SZA, Brockhampton and Sigrid: 2018’s festival anthems

What makes a banging festival anthem, besides a simple chorus that vast crowds can belt out in unison? Here are the tracks you can expect to hear all summer

In 1970, a band called Fairfield Parlour were commissioned to write a “theme tune” for the Isle of Wight festival. They obligingly changed their name to I Luv Wight and devised a charming bit of psych whimsy called Let the World Wash In. The event itself went down in history: the crowd was bigger than at Woodstock, and Jimi Hendrix’s headlining performance turned out to be one of his last. But Let the World Wash In did not: according to legend, the festival DJ played it once, then publicly smashed the record in front of a cheering crowd.

It was early evidence that festival anthems are difficult, nebulous things to define. The question of what makes one is as thorny as the hedgerow you find yourself falling into at 3am, while simultaneously trying to urinate alfresco. If there were a formula to it, everyone would knock one out each summer. But clearly there isn’t. If you Google “festival anthem” what you swiftly learn is that if an artist proudly announces they’ve written a festival anthem, it’s Let the World Wash In all over again; vanishing into obscurity.

Perhaps there are too many variables in a festival to predict entirely accurately what is going to go down well: what sounds life-affirming on a blissfully hot afternoon may well make people want to murder you if they’ve spent the previous 48 hours wading through slurry with carrier bags tied around their feet. The solitary rule is that you want a chorus simplistic enough for vast crowds to be able to bellow along in unison, which is why, whatever their merits as songs, Bon Iver’s 29 #Strafford APTS is never likely to become a festival anthem, but Coldplay’s Fix You has. Indeed, the popularity of 2017’s most ubiquitous festival anthem – the repurposing of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army that we may as well call Oh, Jeremy Corbyn – had something to do with a spirit of optimism engendered by the man. But it was doubtless linked to the fact everyone could remember the words to it, even after three days subsisting entirely on a diet of warm cider and chewing gum. That said, this year, any of the following might well be in with a fighting chance … AP

Drew Barrymore

Any track off last year’s CTRL album would work in an early evening, sun-dappled festival slot, but Drew Barrymore wins because it comes with a perfect in-built checklist of necessities. “Bring the gin, got the juice, bring the sin, got that too,” she sings, while “somebody get the tacos, somebody spark the blunt” is the exact level of slightly-too-aggressive organisational ability any large group of friends needs.
Lovebox, Longitude


Self-proclaimed “best boyband since One Direction”, 14-strong US hip-hop collective Brockhampton’s stage attire is basically the Smurfs doing work experience at the Arches, all blue body paint and overalls. Mix in some proper head-rattling bangers – of which the unfeasibly energetic Boogie is the best example – and you have future festival headliners in the making.
Reading & Leeds

Finders Keepers

In theory, Finders Keepers’ double-time handclaps (a sample of Lenky’s Diwali Riddim) are perfect for uncomplicated choreography. All you do is put both hands in the air, slap them against each other and before you know it you’re part of a glorious united moment. Be warned, though: quickly you’ll realise it’s going that bit too fast, that fifth vodka and orange isn’t settling too well with the chicken wrap and actually you need a lie down.
Parklife, Wireless, Lovebox, Longitude, Field Day

Shawn Mendes
In My Blood

If, like Noel Gallagher, you miss the sound of “proper instruments”, ie guitars, at festivals then fear not because lanky Canadian teenager Shawn Mendes is here to save the day. In My Blood is basically Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody spliced with the harder-edged sound of 1D’s Story of My Life, and the perfect, hormone-fuelled soundtrack to a fast-tracked festival relationship of sloppy snogs and tearful arguments.
Sundown festival, Fusion festival


Don’t Kill My Vibe may have got her on all the Big in 2018 lists, but it was this fat-free electropop belter that broke the Top 10. Even in today’s convoluted chart landscape, a human being looking to upgrade to a pop star can’t do it without a hit, and high-waisted jeans exponent Sigird is a pop star, and Strangers was a hit, so that’s all worked out nicely really.
Parklife, TRNSMT

DJ Khaled
Wild Thoughts

Given DJ Khaled’s input on most of his songs extends to intoning “we the best music” ad infinitum, it’s likely his festivals set may just feature his phone, a Spotify playlist and a cartoonist knocking up large-scale drawings of his song’s myriad guests. Which would be ideal, really. Last summer’s Rihanna-featuring, Santana-sampling Wild Thoughts still bangs; just make sure you stay properly hydrated during some of the more physically demanding dance moves, please.


Alexis Petridis and Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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