Did 1995 have the best summer songs of the past 25 years?

summer-1995Every year when the weather turns warm, publications like this one reopen the all-important debate on the best songs of that particular summer. Katy Perry, Kanye West, and Usher are among the artists in contention for the 2010 title by our reckoning. Billboard recently tried to add a scientific and historic dimension to the discussion by ordering the 10 top songs for each summer from 1985 to 2009 based on chart performance. Their 25 individual lists are well worth perusing for anyone inclined to musical nostalgia. Taken together, they also raise an intriguing secondary question: Which of those summers gone by had the best songs?

I hereby nominate 1995. I knew I’d end up picking some year from the ’90s before even looking at the lists, simply because that’s when I first started paying pop music serious attention as an adolescent. Regarding each list more closely, though, I’m struck by how many classic tunes were inescapable between June and August ’95. TLC’s unassailable “Waterfalls” tops the count. At No. 3, it’s the Notorious B.I.G’s timeless “One More Chance.” Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” and All-4-One’s “I Can Love You Like That” round out the R&B roster nicely. Rock fans, meanwhile, could choose between Bryan Adams’ enduringly cheesy “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” and Blues Traveler’s alt nugget “Run-Around.” Yeah, that was a great summer on the radio.

Then again, who’s to say 1985 (Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, Prince) or 1999 (Christina Aguilera, Destiny’s Child, Ricky Martin, Backstreet Boys) or 2002 (Nelly, Jimmy Eat World, Cam’ron, Nelly again) doesn’t have it beat? Check out Billboard‘s lists and let us know which summer you think had the best hits.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

Also: EW’s 100 Greatest Summer Songs of All Time

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Comments (88 total) Add your comment
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  • justjack

    By decade, my faves from the list would be:

    2000s: 2008, 2009
    1990s: 1994, 1999
    1980s: 1985

    Wow, did those lists bring back some memories!

  • Ron

    ’95 was a good summer year but not for some of those songs….How bout You Oughta Know, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me from U2, Gangsta’s paradise, Silverchair, Foofighters, Goo goo dolls, green day

    • J

      No kidding. How did they leave “You Oughta Know” off that list? And “Run-Around” should be higher than #10.

    • ftw

      Yes!Hold me thrill me kiss me kill me from U2

      • alex

        i am making a SERIOUS mix tape based off of everyone’s lists here!! Much love all around. the 90s were the best.

  • Phil

    Simon, you are 1 year off. 1994 in my humble opinion was THE SUMMER to END ALL SUMMERS.
    You had everything from :
    The Notorious B.I.G. “Juicy”
    Sheryl Crow “All I Wanna Do”
    Real McCoy “Another Night”
    Da Brat “Funkdafied”
    Lisa Loeb “Stay (I Missed You)”
    Haddaway “What Is Love?”
    Coolio “Fantastic Voyage”
    M People “Moving On Up”
    Just to name a few. It was the year Diddy Started Bad Boy, JD started So So Def Recordings & when Mtv (GASP!) Still played ALL of these videos!!!I am sure there are many more songs & artists I am omitting but I just did this off the top of my head, but I’d say you were pretty close, but for me it was definitely the summer of 1994. Awesome item to start a conversation too!

    • Ron

      What is love was ’93 but close. I’d also add Offspring – Come out and play, Green day – Longview and Basketcase, STP – Big Empty, Live – Selling the Drama, NIN – Closer, Counting Crows – Round here, Toad the WS- Fall Down

      • Phil

        I REALLY think Haddaway “What Is Love” was a hit in the summer of ’94…it was a hit in Europe first, but I coulda swore I purchased that cassette single the same day I picked up Real McCoy & Craig Mack’s “Flava In ya Ear”.
        Anyways, sidenote: I began working in radio in the Fall of 1994 a month after I turned 16, and I wanna point out that though a top 10 song in the summer of ’95, the Notorious B.I.G.’s “One More Chance” was NOT a pop hit outside of NYC. The new rap star of NYC was a HUGE seller that summer due to the availability of his remix single, that sampled “Stay With Me”, which is when Puffy was creating the Bad Boy brand and would ALWAYS release remixes of their hits using old samples. I recall BEGGING the program director at the top 40 station in Philly to just test the record at night and he kept telling me, it was ‘too urban’ eventhough he knew I was a kid and knew what kids wanted to hear (this was the same mentality at alot of pop stations that leaned more rock-wise such as Hootie & the Blowfish). We NEVER wound up adding the record, and it only LATER became a recurrent hit years later at pop radio, along with “Juicy” AFTER Biggie died.

