By Radio.com Staff
With advent of summer comes the crowning of the season’s official song, which means what you’re listening to from Memorial Day to Labor Day is of great importance. Whatever song spends the most time atop the Billboard Hot 100 over the course of that three-month stretch will be crowned the official Song of the Summer.
When we hear the term “Song of the Summer” most of us think of sunny pop jams that are perfect for partying down at the beach, but historically this hasn’t always been the case.
In the early years of the Billboard charts, around the start of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958 and earlier, songs that ruled the summer airwaves just happened to be songs that came out in the summer. Bing Crosby’s “Swinging On a Star” is technically a Song of the Summer, but that’s because Song of the Summer wasn’t actually a thing yet. With such limited data, some years during those early decades even had more than one Song of the Summer.
Throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, ballads were often the most played songs when the weather got warm thanks to the fact that summer also happens to be wedding and prom season. Other songs that topped the summer charts in those decades are hits that are not synonymous with the season like Madonna‘s “Papa Don’t Preach.”
It wasn’t until the early aughts when the Song of the Summer became big business. Thanks to a whole Billboard chart created to track the most bought, played and streamed hits of the season, songs that end up on top at the end of these three months felt like the epitome of summer hits. We’re talking earworms like Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Call Me Maybe” (2012), Katy Perry “California Gurls” (2010) and Beyoncé‘s “Crazy In Love” (2003), all of which almost seem to just scream beach days, warm nights, no school and parties that last until the early hours.
So with the unofficial start to summer right around the corner, we decided to take a look back at every song that ruled the summer charts from 1940 to 2014 to figure out just what the best Song of the Summer is.
Check out where all 79 Songs of Summers past rank below.
79. Los Del Rio “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” (1996)
Just an awful song, but it has an even worse dance: too much arm flailing. “Macarena” is essentially a group of people wearing ill-fitting dress shirts at some all-inclusive beach resort doing gibberish semaphore. –Jeremy D. Larson
78. Matchbox Twenty “Bent” (2000)
At the mercy of this often terrible list of songs, “Bent,” which, to give some context to your hot summer songs list, is also the name of a play about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany, was chosen over Rob Thomas’ guest spot on Santana’s “Smooth,” which is insane being that “Bent” is such a slog. But, remember MB20’s track of the new millennium sounded pretty au courant alongside the other popular alt-rock songs at the time, in case you haven’t Eternal Sunshine-d this nadir of post-grunge garbage out of your brain yet. I suggest you do. –J.D.L.
77. Paul Anka with Odia Coates “(You’re) Having My Baby” (1974)
You’re having my baby—yes, my baby, not our baby. You could have aborted my baby, but you didn’t. You know what I’m thinking? Let’s write–Kevin Rutherford
76. Katy Perry “I Kissed a Girl” (2008)
Back in 2008 when only three states had legalized gay marriage, a young woman who had a penchant for fruit-related rompers proclaiming she’d kissed a girl, not to mention that she liked it, was seen as controversial. But in 2015, this song seems like a sad gimmick to attract a male audience, or worse, an advertisement for cherry ChapStick. Anyways, Kacey Mugraves said it better on her song “Follow Your Arrow”: “Kiss lots of boys/ Or kiss lots of girls/ If that’s something you’re into,” just don’t write songs that make a mockery of love. –Shannon Carlin
75. Zager & Evans “Year 2525” (1969)
Blame America’s sci-fi fascination for this track that looks ahead to the year 2525 and beyond, but listen close and you’ll realize that Zager & Evans don’t think there will be flying cars and robot maids in the future, they think we’re going to be too dependent on technology. If only we would have heeded their warning. –S.C.
74. UB40 “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (1993)
People liked this saccharine, reggae-lite version of an Elvis Presley song for some reason. Run through the “Red Red Wine” machine and slathered in electronic bells and whistles, UB40’s formula worked like a charm on this overwrought remake that once again proves how weird the ’90s were. –Scott T. Sterling
73. Kay Kyser and His Orchestra “Woody Woodpecker” (1948)
It’s not, but this song could be seen as extremely filthy. (It’s really not though since it’s an ode to the laughing 1940s screwball character). (But it really could be.) –J.D.L.
