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.

Memories of… “Boom! Shake the Room”

Few things can trigger a long lost memory like music. It can happen anywhere.  For me it usually happens in the car. The other day, I was driving to work and flipping channels on the satellite radio. I stopped on the Old School Hip Hop channel. They were playing a horrible song from the 90’s, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Boom! Shake The Room”.

I was immediately taken back to December 17th, 1997.  I was living in Ames, Iowa and was taking my wife (then girlfriend) Jess to her first Prince concert. We were pumped up for days leading up to the show.  To make things more exciting we heard a rumor that Prince was hosting an after party at a local bar. Being huge Prince fans we were beside ourselves that we may have an opportunity to see The Purple One up close and personal. We decided to play it by ear and hope the rumors were true.

The concert was awesome. We had decent seats and he played mostly hits (there are a lot) and didn’t play too many songs from the new record at the time Emancipation. I even bought this  super cool hockey jersey featuring the logo of Prince’s band The New Power Generation. By the 2nd encore we had pretty much given up on any sort of post show party and were both ready to head home. That’s when I spotted a guy handing out flyers  advertising an after concert party for some charity I don’t remember.  Prince was actually going to be there!  Now I know you’re asking yourself , “Where in Ames, Iowa was Prince going to host a party?”  Well Ames’ premier cowboy bar, Hunky Dory’s, of course. That’s right, Hunky Dory’s.

We hurried over to Hunky’s as fast as possible. Most of the trip I had my head out the side window because the windshield was frosted over from the December cold. When we got there the line wasn’t too long so we got in early enough to grab some booze and score a table near the roped off VIP section. Then we waited. And waited. And waited…

We amused ourselves by watching the people on the dance floor.  This was a cowboy bar remember so the DJ had a very limited hip hop or dance music collection. The crowd reaction to these random outdated dance songs was entertaining to say the least.

Finally, Prince arrived looking almost exactly like he did in this picture. Security took him immediately over to the VIP section which was about 20 feet from us. I couldn’t believe it.  Jess and I had been so excited about getting to the party that we didn’t really discuss what we would do when Prince actually showed up.  This is the point in the story where my wife and I disagree about the evening’s finer details. She claims that I hid behind a nearby popcorn machine upon Prince’s arrival because I was scared. My claim is that I didn’t want to be a Prince Fan Boy and rush up to stare at him like all the girls. From the best of my recollection this was our exchange:

Jess: Well? Are we going over?

A Star Struck Me: Uhhhh…

Jess: Really? Fuck you, I’m going over there.

A Deflated Me: Wuh?

So she went by herself. I watched her walk over (looking extra cute in MY newly purchased super sweet NPG hockey jersey) and somehow made her way to the front of the pack of adoring women. She was less than a foot away from my music idol. Prince ignored the hoard of other girls, looked right down at her and smiled. I was so proud. Prince thinks my girlfriend is hot!  My pride quickly turned to panic as I remembered Prince’s taste in women was exactly like mine.

Prince’s appetite for hot brunettes is well documented.  Apollonia, Vanity, Mayte, Sheila E and Carmen Electra have all been linked to the Purple One. The only aberration I’ve ever heard about was blonde bombshell Kim Basinger. They met during the filming of Tim Burton’s first Batman movie for which Prince provided the soundtrack. He pulled the cool musician move where you bring the hot movie starlet into the studio and let her make an album with you.  They recorded The Scandalous Sex Suite EP  together and she promptly moved  into his Paisley Park mansion/studio.

If you believe the Prince folklore, she stayed there as girlfriend/prisoner for a few months until she could take the weirdness no longer. She left in the dead of night leaving behind her dignity and her BMW.

Well, I wasn’t going to stand for that shit. My future bride would not be joining that long list of discarded brunettes. To quote The Joker from the previously mentioned Batman movie “Never rub another man’s rhubarb!”  I stood up about to take action when DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s song “Boom! Shake the Room” came over the sound system. A look of disgust washed over Prince’s face. Honestly, he looked like he had just stepped in dog shit. He quickly had a lackey take a stack of CDs to the DJ and ordered him to play music from that stack only. With his attention pulled away from Jess, Prince moved on to more pressing business. Like ignoring everyone in the bar.

So thank you DJ Jazzy Jeff. Thank you Will Smith.  Prince’s distaste for your awful song saved my future marriage.