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Penn State References You May Have Missed In Popular Summer Jams

It’s summertime, folks! It’s the season of warm summer sun, layers of sunscreen, and, of course, the music.

While some of the summer fun may be postponed or moved indoors this season, there’s no time like the present to dive deeper into the lyrics of iconic summer hits. After breaking out the summer hits this week, one thing was clear to me: there are plenty of references to Penn State and its student body in some of my favorite songs.

Here are a few of the dozens of references I happened to stumble upon:

Surfin’ USA — The Beach Boys

We’ll all be planning that route
We’re gonna take real soon

By now, students have scheduled their classes for next fall and incoming freshmen are starting to schedule their own during New Student Orientation.

Like many of us, The Beach Boys try their best to create the shortest route possible from class to class whenever they’re creating their class schedules. Perhaps they also like to take advantage of campus’ many diagonal paths in the process like we do.

The love for surfing is also shared by The Beach Boys and Penn State football!

They may sing about the beach a lot, but at least they’re always thinking about getting that front row seat in 108 Forum for CHEM 110 on the first day of classes!

Summertime Sadness — Lana Del Rey

I’m feelin’ electric tonight
Cruisin’ down the coast, goin’ about 99
Got my bad baby by my heavenly side
I know if I go, I’ll die happy tonight

Lana Del Rey, a well-known pop musician and Interstate 99 rider, loves the route so much that she dedicated a lyric of the song about it. That’s right, Lana Del Rey just can’t help but enjoy the ride from Altoona.

Of course, State College is eerily quiet nowadays thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. However, as she writes in the song, she knows that if she goes there, she’ll be where she loves to be.

Santeria — Sublime

I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ball

Proclaimed by Riff Raff himself, “Santeria” by Sublime is a summertime anthem in its purest form. Maybe he loves the song so much because of the Penn State reference planted at the very beginning of the song, or perhaps it holds a place in its heart thanks to its funky chords and groovin’ beat.

Sublime knew exactly what students would be going through 24 years in advance. The group likely wrote about Penn State students’ answer to the question, “Will students return to in-person classes for the Fall 2020 semester?” Well, we don’t have a crystal ball!

The Boys of Summer — Don Henley

Now I don’t understand
What happened to our love
But babe I’m gonna get you back
I’m gonna show you what I’m made of

Simply put, no Penn State student is really sure how our semester could just end the way it did. Don Henley wasn’t really sure about how the spring 2020 semester would end when he wrote this iconic song, either.

Make no mistake, though. One day, students will be back just like old times. As we’ve already discussed, we may not have a crystal ball to predict when that might be, but we’ll get our groove back…eventually.

Old Town Road — Lil Nas X

I been in the valley
You ain’t been up off that porch, now

One of the biggest songs of 2019, let alone the summer, shouted Penn State out at the end of its first verse.

You’re welcome to say that Lil Nas X was talking about any other valley, such as Death Valley or the Shenandoah Valley, but we all know he was talking about the one and only Happy Valley.

Juice — Lizzo

If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine (yeah, I’m goals)

Death, taxes, and Lizzo’s songs somehow going hand-in-hand with Penn State.

Another popular summer tune from last year, this track contains a reference to the We Are sculpture across the street from the Bryce Jordan Center. If you’ve been around it enough, you may recall that the sculpture is always unbelievably bright when the sun hits it.

Even at sunset, it’s still quite the shiny figure to behold. If it’s a sunny day, you better believe you’re going to also be shiny in the photos you take with it!

Summer of ’69 — Bryan Adams

Those were the best days of my life
Oh, yeah
Back in the summer of ’69, oh

Oh, nice. There’s a Penn State reference in this one, too.

Bryan Adams surely had a good reason to be optimistic in the summer of 1969. This was the summer before former football head coach Joe Paterno’s fourth season. Coming off of an undefeated season in 1968, the Nittany Lions went on to post another 11-0 record in 1969.

Summertime — DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Leanin’ to the side but you can’t speed through
Two miles an hour so everybody sees you

The Fresh Prince, better known as Will Smith, knows morning traffic on Curtin Road just about as well as the rest of us do. Have you ever ridden the Blue Loop on a Monday morning? It’s just about as slow as walking.

Call me crazy, but that’s one of the few things that I’m not really missing much about Penn State these days.

Señorita — Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello

I wish I could pretend I didn’t need ya

The last one we’ll share is another popular hit from last summer, and boy does it speak for itself! This one could be in reference to plenty of different Penn State staples, but the Creamery’s iconic ice cream is the first thing that comes to mind.

With temperatures in State College expected to finally jump above 70 degrees within the coming weeks, the need for Creamery ice cream is on the rise. Luckily, it can now be picked up curbside.


There are plenty of other references that I didn’t mention, but these were some of the most notable. The fun may be postponed or moved indoors, but the summer jams never need to stop!

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About the Author

Michael Tauriello

Michael is a junior majoring in industrial engineering, hailing from outside of Frederick, Maryland. In his spare time, he likes to either explain to his friends why Mint Nittany ice cream is clearly superior to Bittersweet Mint, or perhaps talk about '80s music as if it was just released yesterday. You can find him on Twitter retweeting memes he thought were funny @mtauriello_.

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