72. Puff Daddy & Faith Evans ft. 112 “I’ll Be Missing You” (1997)
The only song on the list to be derived from another song that made the list (Police’s “Every Breath You Take”), albeit much higher. So let’s once and for all say good riddance to this schlocky tribute that meant well, but doesn’t really scream “summer.” It will not be missed. –S.C.
71. Bryan Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” (1991)
This Oscar-nominated maudlin power ballad became an instant slow-dance and wedding staple thanks to Adams’ earnest delivery and the Midas touch of hit-making producer John “Mutt” Lange. –S.T.S.
70. All-4-One “I Swear” (1994)
A cover of a country song, that had become a crossover hit for John Michael Montgomery only a couple of months before All-4-One found success with theirs. Apparently there was room on the pop charts for two versions, but only one would become a middle school slow dance staple. –Courtney E. Smith
69. Paul McCartney & Wings “My Love” (1973)
This sweet ballad from Paul to Linda captivated the summer of 1973. As did their matching haircuts and his and her pantsuits. If that’s not love, we don’t know what is. -C.E.S.
68. Vera Lynn “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” (1952)
“We Will Meet Again” is better, I won’t hear any arguments on the matter. -J.D.L.
67. Nelly Furtado ft. Timbaland “Promiscuous” (2006)
Timbaland’s mysterious, minimalist sound dominated the mid-’00s, and this ode to hooking up, which recast Nelly Furtado as a nightclub vixen, hit all the right notes for a generation determined, for better or worse, to get its collective freak on. –S.S
66. Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra “Daddy” (1941)
This hokey song about Daisy May (a.k.a. the original Material Girl) is certainly not going to win any awards for progress with lyrics about a too lazy and too charming woman who just keeps asking her big, strong husband, better known as Daddy, for the best of everything this life offers. But, if you can ignore all that, this big band track would have made for a good song to dance to with your steady. –S.C.
65. Mariah Carey “We Belong Together” (2005)
Carey applied her battery of vocal histrionics to this down and dirty beat intent on turning any slow dance into a sexy grind. Seems like it worked. –S.T.S.
64. Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra “Ghost Riders In the Sky a Cowboy Legend” (1949)
A haunting song about ghostly cowboys chasing crazed, red-eyed cattle makes for a strange summertime hit, but things were different in 1949. –Kurt Wolff
63. Percy Faith and his Orchestra “The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart)” (1953)
“Your lips may be near but where is your heart” is a golden and beautiful lyric. 10 words, 10 syllables, so perfect, too bad this rather boring song didn’t live up to that line’s perfection. –J.D.L.
62. Richard Marx “Right Here Waiting” (1989)
Marx wrote this sticky slice of pop gold as a love song for his wife, which even haters have to admit is endearing. –K.W.
61. Gilbert O’Sullivan “Alone Again (Naturally)” (1972)
Now this is summertime sadness: a woeful lament that has him contemplating suicide after being left at the alter. Even a lilting melody couldn’t hide the tears stains on this downcast tune. –S.T.S.
60. Dick Haymes “You’ll Never Know” (1943)
The arrangement is very 1940s, but the lyric, “You went away and my heart went with you” is timeless. –Brian Ives
59. Olivia Newton-John “Magic” (1980)
It’s hard not to sing along with Olivia Newton-John on this laid back, ethereal hit that almost makes you believe all your summer dreams will magically come true. –Annie Reuter
58. Les Brown “Sentimental Journey” (1945)
World War II had just ended and soldiers were returning to hear Doris Day welcome them with this unofficial homecoming song that questioned why anyone would leave their home, sweet, home. This song gave them the perfect way to reacquaint themselves with lost loves: a slow dance. –Jay Tilles
57. Kyu Sakamoto “Sukiyaki” (1963)
Yeah, so a Japanese-language song decrying the failed protests against American military involvement in Japan became one of the two biggest songs of summer in 1963. Food for thought as you whine about that time “Harlem Shake” went No. 1. –K.R.
56. Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra “I’ll Never Smile Again” (1940)
A sorrowful standard that focuses on the one that got away. Tommy Dorsey’s 1940 version of the song, which happens to be the most successful take on the track, was dedicated to WWII troops sent to risk their lives, making the loss of summer love all the more trivial. –S.C.
55. Carpenters “(They Long to Be) Close To You” (1970)
The Carpenters made sadness sound sweet on this Burt Bacharach and Hal David-penned track. Maybe a little too sweet. –S.C.
54. Kay Kyser and his Orchestra “Jingle Jangle Jingle” (1942)
Love not in the cards for you this summer? Take a page from Kay Kyser’s book, throw on a pair of spurs and head to your nearest bar to give a toast to the single life. –S.C.
53. Kim Carnes “Bette Davis Eyes” (1981)
The sweeping synthesizer and Carnes’ raspy drawl make this a perfect roll the windows down, put the shades on summer jam. –A.R.
52. Captain and Tennille “Love Will Keep Us Together” (1975)
When the duo divorced last year, the jokes, sadly, wrote themselves. But their breakup doesn’t take away from the song’s absolute perfection at striving for more than just another summer fling. –B.I.
51. Elvis Presley “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” (1957)
With this track from The King’s second motion picture Loving You, Elvis makes it clear that he doesn’t always need to be in charge, but he does need a good hug to help him get by. –A.R.
50. Wings “Silly Love Songs” (1976)
What better way to silence those rocks critics who were complaining that you were writing too many “silly love songs” than by writing an actual silly love song that becomes a summer lovin’ anthem. –B.I.
49. Mariah Carey “Vision of Love” (1990)
Carey’s first single is still one of her best; staying at the top of Casey Kasem’s radio countdown for the entire spring and summer of 1990. Showing off her whistle register, Carey also proved she was a force to be reckoned with no matter the season. –C.E.S.
48. Gogi Grant “The Wayward Wind” (1956)
If you were hitting the road in 1956 (or getting over a romantic encounter with a mysterious drifter), this would have topped your playlist. –K.W.
47. Usher “Confessions Part II” (2004)
Usher ups the ante in the second part of his baby mama saga where he confesses to his girl that his mistress is pregnant with his child. Though, we imagine, most did not learn from Usher’s mistake and used this slow jam to consummate their summer love. –A.R.
46. Anton Karas “The Third Man Theme” or “The Third Man Theme” Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra (1950)
How often does a zither get featured in a pop song, let alone a No. 1 hit? This theme to a noir classic, starring Orson Welles, is a cool melody to boot. –K.W.
45. Kitty Kallen “Little Things Mean a Lot” (1954)
A perfect first dance song after you say “I do,” which takes those eternal marriage vows of loving for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part, one step further, asking not for a diamond ring, but an honest heart, a shoulder to cry on and the warmth of a sweet smile. –S.C.
44. Andy Gibb “Shadow Dancing” (1978)
The brothers Gibb could do no wrong in 1978, including baby bro Andy and this slinky slice of orchestral disco seduction. –S.T.S.
43. The Ink Spots “The Gypsy” (1946)
Do you believe fortune tellers? Maybe you should rethink that. This R&B group (and now Rock and Roll Hall of Famers) made this moody song a late-night classic. –K.W.
42. Tears for Fears “Shout” (1985)
A mid-tempo tune incredibly indicative of the mid-1980s in music that relies on its chorus its summer triumph: who doesn’t need to “let it all out” once in a while? –K.R.
41. Herb Alpert “This Guy’s In Love With You” (1968)
Known mostly as the Tijuana Brass bandleader, Alpert stepped out as lead vocalist for his 1968 recording of this gentle Burt Bacharach/Hal David love song. –K.W.
40. LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett and GoonRock “Party Rock Anthem” (2011)
People still use phrases like “Everday I’m Shuffling” while wearing leopard print stretch pants and sunglasses with no lenses. They shouldn’t, but they do. –J.T.
39. Johnny Horton “The Battle of New Orleans” (1959)
While an atypical “summer song,” Horton’s 1959 hit recounting the battle that ended the War of 1812 is still surprisingly catchy. –K.W.
38. Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell & T.I. “Blurred Lines” (2013)
The summer of 2013 proved Robin Thicke was more than a sexy bedroom crooner, he could get you working it on the dancefloor too. Even if it was by borrowing—or what the courts would call, stealing—from Marvin Gaye. But, doesn’t Gaye’s family know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? –A.R.
37. Tex Williams “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” (1947)
Tex Williams smoked two packs of cigarettes a day until he was diagnosed with lung cancer and reduced it to one pack a day and then died a year later. Summer is sometimes about making bad decisions. –J.D.L.
