15 Songs You Wouldn’t Expect on a Beach Playlist But Should Definitely Be There

In South Florida, it’s summer for most of the year. I mean, it’s not always scorching hot (thankfully), but it’s hot enough to spend most days at the beach or in the pool. And I try to take advantage of that. Not everyone has the opportunity to live this close to paradise for this many days a year, and I don’t want it to go to waste.

There is something about being at the beach that is freeing in a way not a lot of other activities are. It is truly leisure time. When you go, you’re not supposed to do shit, so I never do. I spend my time at the beach however I want to: eating snacks, drinking coconut water and my favorite light brews, swimming, reading, and, of course, listening to music.

I know people have mixed feelings about this, but I never use headphones at the beach. So, when I am playing music, it’s usually loud enough for people within a few feet to hear. I listen to a wide range from almost every genre, and I usually shuffle through a bunch of different playlists while I’m there. Not everything is summer or beach specific, but I do try to curate a ~vibe~ of some kind. Sometimes, I listen to a lot of dance music or pop music, stuff that’s on the radio and can be heard almost anywhere. But mostly, the songs I play at the beach are probably a little unexpected yet feel perfect for the moment.

The last few times I’ve used my little bluetooth speaker at the beach, several people approached me to ask what songs I’m playing and where they can find them. Since there are some songs that I find myself playing every time I’m there or multiple times in a day, I’ve compiled those here so that you can think about adding them to your playlists, too. Don’t think of this as a playlist itself. Think of it more like a bunch of songs I think would fit perfectly into anyone’s days out in the sun.

“La Luz” Jackie Mendoza and Coastal

“Don’t be afraid to let go”

This is probably one of the more obvious tracks on the list. I mean, its title translates to “The Light.” It starts at a high tempo and never loses that beat, just adds more bass as the song goes on. Mendoza’s voice is bright as she demands “eleva, eleva, eleva el ritmo” (“raise, raise, raise, the beat”).

“Use My Body” Mavis John

“Cause you got rhythm / You got style / That is why I like ya”

Man, this song is SUCH a heater!! I’ve never met anyone who knows who Mavis John is, and truthfully, the only reason I found this song was because I was in an internet k-hole. John is considered one of Trinidad & Tobago’s most talented artists, and this song definitely helps explain why. It’s such a wonderful combination of Calypso, Soca, and 1970s Soul.

“My Love For You” ESG (Emerald, Sapphire, & Gold)

“My love for you baby / Is like a roller coaster”

Honestly, there is never a time when my music apps are open and I’m not playing at least one song by ESG. They’re easily in my top five best bands of all time. This song is probably one of their most well-known, for good reason. The tempo is fast and the beat is consistent all the way through the chorus. I guarantee you’ll never hear a band using a cowbell better than ESG is here.

“Elastic Girl”  Kahimi Karie

“I can be anything I wanna be / Things that you never thought you would see”

To my knowledge, this is the only song of Kahimi Karie’s that feels like this. You for sure have to experience it for yourself, but anytime I put this song on, I just feel like I’m sailing on the coolest, smoothest breeze of my life.

“Queen of Overdub Kisses” Lizzy Mercier Descloux

“And I wanna do it with you / Play it by ear / Play it by you”

Lizzy Mercier Descloux is definitely most well-known for her contributions to post-punk, and while I do love so much of her music, nothing sticks with me like this track. The bassline is bouncy and the horns are playful and uptempo on top of the glittering Afropop guitars. Just an absolutely perfect combination of elements for a day at the beach.

“Jezahel” Dame Shirley Bassey

“Wind and rain can’t stop the flame that starts the fire”

Originally released by Italian pro-rock band Delirium, Dame Shirley Bassey covered “Jezahel” and transformed the song entirely. This is a big, BIG tune about reuniting with a lover and wanting to run away to a beach with them where no one can see you or bother you, and I just feel like that’s highly relatable. It grows so loud that I can’t imagine not playing it outside.

