Quick: you’re hanging out by the pool with some friends when someone hands you their phone and asks, “Can you quickly queue up about 10 songs before everyone jumps in the pool?”

If your answer is somewhere in the ballpark of “oh shit…uhh, maybe, I don’t know” or “it’s your phone, why don’t you just play some of your music?” then congratulations, you’ve learned nothing in this class.

That’s right, it’s summer playlist season, and with summer playlist season comes another unique auxiliary cable-wielding beast to tame.

Summer playlists are tough. They’re unwaveringly cheerful, but they’re also vehemently judged by everyone within earshot of your Bluetooth speaker. They’re laced with a healthy balance of nostalgic singalongs and lively dance music, and if there’s anyone who’s got an opinion on what songs are nostalgic and what songs they want to dance to, it’s…basically everyone.

So why can’t everyone grab the aux and sling the same playlist summer after summer? Well, unfortunately for your absolutely fire “Summer Jamz 2018” playlist, the definition of both nostalgia and dance are constantly evolving.

Nostalgia evolves for one obvious reason. Sentimental memories of the past are different depending on your personal upbringing. Your mom’s idea of nostalgia probably doesn’t involve whatever song prompted you to clear the dance floor at your high school prom, and your perception of nostalgia probably has nothing to do with the perception of your adolescent relative who thinks 50 Cent’s music can be categorized as “oldies”.

But understanding the crowd’s definition of nostalgia is only half the battle. You have to get the people moving and dancing if you expect your summer playlist to turn heads. Problem is, the definition of dance music is tricky. 25 years ago, David Bowie tried to pin dance music’s meaning with the seemingly obvious statement that “Dance music is no longer a simple Donna Summer beat.”

Whether or not you’re familiar with Donna Summer, that quote likely sounds outdated. But he’s wise to point out that what he commonly knows as dance music is no longer widely accepted in the public eye. In the same vein, what you may consider to be dance music may be worth a second look too.

For example, according to Harry Styles, dance music in 2022 is about sushi restaurants and wanting to cook an egg on your significant other.

According to INJI, dance music in 2022 is about the hypothetical fun of psychologically manipulating a womanizer into questioning their own sanity.

According to Pond, dance music in 2022 is about condemning avarice and greed while a incomprehensible man slurs his two cents about the mysteries of life.

Ask for Donna Summer’s opinion on whether those concepts are the makings of tomorrow’s dance hits, and you may hear her faintly laughing from her grave.

Now that you’re mentally prepped to queue up songs like a champ, you should be warned that not every song on this quarter’s playlist may seem a nostalgic/dance song on the surface. While dance and nostalgia core constructs of the summer playlist, the real key to winning your friends’ ears over is understanding their interpretation of dance and nostalgia into music. Understanding your audience can make or break your ability to grab that phone by the pool and play something that doesn’t force someone else to eventually get out of the pool, yelling “what the hell are we listening to?” as their dripping fingers smash the “next” button.

That’s why this playlist contain 40 of my favorite songs released over the past three months. Your friends have completely different tastes than your friends’ friends. If you expect to keep your summer playlist relevant no matter the crowd, you’re going to need some fresh content ready to tailor to any situation. There’s something in this playlist for everyone, no matter what your definition of nostalgia and dance may be. Cheers to a great summer filled with hogging the aux!

Remember a few short months ago when we were waiting for any semi-famous pop artist to release something of substance? Well that conversation had a shelf life of approximately zero days. Revisit that indie-heavy quarter that prefaced this quarter’s pop explosion: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2022: Q1 (January – March)