In an airless office the sound is perplexing, like someone opened a wall. You wheel yourself back a sec. This is the world out there. All of it. At first, your bland text blanches, embarrassed of the light it’s known. Then you’re barely looking. The desk and monitor shrink, so tired they’ve grown thinner and blacker and more out of place. Summer doesn’t have time for them. Summer is the end of waiting for the best of ourselves, and this song shoves it crystalline with lyrics that don’t matter.
Baebadoobee’s new track, ‘Last Day On Earth’, has already become my summer song, and we’re not even there yet. It leaps at me with open arms, glimmering arpeggios, a chorus that celebrates nonsense in the sense of an ending. “You made it,” sings the feted Filipino, “it’s your last day on earth.” Guitars ring bright as chapel bells. “You killed someone last night and burned down a church.” If she’s into black metal, it’s probably through Wikipedia, which is fine and perhaps healthier for the constitution. The indie darling scored a viral hit on TikTok, itself a form of dark worship, although ‘Last Day . . .’ bins the sad-girl waltz for a sugar cane straight out of Ray Of Light-era Madonna. Unlike her past material soundtracking broken dances with guys that never stay long enough for coffee, this song is unalloyed pop music, a threat and a bad friend to the office chair, made to lift you shamelessly from any surface, including the floor. Whenever it plays – thanks, BBC Radio Six, for your service to impending unemployment – I am catapulted far above the dry terrain of numbers, deadlines and fully buttoned shirts. All I want to do is go outside.
Summer is the season of childhood because it reduces us to sensation, breaks us down to the barest pleasures. Sleeping in the sun. Water on hot skin. The smell of cooking tarmac and mown grass. One summer, we had a water fight through my entire village: seven boys armed with plastic guns and balloons, stalking the enemy like tiny damp Rambos. I remember nothing specific but everything colliding – the snag of a hedge, a friend’s cry, rolling fields that seemed on fire. And sweat on the eye, the sign you are committed to a task without being aware of it, your body digging deep into its reservoirs. When do we get that back? That obliterating appetite? Perhaps when the right song plays.
In previous summers, I have felt that certain music will bolt itself to my experiences throughout, and have most likely been right. There was Tyler The Creator’s ‘Puppet’, a rush of circular beauty that accompanied every smoke in Paris in 2019. Tame Impala and The War On Drugs stuck to my June internship at a music magazine in Liverpool, coaxing a newfound love for psychedelia with fuzz, vague lyrics and motorik drums. A bunch of mates drove me down to Devon that year – all we had in the car was a CD of ‘Slave Ambient’, which already sounded like someone had left Springsteen tapes to melt in the sun. Then I remember painting in an outhouse when I was 12, belting the words to Bowie’s ‘Starman’, school a distant joke, the weeks ahead unlatched from the pressure to be anything other than the next day.
These songs brought joy and indeterminism to my mind. They expressed a depth of feeling that didn’t have to cohere, or make plans, or feel sorry for itself. When I hear Baebadoobee sing “Shoop doo doo, shoop doo badoo,” my adult preoccupations disintegrate. Into their place jumps a wholeness with the world, something you can never quite put your finger on but you’re glad you tried to touch. You dance or wiggle or pretend you have an important text so you can stand nearer the soundbar. Summer songs don’t have to be blissful – in fact, they can be acutely nostalgic – yet they must make you care less about caring. They don’t mess about. For three and a half minutes, again and again and again, they are a little ahead of you on the street, begging you to run.