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The Question Of The Summer Song

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 2, 2005 11:26AM

2005_08_02_summer.jpgYesterday the RedEye busted out a long overdue topic for musical navelgazers everywhere: what is this year’s song of the summer?

The Tribune's Eric Zorn blogged about this topic back in 2004 (look for the August 18th entry) thanks to a reader who sent in a list of summer songs. The reader said one could pinpoint the year you became old by “identifying the first song on the list for which you don’t know the melody.” Frankly, he’s wrong. The whole point of a summer song is that it transcends every demographic category the U.S. Census uses. Quality is irrelevant, ubiquity is key.

Stereogum linked
to a NY Daily News story last week that listed 5 “requirements” for a summer song. While we agree that any contender must have a killer melody and wide-ranging appeal, a dance beat and happy-go-lucky lyrics aren’t dealbreakers. Also, the summer song has to be a pop song, which knocks out any country, rap, and most modern rock songs. Any song you’re more likely to hear in the club than on the radio also gets cut though plenty of hip-hop tracks cross over. Ballads are usually a tough sell unless they’re about universal truths and are generic enough that anyone can identify with it.

But why isn’t there a breakout summer song by now? Chicagoist thinks it might have a lot to do with the increasing marginalization of radio’s audience.

Last week we saw two suburban-looking teenage girls at Lollapalooza singing along to every word of the set by the British group Hard-Fi—a band whose full-length album hasn’t even been released here yet. When asked how they heard about the band, they replied “the Internet.” Because there are more sources to find new music, it’s less likely we’ll all hear the same songs. Also, there’s no room for new summer songs in a Jack FM format (or its many clones).

Still, radio charts for several stations agree with the Amy’s Robot blog: Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” is the one to beat though Gwen herself seems to be trying to split the vote by releasing “Cool” before “Hollaback” has gone full-on B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Barring last minute, come-from-behind victories by either Caribbean popster Rihanna and her song “Pon De Replay” or the Daisy Duke attired Jessica Simpson and her cover of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”, we think Gwen’s got it locked.

Unless you’ve got any better ideas...