Babes of Summer

Hello Dames Nation! 🌞😎🌞

We are Alice Bolin and Emily Jones, writers and pals with a mutual interest in pop jams, vintage MTV from circa 1999, and obscure celebrity gossip. Alice was born in Idaho and is now a writer and professor in Memphis, Tennessee. Emily was born in the suburbs of Chicago and is now a librarian and writer in St. Paul, Minnesota. Emily is the best tweeter on God’s green earth and Alice also often tweets things.

Emily chose this gif and now I’m obsessed with whether I’m Lauren or Heidi.

We met in Montana in (WHAT ELSE??) graduate school, and immediately connected over references to this Mary-Kate and Ashley video and the cast of The Real World: Hawaii. We would spend many a night watching Teen Mom, bootlegs of Ashlee Simpson’s reality show on YouTube, and Pretty Little Liars. We are both daughters of the summer of 1988 (#1 hit from the week Emily was born: “The Flame” by Cheap Trick. #1 hit from the week Alice was born: “Roll With It” by Steve Winwood.) (It’s not important what age we are turning this summer!!!!!!!!!) and we are very pleased to bring you a guide to our very favorite summer songs plus some musings about astrology and the summer we turned 11.

Alice: When I think about Songs of Summer I am immediately awash in the memory of being forced to go to the public swimming pool every summer day until I turned fourteen so my dad could get the most value out of our family membership. They would always blast top 40, and one time a hot lifeguard made fun of me for singing along to “Ghetto Supastar”. I also have a really distinct memory of walking along the edge of the pool and singing along to “It’s Gonna Be Me”, hating myself for it because I was a Backstreet Boys fan.

(Shout out to LFO, pride of Boston. I just looked up the lyrics to “Summer Girls” and:

…is the most New Bedford thing I’ve ever heard.)

Which is all to say I have a lot of favorite summer jams, and I go to a music video pool party in my mind to center myself. But imho the queen of summer music is Leo Goddess 🦁👑 Jennifer Lopez.

That feel when you are a Leo and you are doing the most to outshine fellow Leo David Duchovny.

“If You Had My Love” is absolutely in the running for best summer song of all time, and I recommend that anyone reading this go listen to it immediately. I remember the day it debuted on TRL. I was nine years old and it was perfectly marketed towards me, but I was pretty sure I would love this song the rest of my life, and I was right.

Emily: You are the little girl in the video watching and doing the moves.

BUT the J.Lo song I am nominating for best summer jam of all time is not “If You Had My Love.” Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint: Juicy tracksuit.

Now this masterpiece, “I’m Real (Murder Remix)” featuring Ja Rule, is one of those confusing ones where the “remix” sounds nothing like the song it is supposedly a version of. If you are trying to sing this song at karaoke, make sure it is the remix, girl!!!!!!

In the video for this we are in summer from-the-block mode, with sweaty dudes playing basketball, hot girls drinking suggestively from water fountains, and J.Lo hanging out in front of a decrepit building and wearing a fedora she borrowed from a dapper old man.

I always related to the song’s lyrics about being, you know, real, since as a surly young teen I kept it real at all costs. I also appreciate the J.Lo-Ja Rule synergy because they’re both pretty untalented at making music and yet through sheer determination have given us many amazing hits. This seems like a good moment to link a Fyre Festival longread and this immortal blog post where Jia Tolentino told everyone that J. Lo was not saying “Are you Ellie?” at the beginning of the song.

Emily: Speaking of Ms. Lo, I’d like to recommend a show that I loved last summer that just returned: World of Dance! It’s just your basic dance competition show judged by Jen, Ne-Yo, and Derek Hough, but the prize is one million dollars so the dancing is on another level. I just saw the premiere and am obsessed with this salsa number by Karen y Ricardo. Check out this video of last year’s winners, Les Twins, who are Parisian and are Beyoncé-endorsed. Do you guys think I could do that? Do you think I could join Les Twins?

Alice: OMG my friends showed me all these YouTube videos of Les Twins, and I said “Is this So You Think You Can Dance?” and they said, “No, it’s World of Dance” and I had a very faint memory of you telling me to watch it.

