What Makes a “Song of the Summer”

Ariana-Grande-ProblemWhat’s wrong with me? I’ve been sitting here for awhile searching my phone and the internet for something cool to listen to but it all bores me. I’m tired of it all. Well, except for one song. My mind keeps drifting back to this horribly awesome song my daughter initially forced me to listen to a couple of months back, Ariana Grande, “Problem (Feat. Iggy Azalea).”

Yep, Ariana Grande, the super cute girl with the goofy voice from that stupid Nickelodeon kid’s show. Who knew she could sing so well? She’s like Mariah Carey Jr. Have I become an official member of the Arianator nation? No, but the song is catchy as hell and could probably be officially declared the “Song of the Summer.” You know, that one song that turns up out of nowhere, gets played over and over and ends up being the soundtrack to your activities from June to September? I know we can’t take a car ride in my family without a request for “Problem.” My daughter even raps along to the Iggy Azalea part.

Normally, I have my own song of the summer that doesn’t match what’s playing on the radio. Take last summer for instance. While everyone else was listening to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, I couldn’t stop myself from playing “The Wire” by HAIM, such a great summer song. That’s got me thinking…what were some other notable past songs of summer? Let’s look back. Shall we?

These are the top 10 songs from summer 1985. From the looks of it, a great year for music.

1.”Shout” – Tears For Fears
2. “Everytime You Go Away” – Paul Young
3. “The Power Of Love” – Huey Lewis & The News
4. “A View To A Kill” – Duran Duran
5. “Sussudio” – Phil Collins
6. “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” – Sting
7 . “Raspberry Beret” – Prince and the Revolution
8. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)” – John Parr
9. “Heaven” – Bryan Adams
10. “Never Surrender” – Corey Hart

Now, which would you crown the “Song of the Summer?” What are the criteria for summer song dominance? Let’s dive in.

I think it has to be an upbeat number. No love songs or sad songs. That eliminates Paul Young, Sting, Bryan Adams and Corey Hart.

In my opinion, it shouldn’t be a song from a movie soundtrack especially if it’s heavily featured in a summer movie. That eliminates Huey Lewis (Hello…McFly!!??), Duran Duran’s song from the shittiest of James Bond movies, (Seriously, Roger Moore was like a thousand years old. Horrible!) and John Parr’s St. Elmo’s Fire suckfest. So what’s left? “Shout”, “Sussudio” and “Raspberry Beret.” All excellent songs. All bona fide contenders. So who wins? I’m going with my man Patrick Bateman and picking Phil Collins “Sussudio”, a great, great song, a personal favorite.

While that was a tough choice, other years have a clear winner. Take summer 1988.

1. “Roll With It” – Steve Winwood
2. “The Flame” – Cheap Trick
3. “Hold On To The Nights” – Richard Marx
4. “Monkey” – George Michael
5. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Def Leppard
6. “Hands To Heaven” – Breathe
7. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns N’ Roses
8. “Make Me Lose Control” – Eric Carmen
9. “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” – Elton John
10. “Foolish Beat” – Debbie Gibson

Instant disqualification to Steve Winwood for extreme sucking. I hated that song. The rest of the ten are a collection of sugary love songs that were staples on Loveline dedication radio shows. You know, it went something like this…“I’d like to dedicate “The Flame” to Johnny Smith from East High School. I can’t wait for homecoming. I love you Johnny, Wooooooooooo!!!!!!”

That really just leaves Gun N’ Roses and Def Leppard to choose from. While “Sweet Child” was and still is a kick-ass song, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was by far the song of that summer. Its sticky sweet sexual innuendo filled lyrics dominated all car radios back then.

I know what you’re all thinking now. Hey Todd, are there any other criteria for song of the summer success?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at the top songs from the summer of 1991.

1.”(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” – Bryan Adams

2. “Rush Rush” – Paula Abdul
3. “Unbelievable” – EMF
4. “I Wanna Sex You Up” – Color Me Badd
5. “Right Here, Right Now” – Jesus Jones
6. “Every Heartbeat” – Amy Grant
7. “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” – Lenny Kravitz
8. “Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
9. “P.A.S.S.I.O.N.” – Rhythm Syndicate
10. “Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave)” – Roxette

Notice number eight? “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. If your song actually has the word “summer” in the title, you get an automatic win. With lyrics like this how could you pick any other song?

School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
A back then I didn’t really know what it was
But now I see what have of this
The way that people respond to summer madness

It’s generally pretty easy to choose a “Song of the Summer.” Looking through the top 10 songs from the last 30 years I was able to fairly quickly choose one in every year except one.

2004

1. “Confessions Part II” – Usher
2. “Burn” – Usher
3. “Slow Motion” – Juvenile feat. Soulja Slim
4. “The Reason” – Hoobastank
5. “If I Ain’t Got You” – Alicia Keys
6. “Lean Back” – Terror Squad
7. “Move Ya Body” – Nina Sky feat. Jabba
8. “Turn Me On” – Kevin Lyttle feat. Spragga Benz
9. “Dip It Low” – Christina Milian
10. “Sunshine” – Lil’ Flip feat. Lea

Look at this shit show. The only one of these songs I’ve actually heard was the Hoobastank song. Hoobastank…(shudder)

Now the opposite happened when I looked at 2013. Either the pop music gods shown down with all their glory or my kids influence over the radio has finally made an effect on my listening habits. There are easily 7 songs that one could make a case for “Song of the Summer.” Honestly, I still can’t decide.

2013

1. “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke

2. “Radioactive” – Imagine Dragons
3. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
4. “We Can’t Stop” – Miley Cyrus
5. “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton
6. “Cruise” – Florida Georgia Line feat. Nelly
7. “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake
8. “Treasure” – Bruno Mars
9. “Cups (Pitch Perfect’s When I’m Gone)” – Anna Kendrick
10. “Come & Get It” – Selena Gomez

So which would you choose? How about this year? Feel free to post in the comments section any past or current summer songs you’ve loved.

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One comment on “What Makes a “Song of the Summer”

  1. “Shout” is the right answer for 1985. Only because I still remember hearing that song every time I went to the pool that summer. Waukon, Postville…it didn’t matter what town I was in. The pool played “Shout” every time. And it ruled.

    But I do remember a DJ on Z93 (La Crosse, Wis.) busting in at the end of “Sussudio” and mentioning how that song was the ultimate “roll down the windows with the radio blasting” song. Which even at 11 I found to be equal parts awesome and pathetic.

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