Music is one of those mediums that has an uncanny way of bookmarking moments and memories in our lives. Whether it’s a track that automatically makes you think about your loved ones, forces you to recall a past vacation, excites or energizes you, or simply helps you relax – there’s a perfect song for every situation.

Now, there are perfectly reasonable scientific explanations as to why we love music, but I’m no lab rat. For me, it’s pretty simple: music adds depth, context and a layer of happiness to my life and experiences. With so many interesting artists and genres, who have countless stories to tell and sounds to share…

I just can’t get enough.

Admittedly, I am a bit of a musical mosaic. With tastes ranging from Andrea Bocelli to 2Pac (seriously, those are the first and last artists in my iTunes library), I find that as long as there’s a catchy melody and a solid beat, it doesn’t take much to hook me. I’m also a huge sucker for harmony (think the Eagles’ performance of “The Heart of the Matter” on their ‘Hell Freezes Over’ tour). Some people are a little more concerned with the lyrical value or “meaning” behind the song – and hey, don’t get me wrong – I see why the desire for substance is important! But I just love to sing (not winning any Grammy’s anytime soon, but I’m not the worst) and enjoy the vibe that a good song puts out.

Some argue that having headphones in while you’re commuting or walking to work is anti-social, or that you miss out on some of life’s little nuances.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Music transports me to some of my best memories, helps lift me up, gets me in the right frame of mind to attack the day and move forward. It also provides me with an outlet to express life’s other emotions, like pain, sadness and grief. Music teaches us how to be comfortable with our feelings and for me, has also helped me learn who I am as a son, brother, boyfriend, friend and colleague.

With the summer upon us, and so many gatherings of family and friends ahead, I figured I would attempt to put a few playlists together that will enhance these special moments. Because they’re fairly common summertime activities, I thought it was best to focus on the BBQ, the Road Trip, the Beach and the Campfire. For some of the songs that I highly recommend you listen to immediately (whether you’ve heard them or not!), I’ve added YouTube clips. Also, if there are any offensive lyrics that may not be appropriate for kids, I’ve indicated as such with a “NSFK” (Not Safe For Kids) tag – but remember – many of these songs would be available as ‘clean’ or ‘edited’ versions… so don’t miss out!

Let the beat drop.


The grill is firing on all cylinders. All of your family and friends are mingling. Kids are laughing and splashing around in the pool… and the sun is shining bright on the perfect backyard BBQ.

Meanwhile, in the background:

1. Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Sure to send out good vibes to everyone in attendance. Laid back and a good way to kick off your playlist and set the tone.

2. Girl – Beck

3. Cool Kids – Echosmith

4. Ms. Jackson – Outkast (NSFK)

5. Alive – Empire Of The Sun

6. Supersoaker – Kings Of Leon

7. Always Alright – Alabama Shakes (NSFK)

One of the most unique voices in music today. A feel-good tempo and melody everyone can get behind.

8. Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars

9. Don’t Carry It All – The Decemberists 

10. Summer – Calvin Harris

11. You Can’t Hurry Love – Phil Collins

12. Good Life – Kanye West (NSFK)

13. Float On – Modest Mouse

One of my favourite aspects of MM is their ability to sound like a completely different band from track-to-track.

14. Beautiful – Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell (NSFK)

15. I’m Good – The Mowgli’s

Positive message. Uplifting sound. Take a look around you – life is awesome.

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You may not even be sure where you’re headed, but the car is jam-packed, your tank is full and the only thing you see in front of you is the road ahead.

Put it in ‘Drive’ and press play:

1. The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids 

2. Ain’t It Fun – Paramore

3. No Way Back – Foo Fighters

4. Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses

Keep your eyes on the road and feet on the pedals while you rock out!

5. 99 Problems – Jay Z (NSFK)

6. Home – Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

7. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

The ultimate sing-a-long road trip anthem. Who doesn’t love to belt out the lyrics to this gem from The Boss?