I have so much more to say about summer music, and I haven’t even mentioned my favorite playlist I’ve ever made, Desperately Seeking Summer, a compilation of pop rap and bro country that I invite you all to follow on Spotify, but how can I be promoting music by Luke Bryan in this political climate??? Instead I’ll draw your attention to the incredibly inspiring story of the making of Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” video:

When Len had signed to Work Records, one of its demands was to be able to direct its own videos. The group used a $100,000 budget to make the video. They flew to Daytona Beach, Florida with two dozen friends while the area was crowded with people on their spring vacations. They spent much of the budget on alcohol, buying so much that they broke their hotel's elevator trying to lift it. They shot the video in the afternoon so that they could recover from hangovers in the morning and drink in the evening. The scenes were shot without a script or storyboard. In the video, Len and its friends are shown relaxing together and riding on scooters, go-karts, and jet skis.

Ok but this is one of the greatest summer jams of all time, WE SHALL BROOK NO DISSENT ON THIS MATTER

Recommendations for Summer 2018:

  • Get a WNBA League Pass, please!!! It is only $17 and their season is super condensed so there are several games every day until September. Seems really awful for the players and maybe they will all be ragged with fatigue by the end but it’s entertaining so far! Their talent is incredible, the games aren’t super bloated with ads, and there are very few popular narratives about the league so I never know what’s going to happen next!

  • Effete or humble outdoor sports like bocci, croquet, badminton, and horseshoes. I recently went to an archery range and shot styrofoam animals.

  • My favorite beach reads are the terrifying Florida fabulism of Alissa Nutting. She’s got a story collection coming out in July, and I love her novels Tampa, about a beautiful woman who preys on tween boys, and Made for Love, about a woman running from her deranged tech billionaire husband. Especially relevant because of recent celebrity couple developments.

  • Read my book. Ha ha just kidding!

  • I know Emily is going to say Killing Eve, but Killing Eve.

Emily: You can definitely feel the Gemini season in the air with news stories like Anna Delvey’s grift, 76ers management potentially taking a cue from Russia, Pusha T and Drake’s beef which may take us all down at some point, Ukrainian journalists faking their own deaths,  and, also, where is Melania? Let’s just all agree to never speak the name that rhymes with “Schmoseanne” ever, ever again. (Alice: n.b. Trump and Kanye are the ultimate Geminis.) Summer tends to heighten my emotions and make me feel most alive, for good and for ill. Lana, who was born on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer, feels me:

I often feel sad in summer, for reasons elucidated by Gene Belcher:

There’s a meme going around on Twitter that the song that hit number one on your fourteenth birthday defines your life. Mine is “Hot in Herre,” a Lime-a-Rita jingle that is pretty much the platonic ideal of a summer song (see also: Crazy in Love). It’s also apparently a climate change anthem? Maybe we’re better off not knowing that. Alice’s 14th birthday song is Dilemma by Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland. I feel bad that my song is better than hers.

(Alice: I literally had the same thought about you! “Dilemma” is on Desperately Seeking Summer but I hate all of Nelly’s other hits.)

I spent the summer of 2010 obsessively watching the video for Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”. Did I love it? Did I hate it? Why would you write an entire song about “California” and then set your video in a land of candy? Why is there an Alex Chilton reference in the title? I just realized that the summer of 2010 is when Alice and I met! (Also when I met my husband but who cares)
This song is sort of like if a machine had to generate a “song of summer.” It’s co-written by Perry’s friend and frequent collaborator Bonnie McKee. Bonnie also co-wrote “Teenage Dream,” “Roar,” songs for Britney Spears and Kesha, and this 2013 song which failed to hit but I find enjoyable. Here is a medley of Bonnie McKee singing her hits.

Alice: I am a Bonnie McKee superfan!! I have an essay about her song “American Girl” and Lana Del Rey in my book lol.

Emily: The Wikipedia page for “California Gurls” says that the song was a West Coast response to “Empire State of Mind,” a song I’m not going to even link to because I never need to hear it again and you probably don’t either. In my day, East Coast-West Coast musical battles ended in death, but these songs are good too I guess. Have you guys seen that there is going to be a movie about Johnny Depp solving the murders of Biggie and Tupac? Why?

One thing that I’ve noticed about Katy Perry songs is that, like most contemporary poets, she doesn’t feel too bothered to rhyme her words:

Alice: My bf and I just heard this song on the radio yesterday and talked about how we like Katy Perry’s weird voice and how, in terms of suggestive lyrics, “we’ll melt your popsicle” seems like sort of the opposite of what you want??

Emily: Wikipedia also revealed to me that Katy Perry decided to choose Snoop Dogg as a featured rapper on her song after browsing the Wikipedia page for West Coast rappers. Oh Katy. Did you know that Snoop Dogg and Brandy (and Ray J) are first cousins? Does “Daisy Dukes” make you remember that they made a 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie starring Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, and Jessica Simpson? I’m glad it’s not 2005 when I look at sentences like that! Anyway, is the Katy Perry documentary still on Netflix? I remember enjoying it.

