally listen to.

Personally, we here at Live365 love using beach days to listen to artists like the Beach Boys, Bob Marley, and Allah-Las. Of course, the sound of the beach is whatever you want it to be. If you're searching for beach song ideas, we recommend you read our 25 Songs to Listen to On the Beach article.

3. Barbecue/Cookout Playlist

Inviting family and friends over for an outdoor barbecue? Make a playlist of tunes to celebrate! There's a plethora of niche themes you could create for a cookout playlist, but really whatever kind of music will brighten the mood for your hungry guests is stuff you should stick to.

Classic genres people tend to play for barbecue parties include Top 40 pop, decades music (such as 70s, 80s, or 90s throwbacks), and country rock. Fare that is upbeat - but not too fast or slow - is the way to go. If you want to be cheeky, we also suggest crafting a playlist with fiery themes. Bops like Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" will subtly get you into the grilling mood.

4. Pool Party Playlist

You may have a pool open while entertaining guests at a barbecue. But trust us: a pool party playlist can be different from a simple barbecue playlist. Pool party playlists tend to be more heightened versions of barbecue playlists, with some subtle tropical hints of beach playlists. Confusing, we know...but we swear, there's a difference!

While people sit back and relax as they wait for their food at a barbecue, everyone's excitedly swimming, splashing, and jumping into the water at a pool party. So you're going to need tunes that keep the energy up. If you're a dance or EDM fan, a large pool party is a great place to blast your DJ-created hits. For more intimate pool parties, just stick to the kind of music we mentioned in the beach or barbecue/cookout sections above. Just go with your gut, and follow the vibes of your guests.

And like a cookout playlist, you could also include songs with water themes! We're thinking jams like "Cry Me a River" by Justin Timberlake or "Waterfalls" by TLC.

5. Bonfire/Campfire playlist

You're all set up: you've got the campfire going, marshmallows or weenies to roast, and places for people to sit. The last thing you need to make this campfire truly lovely is some music! If you don't have someone who knows how to play guitar among your group of campers, you're going to need a warm campfire playlist to make the experience unforgettable.

There are plenty of silly novelty songs that are tailor-made for campfires - any one of those is perfect to add to your campfire playlist! Additionally, any kind of song that's easy for people to sing along to makes a great campfire song. Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" makes a solid campfire playlist song, too! (Johnny Cash may have created the ultimate song of the summer with that track.)

Anywho, if you're on a camping trip and need more songs to consider when you're not around the fire, check out our 15 Songs to Listen to While Camping list.

6. Pride Playlist

Let's dive into some summer holidays! We here at Live365 are experts when it comes to June Pride Month music. Music is an integral part of the colorful celebration. Tunes perfect for Pride are fun, confident, and made by a diverse set of artists with many different sexualities and gender expressions.

You've got a ton of options when it comes to making a Pride playlist. You can put on songs good to dance to at a party, or exclusively songs that allude to the LGBTQ+ experience. Pride music covers a wide range when it comes to genres and moods.

To help you with your Pride playlist creation, check out the several articles we've published covering Pride music.

7. Fourth of July Playlist

If you're in the United States and celebrate Independence Day, make sure to get your Fourth of July playlist ready! You may be having a barbecue or pool party to celebrate the day. (Once again, see those specific playlist themes listed above.) But that doesn't mean you should skimp over the patriotic fare and all-American classics.

Shooting off fireworks? Create a soundtrack of orchestral patriotic standards or modern patriotic hits (such as "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood) to blast as they boom. Songs like Mily Cyrus' "Pary In the U.S.A.", Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.", and Dom McLean's "American Pie" are all popular Fourth of July tunes you can play around with when crafting your playlist.

8. Juneteenth Playlist

Last but not least for our holiday playlist ideas, we've got Juneteenth. Juneteenth (June 19) commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and marks the anniversary of Major General Gordon Granger ordering the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. Juneteenth was officially made a federal holiday in 2021.

Juneteenth is a day to celebrate African American culture, and that extends into music. Whatever playlist you create to honor Juneteenth, it should include a span of talented African American artists. We especially recommend traditional 60s Civil Rights Movement songs, as well as songs by modern Black artists that talk about freedom and comraderie (like "Alright" by Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé's "Already").

For more Juneteenth song selections, check out our article Juneteenth: A Musical History of Freedom. Even though it's in February, we also recommend you check out our 15 Artists You Should Listen to During Black History Month piece for Juneteenth song ideas.

9. Hiking Playlist

Finally, we have two playlist ideas that cover beloved summer physical activities. Some people walk or run every day. For others, hiking becomes more prevelant once the warmer weather rolls around. You may use the summer as an opportunity to explore nature trails. If so, consider crafting a hiking playlist or two to accompany your walk.

When making our hiking playlists, we tend to lean towards songs that either energize us (such as songs you'd typically program on a workout playlist), or grand, folksy songs that compliment the beauty of the natural scenery. Tunes such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, "Woods" by Bon Iver, and "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers are staple hiking songs.

10. Fishing Playlist

Like sitting on an airplane or being the passenger princess during a road trip, fishing is an activity where you're not really doing much. You're waiting for something to happen. Fishing and crabbing are also most popular during the summer thanks to the warm weather that's perfect for water critters and humans to come out.

The kind of music you play while fishing is all fair game, but if you want to stay on brand, we recommend songs like "Fishing in the Dark" by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Catch All the Fish" by Brad Paisley, and "Buy Me a Boat" by Chris Janson. Also why does every Jimmy Buffett song fit perfectly with fishing? We'll happily sit and wait for fish to bite on our hooks so long as we're listening to "A Pirate Looks at Forty" or "Margaritaville".

That's it for our summer playlist ideas. For more themed song or playlist ideas, check out our playlist tag on the Live365 blog. Have a wonderful summer, and happy listening!

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Article Image: Stock image of a pineapple on a beachy landscape wearing sunglasses and with music headphones over it. A smartphone is connected to the headphones via a wire. (5seconds via DepositPhotos.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey