Is the “Song of the Summer” a myth? Maybe. At the very least, it’s a painfully old-fashioned concept. Gone are the days when the Billboard Hot 100 was king, dictating what we listened to all summer. These days, it’s EDM tracks on SoundCloud, while bro pop stars (sadly, desperately) construct their singles in a shameless attempt to take the Song of the Summer crown.
Still, the Song of the Summer is a fun thing to talk about — and an opportunity to take stock of larger trends in pop music. The SOS debate rages from March to well after the summer ends. What will it be? What is it? Do we like it? Is March too early to speculate? Who is Calvin Harris?
Luckily, we don’t have to choose the Song of the Summer — the Song of the Summer chooses us. We might hate it at first, and we very well may continue to hate it, but it sticks itself to our sweaty bodies all season.
This summer’s “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea is a perfect example of the summer smash that divides us. (See also: 2013’s “Blurred Lines.”) Azalea is a polarizing figure in pop culture. While the Aussie rapper is often accused of cultural appropriation, her biggest fault is her lack of originality. But “Fancy” is undeniably snappy and cool. It’s already in commercials, and maybe you’ve had it stuck in your head a few times — Azalea’s major jam has a bold, striking beat, and features the incredibly talented Charli XCX. Although Magic!’s reggae-inspired “Rude” has eclipsed it on Billboard, it’s looking like “Fancy” will go down as 2014’s Song of the Summer.
So what does it take to achieve SOS status? Controversy, as we’ve learned, helps. There are other elements, too. We’ve swept the summer songs from the 1960s to now to parse out some of the different tropes. Young musicians can think of these as ingredients to add to your wannabe summer hit. Here’s what has worked in the past — along with new Song of the Summer candidates that are following the formula in 2014. Ø
8 ingredients for a song of the summer
1. An unapologetic manifesto
Because we’re all a bunch of spineless pod people who need this music to give us a sense of purpose. Just kidding? The declarative chorus has been a big trend in summer songs recently, with aggressive anthems dominating every pre-game in America. But if we go back in time, we can see that declaring yourself — an independent woman, a lover of big butts, someone who needs respect, etc. — is not a new summer song phenomenon.
2014 contender: “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX
“I Love It,” Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX (2012)
“Hollaback Girl,” Gwen Stefani (2004)
“Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” Eve feat. Gwen Stefani (2001)
“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back Alright),” Backstreet Boys (1998)
“All Star,” Smashmouth (1999)
“Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix-A-Lot (1992)
“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” Billy Joel (1980)
“Respect,” Aretha Franklin (1967)
2. Lyrics actually about summer
You can’t get more obvious than this. If you’re trying to make a Song of the Summer, one strategy is to just write a song about summer. In 2014, we have to wonder — is this a calculated power play? Do we care?
2014 contender: “Summer,” Calvin Harris