Helen’s mix will get you in the grooviest mindset for the next 30 or so days.

When crafting a summer playlist, most people’s instinct is to fill it with carefree bops that recall snapshots of cruising A1A with the windows down and running toward the ocean with a surfboard in hand. As May rolls around, everyone seems to jump at the chance to celebrate the season and its promises of fun, sun and relaxing beach days.

But when you succumb to summer’s seductions and actually go to the beach, she gives you a sunburn. You get in your car and realize that all of your earthly possessions are covered in sand. As you stand in the shower, scrubbing sand from places you didn’t know it could be, you’re forced to face the disappointing truth you somehow manage to forget every year—summer is a terrible tease.

Time flies by and drags on. You have so much time on your hands that you agonize over how to spend it and end up doing nothing. It’s been this way ever since your elementary school days—when summer was the only thing you thought about all year. You start to recall how even then you felt lonely when you no longer got to see your friends in class everyday.

I was recently talking to a friend about how I think upbeat pop songs are often the saddest. There always seems to be a deeper sense of misery lurking beneath their celebratory tone, hidden in an odd turn of phrase or an unexpected chord change. Her response was that pretty much all music worth listening to is sad; pop music just seems sadder because you don’t expect it to make you feel that way.

Her response reminded me about my feelings toward summer. Summer is supposed to be all fun and games, and yet it never really turns out that way. But summer is no worse than any other time of year, and no better. You’re the same you—the warmer weather is merely a backdrop. If you take summer for what it is—a complicated mix of equal parts excitement and disappointment—its dark side becomes a little more manageable.

This mix features a number of poppy tunes that feel, to me, deceptively sad. But instead of feeling betrayed by their deception, I hope this playlist encourages you to embrace the dualities this time of year has to offer. It is Gemini season, after all. •


Helen is our creative writing editor, and she has a lot of feelings about bagels. You can read more about those feelings here.