“Baby Got Back.” “Vision of Love.” “The Boy is Mine.” “Crazy in Love.”
You know exactly what a “song of summer” sounds like, because you’ve attached your hot-weather memories to these tunes for your entire life. Even if you got sick of them, the radio programmers persisted and played them until they were hard-wired.
For the aforementioned hits from the likes of Mariah Carey and Beyoncé, we don’t mind that so much. But consider eye-rollers like “Party Rock Anthem,” “Macarena,” “I Swear” and, yes, last year’s “Fancy.” We never want to hear a note of those songs again. And they were unquestionably the songs of their summers.
So, how will our ears fare in 2015? Will we all agree on something tasteful and infectious by the end of August, or will another repetitious turkey slip through and claim the prize?
Let’s look at this year’s contenders, some obvious and some coming from a place of hope. While you read, listen to all of them (well, except for Taylor Swift) in our Spotify playlist.
“Bad Blood,” Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar: There’s really no need to explain this one. It’s a remix of the latest single by the biggest pop star in the universe, featuring an ear-wormy rap solo from this moment’s most praised MC. Learn the words. You’ll need ’em.
“Bitch Better Have My Money,” Rihanna: This is the one that you’ll hear in the clubs every time you venture out, and that’s an important factor in determining summer’s dominant song. Melodically, it’s not much of a composition, but Rihanna attacks it with a rapper’s venom and brings the whole production up to 11. It might be difficult to knock her off the tah-ah-op.
“Broke,” Jason Derulo feat. Stevie Wonder and Keith Urban: Say what? Yep, “Broke” may just register as the summer’s obligatory random collaboration. But if anyone can pull off a bit of slickly produced genre stew, it’s Derulo. It’s possible that in 2015, the harmonica is the new saxophone.
“This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like a Mother,” Maroon 5: Hey, it’s at least a little more palatable than the last single by Maroon 5, the treacly, falsetto-filled “Sugar.” The new song seems to be the band’s purposeful reach for the “song of summer” title, even if its lyrics deal more with pain than celebration.
“Worth It,” Fifth Harmony feat. Kid Ink: Can you believe that something sustainable came out of the U.S. version of The X-Factor? Girl group Fifth Harmony’s debut album Reflection features sparkling production and songs that walk the line between self-empowerment and bad-B braggadocio. “Worth It” is a song-of-summer contender because it thrives on the simple beats and brassy refrains that pop radio loves.
“Cheerleader,” OMI: There’s always a place for a light reggae-pop jam on the radio during the hot months. Last year it was the irritating Magic hit “Rude,” this year it’s an easier, breezier tune by Jamaican artist OMI. The rhythm and that sing-song-y chorus has already won it massive airplay — don’t expect it to go away any time soon.
“Shut Up and Dance,” Walk the Moon: I’ve only heard this radio hit twice, and it already makes my eyes glaze. That’s how I know that it will likely dominate the summer. I fear it will be the “Fancy” of 2015.
“See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth: The Fast 7 soundtrack hit, intended as a tribute to the late Paul Walker, has taken over at radio and seems poised to hit the heights of “I’ll Be Missing You,” the Biggie tribute that ruled the summer-song roost in 1997.
The dark horses
“Talking Body,” Tove Lo: Swedish singer Tove Lo is an exciting presence on pop radio because, well, she knows how to inject some intelligence and danger into her lyrics. “Habits” was about substituting vices for love; “Talking Body” explores the place between lust and real feelings. Perfect soundtrack for one of those summer flings everyone looks back on with wry smiles.
“Pray to God,” Calvin Harris feat. Haim: A big chunk of my money is on this single that merges the hands-above-head drops of EDM-pop star Harris and some Bee-Gee-esque vocals from the sisterly trio Haim. I look forward to hearing the gajillion remixes.
“Yoga,” Janelle Monae featuring Jidenna: As much as I love Monae’s high-concept albums, it’s a thrilling surprise to hear her on a more urgent, visceral trap jam. The chorus of “Yoga” is irresistible, which instills hope that the song will rise to ubiquity this summer and give Monae the big moment she’s always deserved.
“Baby’s In Love,” Jamie Foxx feat. Kid Ink: The triple-threat pride of Terrell, Texas, is back on the music charts with a new album called Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses. “Baby’s In Love” is the obvious throwback banger from the LP and has already been released as a single. It’s the kind of song you want to hear while driving around on a sunny day. Oh, and that Kid Ink dude is everywhere, huh? He might be the Iggy of 2015.
“Magic,” Mystery Skulls feat. Nile Rodgers and Brandy: Dallas’ Luis Dubuc has lived out many a music fantasy since picking up his Mystery Skulls project and moving it to LA. On “Magic,” one of his most joyous tunes to date, he calls on Chic legend Nile Rodgers for some funky guitar and on ’90s vocal sensation Brandy for an extended mid-song groove. Its chances for hitting pop radio are probably a little low, but we’ll hope for a song-of-summer miracle.
“Pretty Girls,” Britney Spears feat. Iggy Azalea: Iggy’s not going to give up last year’s title without a fight. But let’s face it — this is a “Fancy” retread right down to the chanting in the background and the all-around-the-world lyrical message. Britney deserves better.