36. Christina Aguilera “Genie in a Bottle” (1999)
In the world of manufactured hits for former Mouseketeers, this was a biggie. Aguilera’s lyrics about being rubbed the right way was a siren call to smitten teenage boys everywhere. –J.T.
35. The Police “Every Breath You Take” (1983)
Just as the average everyday person looks back nostalgically on past summer romance, Sting & co. sing of lost love in a slightly creepy and sinister way on this summer hit that soundtracked way too many weddings. Way too many. –A.R.
34. Survivor “Eye of the Tiger” (1982)
Written for Sly Stallone’s May-released blockbuster Rocky III, this rock anthem was inescapable on the radio charts all summer long and every workout playlist in America. –C.E.S.
33. Bing Crosby “Swinging on a Star” (1944)
“If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule” are the famous words Bing Crosby told his son and later found their way in this summer hit, which proved just because school’s out doesn’t mean you can’t do some learning. –A.R.
32. The Rascals “People Got To Be Free” (1968)
This upbeat blast of late ’60s optimism and plea for social tolerance was a welcome shot of positivity during those turbulent times. –S.T.S.
31. Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX “Fancy” (2014)
I-G-G-Y is so fancy you already know, and with this hot summer jam she made you feel like you were living the lifestyles of the rich and famous, downing one mini-bar bottle at a time. –C.E.S.
30. Elton John and Kiki Dee “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (1976)
Elton John’s tribute to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s duets became a huge ’70s radio smash that still has us wishing Kiki Dee would have stuck around for a sequel. –B.I.
29. Brandy & Monica “The Boy is Mine” (1998)
While we here at Radio.com don’t condone girl-on-girl crime, this song with its wind chimes, gurgling beats and twinkling keys puts all that pent up estrogen to good use, giving us a melodramatic look at summer love gone terribly wrong. But, seriously, why are they fighting over this guy? Seeing how seamlessly they made things work on this track, it seems like they should have teamed up for one last ditch effort to make this guy’s summer a living hell. –S.C.
28. Steve Winwood “Roll With It” (1988)
Perfect for the summer: triumphant horns, a sax solo that kind of meanders but in one of those cool, struttin’-down-the-sidewalk sort of ways. Like someone broke the neighborhood fire hydrant again and you’re on your way to sweet summer relief. –K.R.
27. The Dixie Cups “Chapel of Love” (1964)
The perfect summer wedding song, this track has it all: church bells, hand claps and a catchy chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. It’s a wonder that it only stayed at No. 1 for three weeks. –A.R.
26. Rosemary Clooney “Come on-a My House” (1951)
This was the hit that made Rosemary Clooney a star with the promise that she would feed you til your pants split. Apparently she got sick of the overfeeding, later saying she hated the song and that she could actually hear her anger in the recording, but for one summer she made a lot of people deliriously happy. –C.E.S.
25. Gwen Stefani ft. Eve “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” (2001)
Harkening back to the days when Scott Storch was the hot producer for all seasons and Gwen Stefani hadn’t yet gone solo, this banger with Eve blew all the minds. –C.E.S.
24. The Association “Windy” (1967)
Folk pop meets a cappella in this G-rated nugget of pure pop gold that made summer seem just so easy, breezy. –B.I.
23. Ricky Nelson “Poor Little Fool” (1958)
Teen idol Ricky may have initially hated this catchy 1958 ditty, but it still became a 2-million seller and the first-ever song to top Billboard’s new Hot 100 chart. –K.W.
22. Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg “California Gurls” (2010)
Katy and Snoop were a match made on Cali’s warm sandy beaches, with a drink in one hand and something illegal in the other. –J.T.
21. Ray Charles “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (1962)
Country and soul are not so different as we learn with Ray Charles’ cover of the Don Gibson country classic, which gently rocked the R&B charts and soundtracked more than a few summer slow dances. –B.I.
20. The Everly Brothers “Cathy’s Clown” (1960)
This deceptively sweet sounding breakup song was name dropped by Elliott Smith in “Waltz 2 (XO)” and proved even heartbreak has a place on the charts in the summer months. –B.I.
19. Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” (2009)
We can nearly forgive the Black Eyed Peas’ output 2009 onward due to this song’s undeniable chorus that soundtracked parties and pre-gaming festivities for young and old alike. –K.R.
