Hot August Nights: Hot/Cold

Hot August Nights: Hot/Cold

"Fire and Rain," James Taylor

The 1970 hit that birthed a singer-songwriter explosion in its wake, the No. 3 chart hit from second LP Sweet Baby James remains stark, forlorn. Taylor's reaction to the suicide of childhood friend Suzanne Schnerr, plus drug addiction and the breakup of his band the Flying Machine inform basically biblical imagery. Carole King on piano. – Jim Caligiuri


Hot August Nights: Hot/Cold

"Hot N Cold," Katy Perry

Texas temperatures could use the equivocation of Katy Perry's love life. Unlike the fickle affair detailed in this 2008 Billboard hit, however, our heat's constant. Although her squeeze cooled off at a moment's notice, Perry's jam begs for a sweaty dance floor tumble. Abby Johnston


"Hot Rails to Hell"/"Baby Ice Dog," Blue Öyster Cult

Long Island intellectuals take their temperature twice on second LP Tyranny and Mutation (1973). "Hot Rails" torrids another BÖC rewrite of biker anthem "Born to Be Wild," a sub-MC5 riff underpinning its tale of a police pursuit ("The heat from below can burn your eyes out"). Oddly misogynist Patti Smith co-write two tracks later overhauls "Under My Thumb." – Tim Stegall


"She's So Cold"/"She Was Hot," Rolling Stones

Second singles from back-to-back LPs Emotional Rescue (1980) and Undercover (1983) both charted historical lows on the UK pirates' native turf. MTV staples survive, the former shot in an icebox, and the latter crowning Stones clips via Julian Temple's film-ette starring the late Anita Morris (Ruthless People). Rude riffs – Richards' "Hot" Chuck Berry snarl – and Jagger's cool snark embody the band's "Sympathy for the Devil"/"Sweet Black Angel" duality. – Raoul Hernandez


"The Winter of the Long Hot Summer," The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

Michael Franti's pre-Spearhead outfit favored message over medium thanks to the towering frontman's penchant for a measured flow closer to spoken word, and cohort Rono Tse's industrial atmospheres. Under-reliance on easy hooks makes this 1991 indictment of the first Bush administration's Gulf War fantasia sound like a dissertation no sloganeering anthem can match. – Michael Toland

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