15 songs you wouldn’t expect on a beach playlist but need NOW
In South Florida, it’s summer most of the year. I mean, it’s not always that hot (luckily), but it’s warm enough to spend most days at the beach or pool. And I try to take advantage of it. Not everyone has the opportunity to live so close to paradise for so many days a year, and I don’t want that to be ruined.
There’s something about being at the beach that frees you up in a way that few other activities do. It really is Hobbies time. When you go, you’re not supposed to do shit, so I never do. I spend my time at the beach the way I want: eating snacks, drinking coconut water and my favorite light beers, swimming, reading and, of course, listening to music.
I know people have mixed feelings about this, but I never use headphones at the beach. So when I play music it’s usually loud enough that people a few feet away can hear it. I listen to a wide range of almost every genre, and I usually browse through a bunch of different playlists while I’m at it. Not everything is summer or beach specific, but I try to create some sort of ~vibe~. Sometimes I listen to a lot of dance music or pop music, stuff that’s on the radio and you can hear almost anywhere. But mostly, the songs I play at the beach are probably a little unexpected but feel perfect to me at the moment.
The last few times I used my little Bluetooth speaker at the beach, several people approached me asking what songs I was playing and where they could find them. Since there are songs that I find myself playing every time I’m there or multiple times a day, I’ve compiled them here so you can also consider adding them to your playlists. Don’t consider this a playlist on its own. Think of it more like a bunch of songs that I think would fit right into anyone’s days in the sun.
“Don’t be afraid to let go”
This is probably one of the most obvious leads on the list. I mean, its title translates to “The Light.” It starts at a high tempo and never loses that beat, just adds more bass as the song progresses. Mendoza’s voice is brilliant as she asks “eleva, eleva, eleva el ritmo” (“elevate, elevate, elevate, the beat”).
“Because you got rhythm / You got style / That’s why I love you”
Man, this song is SO hot!! I’ve never met anyone who knows who Mavis John is, and honestly the only reason I found this song was because I was in a k-hole on the internet. John is considered one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most talented artists, and this song certainly helps explain why. It’s a wonderful combination of 1970s Calypso, Soca and Soul.
“My love for you baby / It’s like a roller coaster”
Honestly, there’s never a time when my music apps are open and I’m not playing at least one ESG song. They are easily in my top five best bands of all time. This song is probably one of their best known, for good reason. The tempo is fast and the rhythm is constant throughout the chorus. I guarantee you’ll never hear a band use a cowbell better than ESG.
“I can be anything I wanna be / Things you never thought you’d see”
To my knowledge, it’s the only song by Kahimi Karie that gives the impression this. You definitely have to experience it for yourself, but every time I put on this song, I feel like I’m riding the coolest, sweetest breeze of my life.
“And I wanna do it with you / Play it by ear / Play it by you”
Lizzy Mercier Descloux is definitely best known for her contributions to post-punk, and while I love her music so much, nothing sticks to me like this track. The bass line is bouncy and the horns are playful and rhythmic over the shimmering Afropop guitars. Just an absolutely perfect combination of elements for a day at the beach.
“Wind and rain cannot stop the flame that kindles the fire”
Originally released by Italian pro-rock band Delirium, Dame Shirley Bassey covered “Jezahel” and completely transformed the song. It’s a big, BIG bit about finding a lover and wanting to run away with them to a beach where no one can see you or bother you, and I just feel like it’s very relevant . He pushes so hard that I can’t imagine not playing him outside.
“Don’t you remember you told me you loved me, baby?”
The tennis version of this classic Carpenters track is a bit less haunting than the original, and their synth additions to the track give it a bit more brightness. I feel like “Superstar”, in general, just needs to be sung out loud every time it kicks in, which is probably what you’ll want to do between beers.
“So you wanna start over / But is it really over?”
“Sure” is a dreamy little pop song that makes me feel like The Cranberries and Carly Rae Jepsen collaborated to bring it to life. You know what I mean? That’s why I play it at the beach.
“From Back to Middle and Around Again / I’ll Be There Till the End”
I keep seeing and hearing people act like house music is a new invention. Since you keep saying it’s “house summer”, I had to include this classic Crystal Waters track which is a mainstay for me when I’m hanging out in the sun. Some house music sometimes seems a bit out of place in the light of day, but this one absolutely never does.
“Open Me Up, Look Inside / Watch My Heart Break For The Last Time”
Las Nubes are one of my absolute favorite bands to come out of Miami, and I play their music a lot. “Allusions”, like many of their songs, has a sort of ’90s alt-rock attitude with dreamy, shoegaze melodies. It’s lo-fi but the tempo is particularly lively and the lyrics are catchy as hell.
“No one has ever loved me like she does”
The lightness of some reggae tracks makes it a great addition to a day at the beach, and this Beatles cover by Marcia Griffiths is one of my all-time favorites. It has a groovy, uptempo bassline, rolling guitar riffs, and minimal but powerful drum beats. Just a really good song to blend into the sand.
“I don’t wanna change / And I don’t wanna change what you do to me”
I love dance music that also feels intensely personal and intimate. Tirzah’s songs usually fill that space for me, and “Holding On” is one of my favorites of all his songs. His music is often compared to that of Arthur Russell due to its electronic minimalism and repetitive patterns, and I think it’s this musical austerity that makes this piece feel like it should be played while you catch the breeze .
“I may be young / But I’m not that dumb / And I know exactly what I want”
“Out On My Own” is a track I keep coming back to. Sheila Chandra’s music follows the melodic structure of Indian raga but is also heavily influenced by pop music and dance music. As a result, this song has it all: tablas, sitars, ektara and guitar PLUS those truly evocative synth melodies. Chandra was quoted as saying she “had a lot of fun” when she recorded this album, and you can to tell about. This song is so unique for each of the genres it hits, and it’s so radiant and upbeat that you just need to hear it outside.
“Baby, I wanna party with you every night”
This moving, upbeat little dance tune feels like it was made for dancing in the heat. I love how earnest and sweet “About Somebody” is, and I love when the horns join the shimmering synths to take us on.
“I’m not gonna stay this time / That I want you to stay”
Female Species is an old band that everyone, myself included, is just hear about it now. In 2021, the first album they recorded in the 1960s, Tale of my lost love, was eventually published and widely distributed. Almost all of their music is a really fluid combination of surf rock, garage rock, and psychedelic rock with a few hints of R&B and soul, and this track in particular is a great example of how it all comes together . It’s happy and fun and representative of why 1960s music sticks with us. I think it’s best to play while you’re floating in the water.