What the World's Listening to This Summer, From Angola to South Korea

A Bieber-, Katy Perry-, and Gotye-free playlist for barbecues and beach parties.

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From left: Paula Fernandes, Titica, JJ Project, and Romeo Santos

Summer's only just begun, but you may well already be sick of the "song of the summer"—whatever that turns out to be. If Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," Rihanna's "Where Have You Been," or "Titanium" by David Guetta and Sia seem ubiquitous now, get ready for three more months of Top-40 blasting out of car windows and iPod speakers at barbecues.

Why, though, should summer party playlists be limited to what's big on American airwaves? There's a whole huge world of music out there, of course, and while some of it does wash up onto our radios—Carly Rae Jepsen is Canadian, Rihanna is Barbadian, David Guetta is French, and Sia is Australian—a lot of it can be quite huge, even globally popular, without ever coming near U.S. audiences.

But with the global reach of the Internet, nothing remains local forever. Here are 12 potential summer jams that sound just as good in the open air as in a nightclub, that deserve as wide an listenership as they can get, and that can make any party sound like it's being thrown by a world traveler:

1. Beatriz Luengo ft. Shaggy & Toy Selectah, "Lengua"


Beatriz Luengo is a Madrid-based singer-songwriter who orignally released "Lengua" as a vaguely psychedelic album track. Toy Selectah is a DJ based in Monterrey who's been at the center of youthful Mexico's beat-heavy "tribal" movement. He reimagined "Lengua" as a fluffy, beachy crowdpleaser with ukelele accents and an insistent rhythm, and brought in Jamaican toaster Shaggy to add some partying low end. Luengo shot the colorful video in Los Angeles, turning her kittenish Spanglish into a chance to dress up as imaginary Mexican identities.

2. Matt Houston ft. P-Square, "Positif"


Matt Houston was born Matthieu Gore on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, and has been recording modern R&B in Paris for a decade. P-Square are a Nigerian dancehall/R&B duo, and "Positif" borrows the underlying musical bed, or riddim, from their 2010 hit "E No Easy." Both songs are about rejecting hatred in order to come together to sing and dance—"my brother, my sister"—but Houston's sweeter voice and translation of the lyrics from creole English to French has propelled "Positif" up the French charts.

3. Titica ft. Ary, "Olha o Boneco"


Titica's home nation of Angola is one of the more tolerant African nations regarding sexual identity, but that doesn't mean her career as an openly transsexual star in kuduro, the globally popular Angolan rhythm music, has been without its difficulties. You wouldn't know it from this celebratory song, though, the title of which translates to "Look at the Doll," and means the same thing that Philip Marlowe would by it. The video features Titica and guest vocalist Ary, who normally sings slower and more sensual kizomba, dressing up for a wedding party, both of them as the bride.

4. Specialist & Spice, "Come Wine Gal"


Jamaican dancehall, the uptempo, club-friendly outgrowth of reggae, is legendary for levels of explicitness at which most U.S. hip-hop stars would blanch. But this duet between young, up-and-coming dancehall star Specialist and Spice, a strong contender for the current title of queen of dancehall, is only dutty (dirty) if your imagination runs that way—the "raw" version is available here for comparison. The wine of the title isn't (just) a reference to alcohol—to wine, in Caribbean and West African slang, is to dance suggestively.

5. JJ Project, "Bounce"

South Korea

South Korea's super-stimulated, rigorously choreographed pop scene has been making headlines in the U.S. for a while now, thanks to several mad-genius producers, a game-for-anything stable of stars and starlets, and a collective willingness to cannibalize the best of worldwide pop's past and present to feed whatever high-energy dance song or hyper-emotional ballad (or both at once) is under construction. JJ Project are a pair of dancers and singers, JB and Jr., and "Bounce" is their first single, a giddy rush that runs through dance-pop, hip-hop, hard rock, and glitchy electronic meltdowns without putting a hair out of place.

6. Girls' Generation, "Paparazzi"

South Korea

Also known as SNSD at home, Girls' Generation is a nine-member collective that had their first hit in 2007 which, in the fast-paced world of Korean pop, practically qualifies them as a veteran act. "Paparazzi" is their latest single, a big, swinging-for-the-bleachers dance number that takes full advantage of their deep bench to keep the melody coming from every direction. The video uses a very familiar (to U.S. audiences, anyway) music as a framing device for the song, which wears its classicism lightly, aping not Gene Kelly rather but Michael Jackson, K-pop's truest forebear.

Presented by

Jonathan Bogart is a writer based in Chicago whose work was included in Best Music Writing 2011. He is on Tumblr at jonathanbogart.tumblr.com.

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