18. Heart “Alone” (1987)
The song is the idea for and execution of making out in the back of a ’81 Toyota Tercel. –J.D.L.
17. TLC “Waterfalls” (1995)
It’s hard to believe that a song that focused on drug dealing, promiscuity and HIV would own the charts, but its hooks clawed deep. –J.T.
16. Carole King “It’s Too Late/ I Feel The Earth Move” (1971)
Carole King’s Tapestry was so massive that both sides of this double A-side single that alternately described the highest highs and lowest lows of an intimate relationship owned the summer of 1971. –B.I.
15. Bobby Lewis “Tossin’ and Turnin’” (1961)
“I couldn’t sleep at all last night!” What teenager hasn’t been there? Even more teenagers agreed with his sentiment after this classic got a new life in 1978’s Animal House. –B.I.
14. Sir Mix-A-Lot “Baby Got Back” (1992)
Sir-Mix-A-Lot couldn’t have predicted this song would still be a banger 20 years later. Thanks to Nicki Minaj, it’s famous all over again because no one can deny how much they love a voluptuous backside. No one. –J.T.
13. The Emotions “Best of My Love” (1977)
A quick-tempo, horn-driven tune with one of the best singalong choruses of the 1970s. Near-perfect bassline, too. –K.R.
12. Madonna “Papa Don’t Preach” (1986)
This 1986 hit made public a topic not often discussed in pop music: teen pregnancy and abortion. Madonna’s choice of taboo topics didn’t go unnoticed, sparking some controversy off the dance floor with the Pope, who urged Italians to boycott her shows because of the song’s message. Of course, no one could deny this song’s pop sensibilities leading to a lot of Our Fathers and Hail Marys being recited after summer was through. -A.R.
11. Little Stevie Wonder “Fingertips-Pt. 2” (1963)
This live recording captured the electric energy of budding genius Stevie Wonder, and was an accurate reflection of Motown’s ’60s status as “the sound of young America.” –S.T.S.
10. Lipps, Inc. “Funkytown” (1980)
Lookin’ for a place to keep you movin’, and also to keep you groovin’, preferably with some energy? Ever heard of Funkytown? –B.I.
9. Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe” (2012)
CRJ makes a huge show out of something so tiny and innocuous, capturing the exact feeling of how a fling can turn into forever in just three months. -J.D.L.
8. Prince “When Doves Cry” (1984)
(Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Summer can’t always be fun in the sun, sometimes it’s a time to get reflective on the dance floor about your own life, your parent’s disastrous marriage and your failing relationship. No one would fault you for crying just like those doves. –S.C.
7. Rihanna ft. Jay Z “Umbrella” (2007)
Hot take, because it’s summer and all: Rihanna’s still trying to top this 2007 single, with its booming, motor-like bass and earworm of a refrain. –K.R.
6. Nelly “Hot in Herre” (2002)
Still being played on hot, sweaty dance floors everywhere, this Neptunes groove has made Nelly the purveyor of summertime sexiness for 13 years running. –J.T.
5. Donna Summer “Bad Girls” (1979)
When disco was king and Donna Summer its queen, this bawdy, brassy anthem about street life defined the summer of ’79. –S.T.S.
4. The Lovin’ Spoonful “Summer in the City” (1966)
Maybe this one is a little too on the nose, but seriously, have you ever tried to survive a summer in a hot sweltering city without an air conditioner? This track has dominated the season for nearly 50 years because of its gritty, realistic take on the effect the heat can have on you. From the blaring car horns to the jackhammers pounding at the sweltering asphalt, we’re already having hot flashes. –S.C.
3. Bill Haley & His Comets “Rock Around the Clock” (1955)
One of rock’s most important records of all time just may have benefited from a pre-summer release that saw it rising with the temperature. Understandable, since Haley and his Comets are still on fire here, six decades later. –K.R.
2. Beyoncé “Crazy in Love” (2003)
If you weren’t sweating it out on the dance floor to this track summer of 2003, you weren’t doing summer right. Though she wouldn’t ring the alarm until a few years later, it was already clear she was going to run the world right after she was done dominating summer. –C.E.S.
1. The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)
What’s arguably the Stones’ most famous song mixes Keith’s famous, fuzzy hooks with Jagger’s swagger, and 50 years later we’re still grooving. –K.W.