A somewhat personal selection of six very different songs of the summer by director, writer, and Brown PhD candidate, Talley Murphy
1965: “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher
“They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow
Well I don’t know if all that’s true
‘Cause you got me, and baby I got you”
“I Got You Babe” is wonderful. It’s light and free, but musically complex. It’s a story about youth, trials, love, and coming of age in the ’60s, written and performed by two hippie charmers.
Twenty years after “I Got You Babe” was the song of the summer (and ten years after their nasty split), a divorced Sonny and Cher performed the song on Late Night With David Letterman. If you haven’t seen this, look it up when you get home. Somehow both natural and awkward, both loving and distant, the impromptu performance is pure nostalgia for loves and summers past. It’ll make you sad, and it’ll make you sing.
More uncomfortably, Cher performed “I Got You Babe” during her Vegas residency with projections and old audio clips of Sonny after his death. Something about this sweet waltz paired with a digital zombie of her ex seems all wrong for a song about flowers and long hair and mountains.
1981: “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield
I was at a wedding this summer where people were jamming to this song. “Jessie’s Girl” seems like a weird choice for your wedding playlist, but people do love to punch their fists in the air while Rick Springfield asks where he can find a woman like that.
This ode to unrequited desire has aged okay even as we’ve all agreed that the Friendzone is a myth. The music video is so wonderfully ’80s: there’s spray paint, sad stalking of a happy couple, and a shattered mirror.
Oprah once tried to track down the aforementioned Girl, going back through school records to no avail. That poor Girl. Springfield admitted that he never really met her, but that he was “panting from afar.” Yuck.
“Jessie’s Girl” was originally called “Gary’s Girl.” Sing that in your head.
1992: “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot
Is there any other song that’s had as weird and long a cultural moment as “Baby Got Back”? (You know it even if you think you don’t: it begins, “I like big butts and I cannot lie!”). It’s featured in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” There’s a video of Brian Williams cut together like he’s singing it. There’s a SpongeBob parody and a Simpsons parody. Covers range from orchestral to honky-tonk. There’s literally an entire episode of Friends about “Baby Got Back.”
Some people were scandalized by the song the summer it hit #1, but it’s kind of awesome. It’s not perfect (it samples some problematic audio and it’s pretty male gaze-y), but at its core, it’s an ode to black women — it opens with two gossipy white girls calling a woman “just so… black” because of her “gross” butt — who feel overwhelmed and alienated by pop beauty standards. It’s a celebration of butts in the face of a cult of whiteness and thinness.
“A word to the thick soul sistas,
I want to get with ya …
Cosmo ain’t got nothin’
To do with my selection.”
The best thing about this song, though? To promote its release, a giant inflatable butt toured the country.
2003: “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
Beyoncé created the chorus for “Crazy in Love” by looking at herself in the mirror. Maybe as a result, the song is as sexy and fun as Bey herself.
Post-Destiny’s Child, pre-“Single Ladies,” Beyoncé created her first major critical hit with “Crazy in Love.” It was written and produced in a number of hours by a hungover songwriter and Beyoncé, with Jay-Z showing up for an hour to improvise his verse. It’s a great music industry-lore story.
Can’t you picture this scene in the eventual Beyoncé biopic? Record execs are arguing behind her about the song, but Beyoncé, ignoring them, looks into the mirror, sees herself, and says, “I’ve got it!” The room falls silent. She turns to look at them. “It’s Crazy in Love.”
2012: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
The associate artistic director insisted that I include this song because it’s his favorite. When it’s stuck in your head for the rest of the week, feel free to email your complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2018: “I Like It” by Cardi B with Bad Bunny and J Balvin
Okay, Cardi B is amazing. Can we talk about this? To be honest, I’ve never heard this song (a Google search tells me that the lyrics are really fun), but I’ve fallen in love with her. She’s the first female rapper with multiple #1s and the first to replace herself at #1 on the charts. She stripped to work her way through school and survived being a member of the Bloods. She goes off on Instagram stories about urgent political issues with more clarity and focus than any politician. She’s a big fan of FDR, the New Deal, and Eleanor Roosevelt. She did a video where she read Fire and Fury with Hillary Clinton. She advocated for an end to the government shutdown. She’s got a pretty decent clothing collection with Fashion Nova. She’s always one step ahead of interviewers. I love her, and you should too.
Also, her ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) video (and I hate ASMR) is incredible. She’s the celebrity we all need in 2019.