“Superstar” Tennis

“Don’t you remember you told me you loved me, baby?”

Tennis’s version of this classic Carpenters track is a bit less haunting than the original, and their synth additions to the track give it a little more brightness. I feel like “Superstar,” in general, just kind of needs to be sung out loud whenever it comes on, which is probably what you’ll want to do while you’re in between beers.

“Sure” Hatchie (Robin Guthrie Remix)

“So you wanna do it over / But is it really ever over?”

“Sure” is a dreamy little pop song that makes me feel like The Cranberries and Carly Rae Jepsen collaborated to bring it to life. You know what I mean? That’s why I play it at the beach.

“100% Pure Love” Crystal Waters

“From the back to the middle and around again / I’m gonna be there ’til the end”

I keep seeing and hearing people act as if house music is a new invention. Since y’all keep saying it’s the “summer of house,” I had to include this classic Crystal Waters tune that is a mainstay for me when I’m hanging out in the sun. Some house music sometimes feels a little out of place played in the daylight, but this one absolutely never does.

“Allusions” Las Nubes

“Cut me open, look inside / Watch my heart break for the last time”

Las Nubes is one of my absolute favorite bands to ever come out of Miami, and I play their music a lot. “Allusions,” like a lot of their songs, has kind of a 90s alt-rock attitude with dreamy, shoegaze-y melodies. It’s lo-fi but the tempo feels especially lively and the lyrics are catchy as hell.

“Don’t Let Me Down” Marcia Griffiths

“Nobody ever loved me like she does”

The airiness of some reggae tracks make them a great complement to a day at the beach, and this Beatles cover by Marcia Griffiths is one of my all-time favorites to play. It has a groovy, uptempo bassline, rolling guitar riffs, and minimal but powerful drum beats. Just a really great song to melt with into the sand.

“Holding On” Tirzah

“Don’t wanna change / And don’t wanna change what you do to me”

I love dance music that also feels intensely personal and intimate. Tirzah’s songs usually fill that space for me, and “Holding On” is one of my favorites of all her tunes. Her music is often compared to that of Arthur Russell’s because of its electronic minimalism and repeating patterns, and I think it’s that musical austerity that makes this track feel like it should be played while you catch the breeze.

“Out On My Own” Sheila Chandra

“I may be young / But I’m not that dumb / And I know just what I want”

“Out On My Own” is a tune I keep coming back to over and over again. Sheila Chandra’s music follows the Indian raga melody structure but is also heavily influenced by pop music and dance music. As a result, this song has it all: tablas, sitars, ektara, and guitar PLUS these really evocative synth melodies. Chandra has been quoted as saying she was “having a lot of fun” when she recorded this album, and you can tell. This song is so unique for each of the genres it’s hitting, and it’s so radiant and upbeat that you just need to hear it outside.

“About Somebody” Molly Nilsson

“Babe, I wanna party with you every night”

This soulful, upbeat little dance tune feels like it was made to dance to out in the heat. I just love how earnest and sweet “About Somebody” is, and I love it when the horns join the shimmering synths to take us away.

“Stop and Think It Over” Female Species

“I’m not gonna stay this time / That I want you to stay”

Female Species is an old band that everyone, myself included, is just hearing about now. In 2021, the debut album they recorded in the 1960s, Tale of My Lost Love, was finally released and made widely available. Pretty much all of their music is a really smooth combination of surf rock, garage rock, and psychedelic rock with some hints of R&B and soul, and this track in particular is a great example of how well all of these elements come together. It’s jangly and fun and representative of why the music of the 1960s stays with us. I think it’s best when played while you’re floating in the water.

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Stef Rubino

Stef Rubino is a writer, community organizer, and student of abolition from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. They teach Literature and writing to high schoolers and to people who are currently incarcerated, and they’re the fat half of the arts and culture podcast Fat Guy, Jacked Guy. You can find them on Twitter (unfortunately).

Stef has written 94 articles for us.


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