Songs of Summer

We asked incoming first years from the Tufts Class of 2021 to create playlists that embodied their summer. Here are some of our favorites!


Late-night melting ice cream cones, denim overall-clad roller-skating dates, literature classics and retro sunglasses found poolside have always defined my Los Angeles summers. Though I’m known to be perpetually tucked between the pages of a textbook or the keys of my computer, I let loose of my studious ways once mid-June hits to catch up on the sights and sounds of the city I’ve been missing. Though my friends have always had the formality of camps or summer houses in other places, I use the season as a time to escape the confines of a schedule and simply explore. It’s a period in which I test out the polarity of my personality, the difference between my well-marked up planner during the school year and my empty mind and schedule in the Southern California sun.

But what I’ve found to be drastically different about this summer is the anticipation of change. Though I’ve always sought new experiences, I’ve known the cycle of returning to a school and routine I have grown to know so well once the seasons begin to change. Now, as the impending move across the country to college grows nearer, I’m faced with a new concept: accepting the idea of not-knowing. I let myself explore and stray so much from my confined ways during the summer because, in the past, I’ve had total control over knowing what I’d be returning to.

Summer will always be a time of change and growth for me. Though a bad grade, a passionate paper, or a late-night project might throw me some conflict, routine during the school year gives me a well-defined sense of my own character. It is the summer season that allows me to debrief from my year and assess where I’m at in relation to where I want to be. From June to August, I work hard on projects, whether it’s contributing to publications, interning in a field that fascinates me, or producing my own music, that slowly polish, refine, and reveal the person I’m working towards and striving to be.



I come from an island where I live in summer all year round. In Singapore, we are constantly bathed in sweat and blessed with sunlight no matter the time of year. While there are no seasons, the start of summer vacation always seems to change the way I experience the island. I stop bringing an umbrella everywhere to shade myself from the glaring sun and instead struggle to keep myself from skipping through the streets in its warm glow. The sun, now a large siren announcing that we’re finally allowed to relax. All of a sudden, the palm trees are taller. Beaches stretch longer than they ever have.

The songs in this playlist reflect my experience with letting go of home and all its wonders. I found myself revisiting the music that I had come to know through my dad’s constant whistling, or the radio playing during annual car rides to my grandma’s house in Malaysia. I hear the sound of home in National Day celebrations and Disney movies (Aladdin and Lion King in particular) played on repeat. Many of the songs in this playlist are considered oldies, with a few that hold special meaning to Singaporeans. This is a collection of songs that has not only changed the way I’ve explored my home country this summer, but has also forced me to see the beauty in goodbyes.



On June mornings, I used to ride my bike to Castle Island and watch the planes fly over the rolling waves of the Boston Harbor. Otis Redding would call it “wasting time,” but I noticed that you can’t waste something that seems to be of infinite abundance.

This soundtrack scored those infinite hours, providing moments of joy and triggering nostalgia for summers past. During the halcyon days of youth, I would play stickball with my neighbors under the July sun, and manhunt when the moon would illuminate the street. Chance The Rapper sorrowfully rhymes about wearing socks on that hot concrete, and the “jolly rancher kids” who he would lose to gang violence. In my world, those kids have outgrown the neighborhood and gone to college, and those nights were the next to change.

Last summer, I ran laps at the track down the street and blasted the mesmerizing ballad “Nights” through my headphones. Frank Ocean confesses feeling disconnected with a lover, tells of his relocation after Katrina, and pays respect to his old Acura (the Legend). The despair of “Summer Friends” and the longing and instability in “Nights” were a subtle reminder of the blessings in my life, making me grateful under the purple night sky. As summer dwindled to a close “Heaven’s In New York” began to resonate with me. Like Wyclef Jean, I attempted to squeeze traditions into what little time was left. My friends and I went to the Ice Cream Smith around the corner, drove Quincy Shore Drive for the last time and sat around a fire and reminisced about “the high school days.” There was still time for valuable lessons. From “Lens” I learned you, “can’t be on time for the free rides.” Spontaneous occurrences characterized the season including late-night drives into Boston, discovering the best pizza in Manhattan, and unplanned run-ins with old friends.

