Fetty, Demi, OMI: Ranking Song of the Summer candidates
We’re halfway through summer, and we still don’t have a strong Song of the Summer frontrunner to unify our fragmented nation and unite us as one.
Song of the Summer is an unofficial title given to that one song that rules the summer, that even years later takes you back to that place and time. Think Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” in 2002, Rihanna’s “Umbrella” in 2007 or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” in 2012.
There are candidates this summer, sure. But unlike Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” in 2013 and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” in 2014, nothing is stepping up and outright dominating our playlists and airwaves this year.
In a way, it’s not surprising. After Thicke and Azalea were both essentially voted off the planet in the wakes of their massive, culture-blanketing smashes, one can see why artists might be hesitant to try that Song of the Summer crown on for size.
So let’s call it an off-year for the Song of the Summer, which is sort of a nebulous concept to begin with, and only in recent years has become the subject of hot debate. (Hey, Internet’s gotta talk about somethin’.)
But there’s still time for a winner to emerge. Here are the year’s top SotS candidates, along with their strengths and weaknesses, as they try to reach the promised land:
Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood”: The star-packed video is a blockbuster, but the song isn’t. Kendrick’s uncharacteristically flimsy verses reduce Swift to a guest on her own song, which is already one of the weaker efforts, lyrically and melodically, off of “1989.”
Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”: It’s a love song about devotion in its purest form, about finding a partner who will hit the strip clubs and cook dope with you when the going gets rough. But New Jersey rapper’s valentine may have peaked too early, and lacks the one killer performance or placement to put it over the top.
The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”: Where “Trap Queen” finds romance in cooking up dope, Toronto star the Weeknd’s latest hit cuts out the middle man and is sung directly to the dope itself. Its production has a classic Michael Jackson feel, if Michael Jackson wrote songs about the numbing effects of cocaine, but its drawback is it doesn’t hold up to “Earned It,” the Weeknd’s seductive “50 Shades of Grey” smash from earlier this year.
Walk the Moon, “Shut Up and Dance”: The Cincinnati band’s ultra-catchy fist pumper has a bit of “Where the Streets Have No Name’s” DNA in it, and its message is right for summer. But it’s one of those songs that instantly feels overplayed, and it grates rather than endures on repeated listens.
Demi Lovato, “Cool for the Summer”: A blatant grab at outright creating a summer song moment — see also Maroon 5’s “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt ...” — the former Disney queen’s electro grabber gets points for its shamelessness. And it pops, with a slinky piano line and lyrics about a sexy summer fling. Why isn’t it bigger? Not sure. It probably should be.
Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth, “See You Again”: After spending 12 weeks at No. 1, the Pittsburgh rapper’s pensive tribute to lost love ones — or, since it was recorded for the “Furious 7” soundtrack, you can just call it the Paul Walker Song — leads the pack by sheer numbers alone. But summer anthems are rarely solemn (there are exceptions; see Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” in 2005), which is a roadblock for “See You Again.”
OMI, “Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)”: Ah, now this sounds like summer. A laid back bed of horns, a lightly tapped out reggae beat, a singer who it already feels like we’ll never hear from again: OMI’s current Billboard chart-topper is the perfect novelty song for the season, and instantly conjures up images of poolside drinks and toes in the water. It’s peaking at just the right time, no one’s sick of it yet, and when’s the last time we had a love song about cheerleaders? We’re overdue. Thanks, OMI, for saving us. Now please take your title and show yourself the door.