10 Songs to ‘Throw it Back’ to this Summer


Krisha Konchadi

Nostalgic music can be perfect for a variety of summer activities: road trips, beach days, karaoke nights. Each of the songs on this list has charted at least once on the Billboard Hot 100, making them the most iconic pop, R&B and hip-hop tracks.

From reggae hits to fan-favorite pop tunes, we compiled a list of our top 10 throwback songs to add to your #ThrowbackThursday playlist while rocking your low-waist or flared jeans, Juicy Couture tracksuits and Von Dutch hats to channel the spirit of the late 80s and early 2000s.

“Partition” by Beyoncé

With its sultry beat and lyrics, we view “Partition” by Beyoncé as an empowering “hot-girl-summer” anthem.  A figurative “partition” divides the song into two: the first half consists of smooth, slow rap accentuated by heavy, droning beats while the second is dominated by raspy vocals and a more monotonous sound. 

We are first introduced to the sound of Beyoncé live in concert with a cheering crowd, which then transitions the beat drop after she says “Give me some!” Partway through, the song is interrupted by clicking cameras and the calls of paparazzi, and it closes with murmured French speech evocative of a soft summer romance.

The final verse of the first half is undoubtedly the most iconic — lines like, “I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker / Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor,” flow effortlessly.

“Temperature” by Sean Paul

Whooping vocables accompanying hollow yet energetic drum beats cement this dancehall song by Sean Paul as an iconic reggae track.

Paul’s heavy Jamaican accent brings a swinging tone to suggestive lyrics like, “Well woman the way the time cold I wanna be keepin’ you warm / I got the right temperature fi shelter you from the storm.” The addition of rhythmic claps throughout the song makes you want to start clapping along and singing the lyrics — even if your hands might hurt by the end. 

“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift

In this single off of singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s second studio album, “Fearless,” Swift reminisces about young love and high school jealousy. “You Belong With Me” is a girly, pop classic featuring peppy, plucking banjo instrumentals — paying homage to Swift’s country roots — in addition to electric guitars.

Though the track is not notable in composition, its simple guitar-based rhythm and melody work with the common topic. The catchy pre-chorus makes this song a typical teenage hit ideal for a long, laid-back road trip.

“Circus” by Britney Spears

A single, dramatic drum beat opens singer-songwriter Britney Spears’ “Circus,” the title track of her sixth studio album released in 2008. Spears’ classic, raspy vocals during the introduction ascend into a thrilling, half-pop, half-rap in the chorus. 

Over a synthesizer-heavy, electropop backdrop, Spears sings figuratively about her power in a ringmaster role, with hypnotically-repetitive lyrics like “All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus / When I crack that whip everybody gon’ trip just like a circus.”

“Only Girl (In the World)” by Rihanna

“Only Girl (In the World)” is featured on singer-songwriter Rihanna’s fifth studio album “Loud” released in 2010, and she is definitely the only girl that can make such an upbeat, strobe-heavy backing track flow perfectly with her belting yet effervescent vocals. Its technopop beat, alongside the powerful, 90s-inspired synthesizers, reach an explosive climax during the chorus, in which Rihanna sings the lyrics from which she pulled the title of the song: “Want you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world.” 

The strength and passion of Rihanna’s vocals plant this track firmly outside of the rote radio-pop scene and usher it into its rightful place in the queue of a vibrant karaoke night with friends. 

“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” is instantly recognizable from just its introduction: synthesizer-backed, ethereal vocals that devolve into a harsh snarl and iconic “Rah, rah-ah-ah-ah.” Gaga effectively employs tonal juxtaposition in this track, transitioning between an uninhibited, downright-wicked rasp throughout her verses and a floating, radiant chorus, in which she croons, “I want your love, and I want your revenge / You and me could write a bad romance.” 

The techno-inspired bridge only adds to the appeal of a “bad romance” —  the robotic, monotone verse integrates seamlessly into the variety of styles showcased in this song.

“The One That Got Away” by Katy Perry

Though out of place in an album about wild teenage fantasies, Katy Perry’s “The One That Got Away” masterfully reflects the wistful bitterness of losing a first love. The song’s upbeat tempo and instrumentals contrast with the heartwrenching topic of the lyrics, with Perry’s dreamy and echoic vocals bringing beauty to her despair. 

Perry crafts a harmonious narrative of a whirlwind romance, including details about matching tattoos with her lover and tracking the symbol of nostalgic music throughout. 

“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” by ABBA

The 1979 hit song “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” by Swedish band ABBA made a comeback in 2008 when musical romance movie “Mamma Mia!” released. The rapidly ascending and descending synthesizer in the background gives the tune a dramatic flair, mirroring the gradual crescendo and decrescendo of the band members’ harmonizing vocals.

Compared to other pop groups, ABBA’s funky, disco-style beat and tropical instrumentals are what make this song indispensable when creating a playlist to blast while you are driving down to the beach on a warm, sunny day, imagining you are on Skopelos Island, Greece just like in “Mamma Mia!”

“American Boy” by Estelle (feat. Kanye West)

The first few seconds of the introduction to “American Boy” by Estelle (featuring Kayne West) are barely audible in contrast to the sudden beat drop following, which officially characterizes this song as an uptempo summer anthem. 

Estelle’s flirty and enchanting vocals work harmoniously with West’s cool, effortless rapping, both artists stepping up to the plate with lyrics like, “Who killin’ ’em in the UK? Everybody’s gonna say, ‘You, K.’” 

Reading between boastful lines about fame and fortune, the “American boy” described by Estelle refers to more than just a suitor: the persona represents the appeal of fresh experiences and the promise of adventure.

“Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan

Following its release in 2010, “Mr. Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan almost immediately claimed its place as one of the decade’s most well-known clubbing songs and for good reason. Stan’s addictive chanting over a pulsing electropop beat not only gained popularity as a tune to blast in cars, but also on television screens when featured in the popular game “Just Dance 4.” 

The “Mr. Saxobeat” described in the song is Stan’s vision of a perfect man, which she communicates through lyrics like, “You make me dance / Bring me up / Bring me down.”  While the mindless repetition and compact verses may bore some, the hoarseness of Stan’s voice layered over smooth saxophone riffs make “Mr. Saxobeat” a groovy song to add to your playlist for the summer.