But, there were disappointing realizations that new connections made would be fleeting as sendoffs crept on the horizon. As an antidote, Isaiah Rashad suggests to “fall in love while Southernplayalistic bang[s] through the night,” and enjoy the moment. The bittersweet end to euphoric freedom finally arrived, and there was no song better for it than “Self Control.” Frank fights off the end, saying, “could we make it shine, on the last night,” and finishes with the hypnotic chant chronicling the finale for everyone, “I…leave…tonight.”



With the busy schedule of my summers, it’s imperative that my earbuds constantly buzz with upbeat jams to keep me energized throughout the day. In a condensed, 15-song highlights-reel, my summer days go something like this

Good morning! No better way to start your day than with a piping hot cup of funk, and what’s funkier than the heavy bassline and jazzy vocals of Vulfpeck’s Funky Duck and Bassnectar’s remix of Feeling Good? (9.5/10 funk experts agree that nothing is funkier).

After that poppin’ wake up call, I keep the soulful vibes rolling throughout my mornings with Victor Wooten, Frank Ocean, and Hiatus Kaiyote to power through those tough, hot early hours of my job, working in a poorly ventilated wire manufacturing plant, breathing in air that may as well have been stagnant and growing stale in the factory since 1952 or earlier.

My afternoon, which tends to be oriented more towards traditional office-work for the wire company, begins with Goon Squad by Ripe, the perfect transitional song between funk and rock. The afternoon stays light with happy jam-rock songs by Twiddle and Jerry Garcia that allow me to keep grooving while still remaining focused on my work.

After work ends but before my night begins, I try to fit in a bit of volunteer work, or I spend this time doing the many things necessary to prepare for the start of college. Pop-style alt-rock songs by Swimclub and Cake help me to finish what I need to do and slip smoothly into my evening with friends, where my playlist becomes a juggling act––much like my busy lifestyle.

When DJ-ing for friends, balance is key. It’s important to satisfy all of the different genres my friends want to hear with their varying music tastes, but it can be difficult to do this without sacrificing the flow of the playlist or my own personal music preferences. In my final 5 summer highlight songs, I cover current popular music with Magic City Hippies and Glass Animals, an old-school summer classic with What I Got by Sublime, some Tribe for my fellow rap fans, and Sunday Candy, an overall sweet summer song for everybody to sing along to. It’s vital that my summertime bops satisfy all of my friends, because summer and music are both things that are better when shared.



I knew summer was near when the Hershey’s s’mores commercials came out of hiding along with the same bunch of cringeworthy “summer sales” ad commercials from every other mediocre department store. Maybe there was something in the summer air, but there’s always a renewed sense of conviction and of self brought by the arrival of summer. Like you could singlehandedly destroy a horde of zombies and create the mystery vaccine from a little spit and grit – with the indomitable Nicholas Cage as your sidekick.

Now, we all have an idealized image of summer, usually hinting at some feeling of nostalgia that we can’t exactly pinpoint. My image consists of road trips with the afro blowing in the wind down the notorious route 66. Maybe Lana Del Rey and the Beach Boys are playing in the background. Then there are the indie, soul-seeking cross-country adventures that almost always end in individual emancipation and revelation.

The music on my playlist definitely reflect a combination of nostalgic feel-good vibes that seem most potent during summer (“Jumpin’ Jumpin’” by Destiny’s Child) to music more typically representative of the excitement that summer could bring (“La gozadera” by Gente de Zona).

Walking with a friend one summer afternoon, I remember hearing this playing from the speakers of a nearby Mexican restaurant and spontaneously bursting out in song and dance as people wined and dined around us. In particular, I remember one passerby distort his facial features in frustration as I momentarily blocked his path on the sidewalk with my stationary flailing. Good times. You don’t have to be a Spanish speaker to understand how this song is an anthem of unity and an unapologetic celebration of Latin culture. These impressions are what initially drew me into the song along with the beats and rhythm that embody the joviality and spice of Latin culture.

“Hakawa” is a song gloriously reminiscent of a place whose souqs I still yearn for years after my return. Whenever I think of my summer in Morocco, this song — for a moment — transports me back to the grazing sun, the beautiful mosques, the irritable cab drivers, the mouth-watering tajine, and the chaos of the markets. Characterized by the repetitive “Yallah (Let’s go)” in the chorus, this song is fundamentally carefree and also calls for togetherness as Lmnawar even shares the chorus with others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s