By Hayden Wright
Summer has finally arrived—if you don’t believe us, just turn on the radio and you’ll hear a raft of contenders for this year’s Song of the Summer.
There’s no technical definition for “Song of the Summer” in units of sales, chart rankings or streaming performance. They are the tracks for long, hot days and late, disorderly nights. Sometimes they’re instant classics that hold up forever (Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”) and other times they’re a fleeting phenomenon that comes out of nowhere (Omi’s “Cheerleader”).
This year, artists from across the genre spectrum will make their case for 2017’s Song of the Summer. Here are some of our favorite entries:
“Slide” Calvin Harris and Migos
Never count Calvin Harris out of the “Song of the Summer” sweepstakes. Last year, “This Is What You Came For” (featuring Rihanna) was the hit no one saw coming. This year, he’s teamed with Frank Ocean and Migos on “Slide,” a laidback dance groove with a rich keyboard line. Ocean imbues everything he touches with class and Migos are the suddenly-everywhere rap team to watch. They make beautiful music together against Harris’ soundscape.
“The Cure” Lady Gaga
Gaga ditched her more experimental inclinations on the sturdy R&B-tinged pop track she debuted at Coachella—and it might be her sultriest song to date. This is a track any singer could have sung but few could lend Gaga’s vocal power and provocative subtext. Lines about healing a man with her love cast Gaga as a nymphomaniac witch doctor with more love to give than her boyfriend can handle. She wails “I will be right by your side” as a promise and a threat.
“Want You Back” Haim
Haim’s three-year hiatus spawned Something to Tell You, the three-piece sister act’s return. “Want You Back” is deceptively simple in melody and composition…it could become inescapable counterprogramming amid the rap anthems and EDM confections of 2017.
“I’m The One” DJ Khaled featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne
DJ Khaled assembled the blockbuster lineup of the year on “I’m The One” and has an opulent, star-studded music video to prove it. This song simply has something for everyone, from Chance the Rapper’s progressive hip-hop fans to legions of Beliebers. Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on…Khaled makes the people come together.
“Green Light” Lorde
Lorde’s album Melodrama drops June 16 but we’ve had months to live with its lead single “Green Light.” Don’t let the early March release date (and #20 peak on the Billboard Hot 100 chart) get you down: “Green Light” is a triumphant earworm tailor-made for summer. The song’s video doubles as a listening suggestion—enjoy this song wandering aimlessly on a warm night.
“Hard Times” Paramore
“Hard Times,” is a deceptively downcast title for an upbeat, New Wave-tinged single. Hayley Williams anchors the carefree vibe with her anxious, emotive vocals and the melody earns points for dance-ability. Summer calls for late-night club bangers, but “Hard Times” will play great at your afternoon barbecue.
“Swish Swish” Katy Perry featuring Nicki Minaj
Katy’s Taylor Swift diss track is darn catchy. Once the infectious Fatboy Slim sample (“Star 69”) gets under your skin, you’ll wish-wish you had Nicki Minaj’s verse committed to memory. And soon you will.
“Mask Off” Future
Future’s record-smashing 2017 already speaks for itself but “Mask Off” is the chart hit carrying two number-one albums’ worth of momentum. On the track, Future raps about Percocets and “old Chanel” with superstar swagger.
“Despacito” Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber
Listening to Justin Bieber sing in Spanish is sort of like watching a dog walk on his hind legs—it’s an amusing feat of dexterity and guaranteed to be retweeted. Kidding aside, Bieber’s foray into Latin music has been a boon for his range and “Despacito” is the right song at the right moment. Its tropical flair is perfect for pregame cocktails after a long day at the beach. Salud!
“J-Boy” by Phoenix
Phoenix are the dark horse in the running to take home the title of Song of the Summer. The French rockers haven’t changed their synthpop recipe and “J-Boy” contains the same New Wave levity of hits like “1901.” Throw in a retro, tongue-in-cheek video and they transport listeners to a simpler, brighter time and place.