I’m a music snob. I’ll be the first to admit it. I relentlessly classify songs as either “brilliant” or “utter shite” (or, as my dad would say, inane drivel.) I am first to tell people whether their music taste is “genius” or “senseless.” I constantly scour Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and every music publication for new tunes. Never is this habit more important than during a five month period from March to August. Music journalists religiously and relentlessly scramble every spring to find the elusive “tune of the summer.” This is, of course, a completely fruitless and entirely subjective search that yields suggestions from Drake to Fleet Foxes. But I eat it up every year. And for the first 17 years of my life, I disagreed every time.
Part of the problem, I suppose, was my staunch close-mindedness. Whenever Drake’s newest shimmery summer banger dropped, I turned my nose away in disgust (but sung every word in the car anyway.) Whenever Taylor Swift took a stab at the OVO dynasty with the likes of “Wildest Dreams” or “Shake it off”, I pretended not to care. When The Weeknd decided to stop abusing cocaine, and women — albeit, probably a healthy life decision — opting instead to abuse people’s eardrums, I put off embracing it for a long time.
The truth is, I tend to resist the hot pop songs of the summer until roughly September, when they’re neither cool nor summery anymore. Instead, I take a conglomeration of not-really-summery songs and throw them on a pseudo summery playlist. There’s nothing joyous about Catfish and the Bottlemen’s “7”or Radiohead’s “Let Down”. So, I was left wallowing in Thom Yorke’s falsetto year-in, year-out, while Nicki Minaj, Drake, T-Swizz, Katy Perry and Khalid dominated the airwaves. And, unlike Yorke, I was happy.
Then, in March 2017, something amazing happened. It was second semester senior year of high school. I was partaking in my usual scouring of various publications. Then, I came across a glowing Rolling Stone review of Scottish DJ Calvin Harris’ new tune. The song, “slide,” was just about perfect. Harris’ single, with help from Frank Ocean, Quavo, and Offset — sorry, Takeoff, Landing, airstrip, TSA and any other of the Migos yet to be named — would become my first summer banger.
Putting those three on a track is an odd proposition. Ocean is the hip-hop indie sadboy. He’s found a niche by combining falsetto with minimalistic synths; he’s stoner RnB at its best. Meanwhile, Migos and their triple-flow have redefined rap music. Yet, when the two are put together with a slapping baseline and 808s, it works like a charm.
The song starts with a pitched-up Ocean talking about buying a ludicrously expensive Picasso painting, and, rather improbably, improves from there. And it’s all carried by Harris’ production and beat-making. While the Chainsmokers’ kid-who-just-learned-four-chords formula was taking the charts by storm, the scot meticulously layered 10 instruments to compose an infectious rhythm track.
Lyrically, Ocean gets a bit more poppy. The man who crooned “I’ll be the boyfriend in your wet dreams tonight” expands his repertoire. He sings: “Do you slide on all your nights like this?/Do you try on all your nights like this?” with a bumpy baseline backing him up. Whether he’s taking a dig at someone’s partying tendencies, or questioning someone’s intimacy doesn’t matter — it just works. His shamefully simple lyricism continues, with the New Orleans native nailing the party vibe that Harris’ instrumental begs for.
But the crowning achievement of the tune comes from Quavo and Offset. The two Atlanta rappers have made a career spitting over Metro Boomin beats. “Slide” makes you wonder why it took them five years to figure out a good synths track complements their flow perfectly. They don’t sound any more lyrically advanced, but Offset’s boastful “Starin’ at my diamonds while I’m hoppin’ out my spaceship” is perfect for the bumptious party vibe. He can even get away with the shamelessly simple “Bitches be dippin’, dabbin’ with n***as like a nacho.”
But therein lies the point of a summer song. It’s more about the feel and instrumentation than lyrical content. All three vocalists could probably rant obscenities in Japanese and it would still work. And that’s what makes it great. “Slide” doesn’t try to be funny. It doesn’t try to be complex. It doesn’t try to make you ponder life, or long for an ex. Instead, it makes the listener happy. It sounds as great driving to a sun-soaked beach as it does in a nightclub at 3 a.m. It works with a 1 p.m. iced tea as well as a 6 p.m. margarita. As soon as winter wains, there’s no better song. And it took me 17 years to find.