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16 Songs to Soundtrack Your Fourth of July Barbecue

At last, the season of late sunsets, languid beach days and endless barbecues is upon us. This calls for a playlist.

Today’s genre-crossing collection could definitely work as a soundtrack to your upcoming Fourth of July party, and there are a few references to Independence Day sprinkled here and there. But for the most part, I wanted to avoid the glaringly obvious and create a fun, breezy playlist that can be enjoyed all summer long.

Appropriately for a Fourth of July gathering, all of the artists featured here are American. Well, except one: I forgot that the ’90s one-hit wonders Len were actually Canadian, but I wasn’t about to remove “Steal My Sunshine” from a summer playlist.

This is a long one, because the best and most characteristic part of a summer day is the feeling of suspended time, the sense of a Saturday that may go on forever. Here’s to an endless-seeming summer, and to no one stealing your sunshine.

Also: We won’t be sending out a new Amplifier on the Fourth, because I wouldn’t want to compel you to check your email on a holiday. We’ll resume our regular schedule next Friday. Til then!

Listen along on Spotify as you read.

When I first saw this cover on the track list of her 2019 opus “Norman _____ Rockwell,” I had my doubts, but now I must agree with all the people in the dance: Lana Del Rey is indeed well qualified to represent the L.B.C. (Listen on YouTube)

It’s poor form to mention Sublime at a barbecue without then playing one of its songs, so here’s my all-time favorite, the wrenching but always buoyant “Badfish.” (Listen on YouTube)

Slightly under two minutes of immaculate vibes from Solange’s sonically fluid 2019 album, “When I Get Home.” (Listen on YouTube)

A sun-kissed summer jam from the elusive chanteuse. “Honey,” from Carey’s 1997 album “Butterfly,” famously found her embracing a more hip-hop-indebted sound. (Listen on YouTube)

Centered around a clever sample of Andrea True Connection’s “More, More, More,” the ubiquitous “Steal My Sunshine” made Len one of the ’90s’ most memorable one-hit wonders. Warning: May cause spontaneous singalongs. (Listen on YouTube)

Kim Deal conjures the tactile pleasures of a day at the carnival in this blazing little ditty from the Breeders’ classic 1993 album “Last Splash,” before growling that memorable refrain, “Summer is ready when you are.” (Listen on YouTube)

This ode to a leisurely day on New York City’s most underrated island, by the Fiery Furnaces frontwoman Eleanor Friedberger, would almost sound like a spoken-word poem were it not for that deliciously funky keyboard lick. (Listen on YouTube)

A pitch-perfect soundtrack to, well … just kicking it. Phife Dawg forever and ever. (Listen on YouTube)

Badu reworks Drake’s “Hotline Bling” to fit her own singular personality on this centerpiece from her 2015 mixtape “But You Caint Use My Phone.” The voice mail menu instructions toward the end of the track never fail to crack me up. (Listen on YouTube)

One nation, under a groove. (Yes, I know that album came out years after “Maggot Brain.” The sentiment remains!) (Listen on YouTube)

Fun fact: Not only was “American Girl” recorded on the Fourth of July, it was recorded on the Bicentennial. Petty manages to imbue this perfect song with enough specificity and antic poignancy that it still, after all these years, feels more personal than anthemic. (Listen on YouTube)

Because the title track of “Born in the U.S.A.” would have been a little too obvious, and anyway, this one’s just as fun to sing along to. Sha la la, sha la la la la-la. (Listen on YouTube)

Speaking of singalongs, this current hit and surprise contender for song of the summer is sure to unite multiple generations of barbecue-goers who know all the words by heart — some to Tracy Chapman’s peerless original, and some to the country star Combs’s reverent homage. (Listen on YouTube)

The most laid-back and sumptuous moment on Beyoncé’s 2022 dance-floor odyssey “Renaissance” is an invitation for a moment of summertime relaxation. (Listen on YouTube)

Rejoice: It’s the first Fourth of July when De La Soul’s discography is on streaming services! (Listen on YouTube)

Just try not to put your hands up. I dare you. (Listen on YouTube)

Summer is ready when you are,


Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.

“The Ultimate Fourth of July BBQ Soundtrack” track list
Track 1: Lana Del Rey, “Doin’ Time”
Track 2: Sublime, “Badfish”
Track 3: Solange, “Binz”
Track 4: Mariah Carey, “Honey”
Track 5: Len, “Steal My Sunshine”
Track 6: The Breeders, “Saints”
Track 7: Eleanor Friedberger, “Roosevelt Island”
Track 8: A Tribe Called Quest, “Can I Kick It?”
Track 9: Erykah Badu, “Cel U Lar Device”
Track 10: Funkadelic, “Can You Get to That”
Track 11: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “American Girl”
Track 12: Bruce Springsteen, “Darlington County”
Track 13: Luke Combs, “Fast Car”
Track 14: Beyoncé, “Plastic off the Sofa”
Track 15: De La Soul, “Me, Myself and I”
Track 16: Miley Cyrus, “Party in the U.S.A.”

What I learned from writing Tuesday’s newsletter, about musical odes to Ohio is that The Amplifier is blessed with a very strong contingent of readers from the Buckeye State. Quite a few of you wrote in with your own favorite Ohio tunes, but the most requested by far was the Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone.” Akron’s own Chrissy Hynde beautifully and elegiacally captures the feelings of disillusionment that arise when you go home and — no thanks to industrialization and overdevelopment — don’t recognize your old stomping ground. Consider this one added to the Ohio playlist.

Also, for a new column called The Answer, the good folks at The New York Times’s Wirecutter came by my apartment to interview me about my turntable, my vinyl setup and my preferred gear for listening to records. As someone used to doing the interviewing, it felt very strange to be the one answering the questions and even stranger to be the subject of a photo shoot in my apartment. (My neighbors had no idea why I was suddenly so important.) But check out the article to see my suggestions for setting up a relatively inexpensive stereo system, along with my (currently quite depressed) collection of New York Mets bobbleheads. Wirecutter has a daily newsletter full of independent product reviews that you can sign up for, too.

Plus, it was a big week for new music: The Playlist features the triumphant returns of both Olivia Rodrigo and Sampha, along with 10 other fresh tracks. I also listened to Fall Out Boy’s updated version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” so you don’t have to. (Seriously, don’t.)

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