No comment.

Recommendations for Summer 2018:

  • The weird and addictive Brit-hop of Jimothy Lacoste. Check out Getting Busy, Drugs, and Subway System.

  • After the hole left in my heart by the end of Vanderpump Rules, my husband and I have been enjoying The Real Housewives of Potomac. If you love Bravo, I highly recommend the podcast Bitch Sesh hosted by Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider.

  • Other podcasts I’m enjoying these days: Throwing Shade with Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi and Keep It! with Ira Madison III, Kara Brown, and Louis Virtel, both for when you want to stay informed but have a bit of a laugh, mate

  • Did you watch Killing Eve? If not, watch it!!! Everyone is talking about the greatness of Sandra Oh but I just keep writhing around muttering “Jodie Comer, Jodie Comer.” I started watching My Mad Fat Diary, a BBC show that seems to all be on YouTube, just to see Jodie again. I was pleasantly surprised by how funny, humane, and deeply felt this show was. Like My So-Called Life but funny.

  • If you miss early 2000s MTV like we do, Fat Camp is all online. On the one hand it seems exploitative and on the other hand it’s kind of nuanced and sensitive, like all MTV portrayals of kids under 20.

  • Go swim in a body of water.

  • Ali Smith’s most recent books Autumn and Winter are I guess inappropriate for summer, but you should read them anyway! I hate when people say writers are at “the height of their powers,” but Ali Smith is cranking out really beautiful fiction about post-Brexit Britain at an alarming pace.


Alice: Emily I wanted to draw your attention to this stretch of TRL #1s in the summer of 1999, which perfectly corresponds (not to put too fine a point on it) to the last moments of my fricking innocence.

Emily: God. In the summer of 1999 MTV was having an auction called “Cool Crap”. I went to visit my cousin in Indiana and we watched hours of MTV and shouted “Cool Crap” at each other. Later that summer she went to Yellowstone and yelled “Cool Crap” at the wildlife.

Alice: Cool Crap!!!!! The way Britney says the word “own” in that video is haunting. In the summer of 1999, Carson Daly was basically the person I trusted the most on earth. I spent most of it listening to Millennium, playing a typing game where you typed words to stop aliens from destroying a city, going to the swimming pool, and voting for “I Want It That Way” on TRL. Also I just did a search on the greatest Tumblr of all time but it was less fruitful than I had hoped.

Emily: I had a crush on Carson Daly...I shouldn’t admit that in a public forum. In the summer of 1999 I think I was trying to memorize all the words to the Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap, and then when I went to sleep I would try to recite the movie.

Alice: I had a crush on Carson Daly too. I remember one time on TRL they asked him, “What’s your sexiest body part?” and he answered, “My penis.” I just found this crabby write up of “Cool Crap” on Slate where they presciently but fultilely note that being able to immediately buy things you see on TV off of ebay is the way of the future, so you see “Cool Crap” was the forerunner of like, Khloe Kardashian telling you to swipe up on Instagram to buy Fit Tea.

Emily: I remember once someone called in to TRL and her name was “Aimee” and Carson was like, “that’s such a cool spelling,” and I was like “I wish my name was Aimee!!!” 1999 was the year of Real World: Hawaii, a season with not one likable cast member. The next year was New Orleans and “Come On Be My Baby Tonight,” my favorite song. I also want to say that Wanna Be a VJ between Jesse Camp and Dave Holmes was kind of the original 2016 election.

Alice: Is Jesse Camp still alive? If so he should be in the Trump administration. Those are absolutely my two favorite seasons of the Real World. Last semester I taught John Jeremiah Sullivan’s profile of The Miz and really related to his Real World superfandom and none of my students had ever seen it!

Anyway thank you for reminiscing about MTV with me and also “MTV Spring Break” is a great Google Image Search.

Currently wondering: has Sisqo become a natural silver fox by now?

Emily: Any time!! I started watching this video and the song kinda bangs.

Alice: I was going to bring up “Ray of Light”!! Leo Queen!!!!!!!! 🦁👑🦁👑🦁👑

Emily: Ok Leos are getting too much love (what a shock) so let me put in a quick shout out to Missy Elliott, Solange, Ariana Grande, and Selena Gomez 🦀 🦀 🦀.

Alice: Those are some A+ Cancers! Happy birthday to all the summer babes of Dames Nation.

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