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What Makes a Summer Hit and How to Write One
8 May '2024
From boiling-hot beats to scorching synths, summertime bangers often have a lot in common – which helps when you’re trying to make one of your own
What makes a summer hit and how to write one

All of our musical bucket lists probably look slightly different. Some people want to land a release with their favourite label, some want to hear their DJ-idol play their track at a festival, and others want to write a summer hit that reaches the masses throughout an entire festival season. If you’re part of the latter camp, then read on.

 

In this article, we’re delving into an array of summertime hits in an attempt to unpack what makes them so popular. We’ll then take our findings and try to identify some ways you can infuse the essence of the summer into your own productions.

 

 

Seven summer smashes

 

Peggy Gou – (It Goes Like) Nanana

 

 

 

 

We’re kicking things off with a recent one while it’s fresh in our minds. South Korean DJ and producer Peggy Gou has historically released captivating dance music that falls more on the underground side of the fence. Her 2023 track (It Goes Like) Nanana was her most successful foray into the commercial side of dance music.

 

 

 

 

The modern-but-nostalgic house track features a groovy bassline, toe-tapping house beat and an uplifting and catchy female vocal. The lyrics feature the very singalong-able hook of ‘na, nanananana’, which inevitably fueled its popularity on the radio and at festivals. If that’s not enough to convince you of its suitability for the summer, check out its sun-studded music video above.

 

 

Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal – B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)

 

 

 

 

One year prior to Peggy Gou’s entry to this list, we were graced with B.O.T.A (Baddest Of Them All) by Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal, another certified summer slammer. Between the four-on-the-floor house beat, memorable vocal hook and polished sound design choices, the track shares many similarities to (It Goes Like) Nanana.

 

Both tracks emote a sense of positivity and nostalgia, and in the case of B.O.T.A, the sense of familiarity you get from the tune may be as a result of the sample selection. The string pad and plucks from the intro are sampled from Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s 1991 track Let The Beat Hit 'Em (LL w/Love RC Mix), which was also sampled by Sound De-Zign in their track Happiness a decade later.

 

 

 

 

Duke Dumont – I Got U (Ft. Jax Jones)

 

 

 

 

So far, we’ve established that big tent-filling memorable vocal hooks combined with accessible and familiar sound design could help a track to achieve summer-hit status. This next track comes courtesy of Duke Dumont, and it certainly supports our working hypothesis.

 

Off the bat, the steel drums create undeniable connotations of enjoying a coconut cocktail on the beach. The simple, almost predictable song structure and short runtime of under four minutes make this track (and the others already covered on this list) prime for attracting plenty of radio attention.

 

 

Dario G – Sunchyme

 

 

 

 

We’re casting our minds all the way back to 1997 for this next entry, which happens to be another steel drum-laden house tune (some themes are really emerging here). In addition to the instrumentation, the chanted vocal hook no doubt helped to secure this track’s position on this list, and in the minds of anyone who’s been to Ibiza in the last 20 years.

 

Once again, the music video for Synchyme heavily depicts the summer sun and helps to confirm its associations with warmth and positivity. Despite its official release at the end of summer in September 1997, the track managed to reach the UK number two position in the singles chart.

 

If you want to capture a tropical flavour in your next production, this Tropical House pack from Apollo Sound contains everything you need.

 

 

LF System – Afraid to Feel

 

 

 

 

Next up is yet another house track with a simple four-on-the-floor drum pattern and predictable arrangement (we hope you’re writing this down). What sets this track apart is the tempo automation in the intro and bridge sections. This is presumably so that it can appropriately home the primary sample of the track, which is I Can't Stop (Turning You On) by Silk.

 

 

 

 

The side effect of this is a sense of apprehension and a build-up of energy that lends itself well to the hedonistic attitudes and behaviours that are often associated with the festival season. To circumnavigate sample clearance dramas, the Scottish duo re-recorded the vocals for Afraid to Feel. Nonetheless, the familiarity of the track is undoubtable, and represents another shortcut for those looking to secure a summer hit.

