Music

Summer campfire songs for the 21st century

CBC Music asked its producers an important question: what song from the last 20 years would you bring to sing around the campfire?

What song from the last 20 years would you bring to sing around the campfire?

Rihanna, Fefe Dobson and Daniel Caesar all have campfire-perfect songs for your next sing-along. (Pascal le Segretain; Frazer Harrison; Scott Grimes; Getty Images)

"Blowin' in the Wind" and "This Land is Your Land" are quintessential campfire songs, but what about new-ish tunes for the 21st century? 

Ahead of the long weekend (and all of the camping trips people have planned as a reasonably safe pandemic activity), CBC Music asked its producers and programmers an important question: what song from the last 20 years would you bring to sing around the campfire?

The resulting answers form a sort of 21st century campfire karaoke filled with music from FeFe Dobson, Rihanna and Tegan and Sara to Avril Lavigne, Daniel Caesar and Lizzo. Scroll down to check out all the songs below, and of course keep in mind that if you are singing around a campfire this weekend, do so with every safety precaution you can for these pandemic times. 

If you could bring any song from the last 20 years to your campfire sing-along, what would you choose? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter @CBCMusic.


Song: "Bye Bye Boyfriend"
Artist: Fefe Dobson

This track is way heavier than most people remember, and I'm all about Dobson's stomping, thrashing chorus. Even if you haven't recently experienced a break-up, it would feel so good sing-screaming en masse, six feet apart of course, out of our bodies and up into the trees as the flames fuel a little campfire catharsis. — Andrea Warner


Song: "FourFiveSeconds"
Artist: Rihanna, Kanye, Paul McCartney

I don't camp but if someone made me do it I'd roast a weenie through a round or two of this song. Honestly, the only parts worth singing are Rihanna's (and she agrees). Leave Kanye's verses at home and turn up in the woods to this perfect pop gem. — Judith Lynch


Song: "Call me Maybe"
Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen

Everybody knows this song's chorus, and if they tell you they don't, they're lying. They might be too cool for it, that's another matter altogether, but most of us with even the tiniest scream of joy in our hearts can head-bop along to this beautiful gift from the 21st century Canadian pop princess turned queen. — AW


Song: "Complicated"
Artist: Avril Lavigne

Another smash sing-along chorus that boldly makes space for how sometimes even the smallest of conflicts between two people are telling indictments of incompatibility. Sing these truths into the fire and it really will feel like a double cleansing.— AW


Song: "Northern Lights"
Artist: The Jerry Cans

The "whoa-oh-oh" sing-along alone makes this the perfect campfire song, but a great percussive beat and a memorable, crescendoing chorus capture the beauty and spirit of the northern lights — a seemingly impossible task for any band, no matter how talented. Until the Jerry Cans, of course. — AW


Song: "In the Night"
Artist: Basia Bulat

A perfect song to sing and harmonize to, Basia Bulat's "In the Night" is a joyful, upbeat anthem that can easily be stripped down to just an acoustic guitar or autoharp, if you have one. Plus, the music video for the song illustrates just how fun it is to perform in the middle of the woods. — Melody Lau


Song: "Best Part"
Artist: Daniel Caesar feat. H.E.R. 

Serenade a loved one around a campfire with this beautiful acoustic number as you sit under the stars and sing, "I know you're a star/ where you go I'll follow/ no matter how far." — ML


Song: "Good as Hell"
Artist: Lizzo

The perfect campfire song is one that has a call-and-response element, especially one that's so positive. There's been a narrowly applied genre to campfire songs for the last. say, hundreds of years, and there's no better way to blast out of that than with Lizzo. — Steve Johnston


Song: "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks"
Artist: The National

A frequent encore song for the Cincinnati/Brooklyn band, "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" has the perfect sing-along chorus that kicks off with these gut-punch lines: "All the very best of us/ string ourselves up for love." (Campfire songs can be sad!) Made for arm-in-arm sway-singing, you'll soon be yelling "I'll explain everything to the geeks!"— no matter if you know what it means.  — Holly Gordon


Song: "PARAD(w/m)E"
Artist: Sylvan Esso

The energy of this apocalyptic dance song is enough to get "PARAD(w/m)E" on this list, but the lyrics are also really fun to play with: "Sweaty, sweaty, wonder why/ now it's always summer time/ mhm, eh eh, mhm." Turn those "mhm" lines into a call-and-response, and you're set. — HG


Song: "I Forgot That you Existed"
Artist: Taylor Swift

Kiss-off songs are inherently satisfying, but singing them with a group of people is like levelling up. The bonus with this Taylor Swift song, off her 2019 album, Lover, is that she talk-sings some of it, which makes it both realistic and easier. (T-Swift has so many campfire songs, please don't @ me for choosing this one.) — HG


Song: "PYNK"
Artist: Janelle Monáe

This vagina-positive mantra starts off soft and really rocks out, giving a nice, wide range to the evening's feelings. Bonus points for incorporating those vulva pants and a choreographed dance into your group sing-along. — HG


Song: "Roller Disco"
Artist: Jennah Barry

Nova Scotia singer-songwriter Jennah Barry wrote an AM radio gem with "Roller Disco," softly strumming to the sound of a heart breaking. We all know what it feels like to be stuck on someone who isn't stuck on us  — and that person may very well be at your campfire. Be careful with your heart! — HG


Song: "Shake it Out"
Artist: Florence + the Machine

When you're heading to the woods to shed your worries, Florence + the Machine's "Shake it Out" is the perfect anthem to do just that — shake the weight of the world away. With a  chorus of voices singing the hook into the trees, the moment is as joyful as it is cathartic. — Nairi Apkarian


Song: "The Great Escape"
Artist: Patrick Watson

As the night wears down, friends turn in and the fire starts to shrink to embers, the expansive dark sky and encroaching solitude call for more pensive tunes. Patrick Watson's "The Great Escape" is the song you end up playing quietly to yourself — sorting piano melodies into guitar chords — while others mouth a line here or there, lost in contemplation. — NA


Song: "Figures"
Artist: Jessie Reyez

Watching Jessie Reyez take an acoustic guitar and strip this song down to its core elements should convince anyone that they'll be able to play it without ruining the campfire. Reyez takes four of the most basic chords possible and elevates them through simplicity. And I guarantee, even when people don't know all the words, there are parts where a chorus will erupt.  — Mark Macarthur


Song: "Walking With a Ghost"
Artist: Tegan and Sara

Ghosts and campfires go hand in hand, so why not feed two birds with one scone? This song is the perfect antidote for those bored of basic strumming patterns. And, if you're having a good time, you can just keep playing it forever, and ever, and ever.  — MM

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