      • amanda

        Toad the Wet Sprocket FTW!

      • beb

        Hey Phil – I definitely remember Haddaway’s “What is Love” being a song of the summer in 1993. (It was certified gold by the RIAA in November of that year).

      • Phil

        Three more gems from the summer of 1994…
        Patra & yo Yo “Romantic Call”
        Ini Kamoze “Here Comes The Hotstepper”
        Mariah Carey & Luther Vandross “Endless Love”

  • Justin C.

    My summer 1998 (and favorite) playlist includes:
    Alanis Morissette “Uninvited”
    Edwin McCain “I’ll Be”
    Eve 6 “Inside Out”
    Fastball “The Way”
    The Flys “Got You Where I Want You”
    Lenny Kravitz “Fly Away”
    Matchbox 20 “Real World”
    Sarah McLachlan “Adia”
    Sprung Monkey “Get ‘Em Outta Here”
    Third Eye Blind “How’s It Going to Be”

    Along with my favorite summer song ever:
    Harvey Danger “Flagpole Sitta”

    • fireflystare221

      daaammmmn that is a good summer.

    • Sarah

      1998 is definitely my summer of choice as well, although 1997 runs a close second. 2009 wasn’t too bad either . . .

    • Phil

      Wow! You just summarized my teenage summer when I really got into music. Call my tasteless, but that was UH-Mazing stuff.

    • melissa

      ADIAAAAAAAA…LOVE THAT SONG!! And Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” I danced to that song with my brother at my wedding….i’m getting all nostalgic and ishhhh =)

  • Chichi

    1991! FTW! Why? Color Me Badd’s I Wanna Sex You Up. I want that song played at my funeral.

    • Berryz

      Love it!

  • Snarf

    1993 for me.

    • gigi

      Me too! Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” was on FIRE! that summer. Oh and dance anthems “Whomp” (or “Whoop”..your choice) There It Is!! Good times….

  • BeBe

    90’s period were the best…

    • jodipo

      delusional. Everyone knows the 80’s were the best.

      • Edie

        Nope. Any true music aficionado knows the 70s RULED.

      • z

        I’m gonna go with the 60s

    • etm

      90’s rule!!!!!!!!!

  • Peter

    1992 had Whoomp! and Slam. But I think 89 and 92 have the rest beat.

    • Peter

      (bookending my high school years, BTW)

  • G. Wiz.

    I would have to go with 1999. If only for:
    Jlo “If you had my love”
    Whitney Houston “Heartbreak Hotel (remix)”
    Smash Mouth “All Star”
    TLC “No Scrubs”
    Destiny’s Child “Bills, Bills, Bills”.
    I didn’t even check out the official lists, but that was a great sumemr for upbeat fun music!

    • Sarah

      “Genie in a Bottle”, “Livin La Vida Loca” and “Where My Girls At?” were also 1999. Good year.

  • Christina

    Best: 1994
    Worst: 2004

    • dipshat

      Yeah 2004 just had Usher, Usher, Usher and Usher, which less face it suck’s.

  • heej

    ’95 also had Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” and Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me”

    • Allison

      “I wish”!!! Oh man, I almost forgot about that song. F*ing love it.

      “I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller”

    • JodiMarie

      Thank You, Thank You!! I’ve been trying to think of the name of that song for months.

  • passionate viewer

    don’t forget aretha franklin’s “freeway of love” and huey lewis & the new’s “the power of love” from 1985

    • Donna

      I loved Huey Lewis’ Power of Love! Didn’t hurt that it was one of the theme songs from Back to the Future!

  • cince

    ’94, no question. Also Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden, Loser – Beck, and Hold My Hand – Hootie and the Blowfish. Any Time, Any Place – Janet Jackson

  • AC

    The 90s pretty much win in general.

    • justjack


    • amanda


  • melissa

    1997 (summer before senior year of high school) and 2006 (must have spent a lot of time in bars that summer or something)

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