 

 

Calvin Harris – Feel So Close

 

 

 

 

From a Scottish producer duo to a solo act, this next track is another summer hit with a music video that really drives the occasion home. Dumfries’ very own super DJ Calvin Harris hit all the right notes with the release of Feel So Close in 2011, and it quickly became the soundtrack for summer holidays and hot, sultry nights out on the town. 

 

Feel So Close is also a house track that contains a very palatable muted piano line, as is present in Duke Dumont’s and LF System’s contributions to this list. Despite being over a decade old, this track has cemented itself as a timeless summer anthem, invariably making it onto prime time radio during the warmer months of the year.

 

 

Stereophonics – Have A Nice Day

 

 

 

 

We’re finishing this list with somewhat of an anomaly. In a sea of four-on-the-floor house tracks, Stereophonics’ Have A Nice Day stands out for its lyrical content as opposed to its groove, sound design or instrumentation. The title itself nods to the summertime, but the lyrics “lie around all day, have a drink to chase” and “swim in the ocean, that be my dish” suggest that the track was written with a summer audience in mind. 

 

Despite sounding relatively far removed from any of the other tracks on this list, this timeless summer hit shares some similarities. Namely, the repetition of the song’s hook and title “Have a nice day” and its call and response with the accompanied chanting. Additionally, despite having a completely different architecture to a house track, the song does share a similar tempo of 121 BPM.

 

 

So what makes a summer hit?

 

Having examined seven authentic summer anthems from a range of eras, it’s fair to say that we’ve been able to make some conclusions as to what constitutes a summer hit. Let’s recap the steps you can take to get your track wafting through the summer airwaves. 

 

Include singalong vocals

Firstly, catchy and repeatable vocals can help to solidify a track within the minds of the masses. If you’ve ever been to a festival or live gig you’ll know the feeling of singing along to a hit track with thousands of other people. This factor alone can help to create memorable musical experiences, which is ultimately what makes a track popular. The Loopmasters Summer Haze Vocals sample pack is brimming with vocal loops and one-shots, ready to be crafted into this year’s summer hit.

 

 

Establish familiarity

Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with giving the people what they know. Whether you use recognisable sound design techniques as in Peggy Gou’s example, sample melodic content a la Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal or rerecord vocal hooks as did LF System, infusing your original creation with something recognisable is a sure-fire way of securing buy-in from listeners.

 

Keep it short and sweet

Off the back of familiarity, predictability and accessibility also seem to be a worthwhile consideration when trying to come up with a guaranteed summer smash. Try to keep your arrangements short and simple if you want to be picked up for maximum plays on the radio and festival circuits.

 

Reduce complexity

Finally, it's all well and good melting people's faces off with highly complex FM synthesis techniques, but the layperson is more interested in a boogie and a singalong than your new binaural synth. Keep the sound design and instrumentation simple! 

 

For example, experiment with using bright and full Korg M1-style piano and organ sounds along with tried and tested X0X drum samples for maximum simplicity and recognisability. The Classic 90s House Vol2 sample pack is worth sifting through if you’re looking for those authentic but familiar house tones.

 

 

 

FAQs

 

What is a summer hit?

In the world of music, a summer hit refers to a track that becomes extremely popular during the summer months, achieving regular plays on the radio and at clubs and festivals, as well as amassing huge statistics on major streaming platforms.

 

What makes a summer hit?

Try using repetitive, catchy vocals that people can chant or sing along to easily. Keep song structure and sound design simple and accessible to all listeners, and think about how your production will sound in a festival, club or radio setting. Additionally, try to incorporate elements into your track that will sound familiar to your listeners. Consider taking influence from other tracks, whether it’s their vocals, melodies, drum beat or sound design.

 

When should you release a summer song?

There are two potential times that you may wish to release a summer song. For highly commercial productions, the start of the summer may be ideal as this means that as well as being able to receive radio and festival plays, your listeners can buy, download and stream your music throughout the summer. For more underground productions, an end-of-summer release may help to build demand for your track, as it gets played by only a select group of people throughout the summer.