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So What Really Was This Year's Song Of Summer?

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 23, 2015 5:57PM

Sunset Voyage, photo by Robert Boake

The summer of 2015 had an excellent playlist, but the question of which song truly represents this summer's anthem is debatable.

The "Song of Summer" designation itself is arbitrary and always up for discussion, though over the years various outlets have tried to quantify it; our favorite was Vulture’s insane calculations of Mark Graham for VH1's chart in 2012, but most will abide by Billboard’s listings that go back to 1985.

I would argue the Song of The Summer didn’t really become a thing until 2003, around when Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” took over the airwaves and created a sensation that I bet you can still hum along to right now. Before that, most only asked which song should be “Song of the Year,” and no one paid much attention to finding a song for any of the other seasons.

Some have argued that this year there was no clear Song of The Summer, and this is an argument I can agree with. No one song truly dominated every single playlist. But there were a couple obvious frontrunners, at least in the kinds of musical pundits.

Let’s run down this year’s contenders:

Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” brought a sound that’s been popular on underground dance floors into the suburban sunlight, and while it doesn’t have a true hook, the beat is bad-ass enough to get people moving, even as they push their shopping cart down the supermarket aisle. So on the dance tip, it holds up—but don’t we expect more from a Song of the Summer?

OMI’s “Cheerleader was released in 2011, but it was’t until a Felix Jaehn remix hit in 2014 that the song started gaining global traction, delivering the reggae-life pop song to U.S. charts earlier this year. It’s frothy and forgettable—aural cotton candy—if still pleasurable. But is it the Song of the Summer?

Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” ruled the charts for long stretches of time, but it's just too much of a downer to really be the theme of a whole summer. I know many argued that it’s prominence qualified it for the Song of the Summer title, but I just don’t see it.

Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance” is also an older tune, out in 2014, that didn’t really catch fire until this summer. It does combine an undeniably catchy hook with an insane dance beat that appeals across all genres despite being, ostensibly, a straightforward rock tune. As far as ear-worms go, this is a big one; so when you tally all those things together you have a strong contender for Song of the Summer. Until…

Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” was everywhere. It’s massive stadium-sized beat. A hook that, once you hum it once, is stuck in your head for days. In the Summer Of #Squad, how can Taylor not rule the Song of Summer throne?

So, what’s the official tally according to Billboard? Based on tracking “the most popular hits based on cumulative performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart from Memorial Day through Labor Day” the winner is … OMI?! Really? That piece of forgettable fluff? We wonder if this song somehow made it due to the changes Billboard made late last year to how they tally their charts.

O.K., right now, can you even here OMI’s “Cheerleader in your head? I bet you can’t. How about “Bad Blood?” Or “Shut Up And Dance?” Or even “Trap Queen?” I bet you can here all those over OMI. And the funniest thing about this situation is that in the end, there is another strong contender for Song Of the Summer (that could even bleed into Song of the Year!) that almost everyone overlooked because it’s dominance was just that unexpected.

It comes from someone who has been dominating the charts—last week becoming the first lead artist to hold the #1 and #2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2009, and the first male lead artist to do this since 2008. Add in a stadium tour, headlining festival slots and a song you simply can’t escape, I think...

The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” will be the tune that people might remember longer than Swift’s “Bad Blood.”

The key differentiator between “I Can’t Feel My Face” and “Bad Blood,” is that it works better on the dance floor. For that reason alone I think it wins. Our writer Michelle Meywes Kopeny, said it perfectly: “Everyone—even Tom Cruise—says that “I Can't Feel My Face” was the song of summer. I feel like it was a late contender, but damn I can't get it out of my head (but I love it). And Someone literally just walked by my desk whistling it … point proven?”

I think so.

But, in the end, the Song of the Summer selection elicits so much discussion is because it is entirely subjective, after all. And your Song Of The Summer may be completely outside the view of the mainstream music press that has become arbiter of the title. With that in mind, we asked some other staffers for the songs that soundtracked their summer. Check these outliers out and perhaps expand your summer playlist into the fall. The weather’s still nice enough for us to pretend it’s summer, right?

Staff picks:

Ever since hearing it on The Bird and the Bee's new album, "Young and Dumb" has stayed firmly glued inside my ear. It's so catchy, and sarcastic, and bouncy. —Rob Christopher

It probably didn't get enough airplay to qualify, but Miguel’s “Leaves” is pretty awesome, and the California theme works for summer song theme. —Joel Wicklund

Beach House's music evokes the easy calm of summer nights and 'Sparks' off of Depression Cherry is no exception to how ingrained emotional coolness is to this duo's very blood. Victoria Legrand's ominous voice and hypnotically sparse lyrics spin surreal tales amid Alex Scally's dreamy, ruminating guitar. —Carrie McGath

I second "Sparks!" Victoria's ethereal vocal quality and that slow burning guitar recalls languid summer nights of campfires, sparklers, and fireworks. —Jessica Mlinaric

Jamie XX’s “I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)” is an unexpectedly upbeat from Jamie XX and a unique mix of The Persuasions, rap from Young Thug and Popcaan and a danceable beat. Add to that a hook that will get stuck in your head for days and you have the perfect track for patio weather. —Gina Provenzano