Against the backdrop of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Megan Thee Stallion’s 2019 anthem “Hot Girl Summer” has been in heavy rotation on my Spotify account. The song has become an essential part of my personal quarantine soundtrack, and I think it should be part of yours, too. Don’t let the fact that it’s not summer, or that you don’t feel like your best “hot girl” self, or that you haven’t attended anything remotely resembling a party in months stop you from enjoying this song for a second longer.
Let me explain.
A quick refresher on where you may already know “Hot Girl Summer” from, in case you have completely forgotten anything that preceded the pandemic: “Hot Girl Summer” the song was predated by the hot girl summer movement, whose origins can also be traced back to Megan Thee Stallion. A self-proclaimed “hot girl coach,” Megan championed the victories of hot girls everywhere on her May 2019 album Fever and laid the foundation for “hot girl summer” to take the internet by storm.
Quickly brought to life online by black women and then adopted by everyone else on Twitter and beyond, hot girl summer was built on a bedrock of breezy confidence. As Megan Thee Stallion herself sagely noted in a July 17 tweet, “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc.” Inspired by her fans’ hot girl enthusiasm, Megan Thee Stallion collaborated with artists Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign to release “Hot Girl Summer” in August 2019, capping off a season-long celebration of all things hot.
As Vox’s Rebecca Jennings wrote last year, the hot girl summer trend “[provided] a template against which people can perform the realities of their life.” Many months after the summer of 2019, “Hot Girl Summer” still reminds of the inclusive opportunity for people to live out the hot girl ethos and be “that bitch.”
The celebratory message of “Hot Girl Summer” hits differently in quarantine
I am a lot of things. Sadly, “that bitch” has never been one of them. This unfortunate reality, however, has not stopped me from soaking up “Hot Girl Summer” like it’s the last patch of sunlight in a rapidly darkening sky.
For one thing, the song is a smash. Megan’s signature flow is punchy and forthright, and her verses on “Hot Girl Summer” are no exception. She raps effortlessly about the joys of being sexy, rich, and beloved, pausing to take a breath only when it’s Nicki’s turn to rap about the joys of being sexy, rich, and beloved. And while Ty Dolla $ign’s presence on a song by and for hot girls is perplexing, his chorus acts as a pleasantly mellow bridge between Nicki and Megan’s energetic verses.
But as potent as the sheer bop power of “Hot Girl Summer” is on its own, the song has taken on newfound significance in the context of the novel coronavirus quarantine. It’s hard not to listen to “Hot Girl Summer” right now and feel as though its central themes — partying, celebrating yourself, being “on your bullshit” for bullshit’s sake — are relics of a pre-pandemic past.
Despite being less than a year old, “Hot Girl Summer” already seems imbued with the nostalgic glamour of a different era. It’s three minutes of jubilant escapism, wrapped in a Juicy J beat. The song recalls a time when I wasn’t glued to my phone’s disturbing news updates or half-heartedly stirring lentils in an apartment that I’m afraid to leave.
This isn’t to say that last summer was a utopian vacuum of poolside parties and “real hot girl shit.” On the contrary: Many of the systemic failures currently exacerbating the coronavirus crisis gained critical momentum over the course of last summer. In 2019, the Trump administration enacted a climate plan that was proven to increase air pollution levels and cause more premature deaths. Reproductive health care access dwindled rapidly in several states. ICE detained a record-breaking number of people in its facilities. The idea of hot girl summer was possibly as illusory then as it is now.
Still, as life under quarantine oscillates between stifling monotony and horror, revisiting Megan Thee Stallion’s 2019 song of the summer feels like a rose-colored look back at a better timeline. At its core, “Hot Girl Summer” preaches a message of fun self-determination. It promises that when you know your worth, summer is yours for the taking. And as incompatible as this attitude feels with the ongoing health crisis, it feels good to bask in Megan’s relentless hot girl optimism. Even if it’s only for a moment.
One Good Thing is Vox’s recommendations feature. In each edition, find one more thing from the world of culture that we highly recommend.