8. Miracle Mile – Cold War Kids

9. Keep The Car Running – Arcade Fire

10. Where The Streets Have No Name – U2

11. Start Me Up – The Rolling Stones

12. Cruise – Florida Georgia Line

While country music isn’t for everyone, this song screams windows down, wind-blown hair and sunglasses.

13. Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford & Sons

14. You Don’t Know How It Feels – Tom Petty

15. Shake It Out – Manchester Orchestra 

A driving beat, epic bridge, angry guitars… turn it up and trust me.


It’s time to show off that bod and catch some rays! Don’t forget your sunscreen, pack a cooler and call your friends – it’s time to hit the beach!

Bring your Bluetooth-enabled speaker (I recommend the reasonably priced Soundlink Color from Bose) and feel the heat:

1. Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony

Whether you speak Spanish or not, this is a day at the beach in music form. Live your life!

2. Trap Queen – Fetty Wrap (NSFK)

3.  Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams

4. Kids – MGMT

5. Give Me Everything – Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo

6. Toes – Zac Brown Band

Guaranteed to make those around you sing along, this summertime classic from ZBB oozes fun in the sun. 

7. Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley & The Wailers

8. Juicy – The Notorious B.I.G.

9. Mr. Brightside – The Killers

10. Where Are Ü Now – Jack Ü feat. Justin Bieber

No Canadian bias here – Bieber is back, featured on this airy, get-up-and-dance collabo from Skrillex and Diplo.

11. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People

12. Misirlou – Dick Dale & His Del-Tones

13. Hold Yuh (Remix) – Gyptian feat. Nicki Minaj (NSFK)

14. The Boys of Summer – Don Henley

The Eagles frontman has this solo hit on his resume. You can hear the seagulls and see the sun setting if you close your eyes…


After a long day of activity (think: hiking, water-skiing, ultimate frisbee…), what better way to cap off a summer night under the stars than with a campfire?

Don’t forget to roast those marshmallows:

1. Black And Blue (Live) – Gary Clark Jr.

There’s a live version of this song (on his live album) that is haunting and mellow. Much better than the studio cut.

2. Towers – Bon Iver

3. Lost Stars – Adam Levine

Can’t speak for the film this song was written for (Begin Again), but you don’t have to be a Maroon 5 fan to appreciate Levine’s soaring falsetto on this track. The melody is beautiful too!

4. Let It Go – James Bay

5. Do You… – Miguel (NSFK)

6. Raise ‘Em Up – Keith Urban feat. Eric Church

Country superstars trade their wailing guitars for acoustics and a smooth, easy listen that feels as cool as the evening breeze.

7. A Sky Full Of Stars – Coldplay

8. Live Forever – Oasis

9. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight – The Postal Service

10. Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead

11. Lay Me Down – Sam Smith

This Brit newcomer has one of the purest voices in all of music right now. This touching ballad will set the mood… for s’mores.

12. Landslide – Fleetwood Mac

13. Come Pick Me Up – Ryan Adams 

14. You & I (Nobody In The World) – John Legend

Powerful message, and Legend’s voice is silky smooth. Perfect if you’re snuggled up by the fire next to that special someone.

15. Bad Blood – Bear’s Den (NSKF)

16. Love, Reign O’er Me – The Who

If you use a streaming service like Spotify, you should be able to get all of these tracks and build them into a playlist of your own. Hopefully there’s something in here for everyone, and I’m really looking forward to hearing what you think!

Matt Black
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Matt Black

Creator at Matt Black Ink
Matt Black is a social strategist, content marketer and the creator of Matt Black Ink, a blog jam-packed with practical insights on leadership, social, organizational culture, and networking. Matt believes both individuals and organizations should "let words work," and provides communication solutions that address real-time issues facing professionals and brands. Matt is also currently a contributor for YouTern and SocialHangout.

Matt is very active on Twitter at @mattblackink and always up for a conversation, or feel free to send him an e-mail at [email protected]
Matt Black
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