Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But here’s my number, so call me maybe.
You know what’s crazy? Everyone who just read that was instantly transported to the summer of 2012. Without a doubt, “Call Me Maybe” was the Song of the Summer™ (SOTS) that year—hearing those opening violin notes was the peak moment at every party, barbeque, baseball game, or drive down to the beach. But what makes a song the SOTS? And how do we decide what the SOTS is? There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it.
There’s a lot of factors that go into making a song the SOTS, but it boils down to a few main factors.
Ideally, a strong SOTS is a song that gains buzz around Memorial Day, hits its peak around July 4th, and—defying all logic—you’re not sick of it by Labor Day. “Call Me Maybe”—possibly the greatest SOTS ever—followed this exact curve. It was #4 on the Billboard charts on Memorial Day, hit #1 on June 23 and held the top spot all the way through August 18, and finished out the summer back at #4 on Labor Day.
Just look at that symmetry. It’s almost uncanny.
There’s a reason Twista never made it big despite his obvious talents, and it’s because people like to sing along with their favorite songs. That goes double for the SOTS, which has to be easy to remember, even for the drunkest bros. A SOTS has to be catchy and repetitive with a touch of irreverence.
A great example is “Cheerleader,” the late-breaking 2015 SOTS. “Cheerleader” overcame a historic late start (#47 on Memorial Day) on the strength of its breezy melody and easy-to-sing lyrics.
A SOTS doesn’t have to necessarily hit #1 on the Billboard charts, but chart position is a solid way to measure ubiquity. In some ways, the essence of the SOTS is that “it’s everywhere,” so a song that isn’t at least in the top 10 is simply not well-known enough to qualify. So while you and your friends may have been bumping Mike Jones’ “Back Then” nonstop in the summer 2005, it peaked at #22, so it’s ineligible for SOTS.
This should be a given, but nobody wants a depressing song of heartache for their SOTS. It’s why James Blunt sank like a stone on the charts as soon as Shakira blessed us with “Hips Don’t Lie.” Generally, the SOTS is either something light and breezy or an absolute fire jam that gets the party started. We are seriously #blessed for LMFAO.
We’ll be tracking the progress of The Prompt’s Official 2017 Song of the Summer all season long, and reports from the field are encouraged. So if you’re at a barbeque and certain song ignites the crowd, tweet me with your lobby efforts.
Having just come out of Memorial Day Weekend, we have a few strong contenders, fighting for this year’s crown.
Considering this song is almost entirely in Spanish, it has a glaring weakness in the “sing-ability” department. You know, like how Justin Bieber doesn’t even know the words to his own song. But make no mistake, “Despacito” is the early frontrunner for SOTS. Even if you only know one word, this song has a fire beat and the Biebs himself. What more could you want?
Damn, what a squad! Straight-up hip-hop songs generally struggle in the SOTS running (harder to sing along to and less mass appeal), but with this crew on one track, “I’m The One” is a real contender. A breezy beat, verses from two of the hottest rappers around, and a catchy hook from the Biebs. You may not know this, but by rule, anything with an “oohhh” is a tailor-made SOTS hook. Add in a few “We the best!” shoutouts from Khaled, and you’ve got an upset pick.
“I’m The One” enters Memorial Day at #3, but has the look of a song destined to fade. A breezy beat is key, but this song clocks in at nearly 5 minutes and is too chill to hold people’s attention for that long. I hate to say it, but they should have left Weezy F. Baby off of this one too.
For better or worse, EDM-influenced songs have dominated the charts for the last few years and Calvin Harris is one of the best at bridging the gap from EDM to mainstream. This choice cut is no exception and is sure to be popular on the dancefloors all summer.
The latest from Mendes might be the most overt attempt at achieving SOTS status, and I am not even mad at the attempt. He’s a country-ish dude latching on to the sound of the moment—tropical EDM with what sounds like an auto-tuned dolphin in the background. It kind of reads like a bad episode of Nashville, but who even cares? This song is damn good! I feel like such a sheep, but I can totally see this blowing the roof of at a world-famous Dewey Beach jam session.
Mendes enters MDW at #32 and rising.
An angry hip-hop song in which the chorus is “Bitch be humble, sit down” doesn’t sound like much of a SOTS candidate, but Kung-fu Kenny is practically untouchable as an emcee. And, not wanting to be left behind on one of the best to ever do it, people love this song. Don’t underestimate how fun it is to drunkenly yell the chorus at your friends. Songs like this don’t make it on the charts (#5 entering MDW) without being at least 5 fire emojis hot.
This song is not going to be SOTS, but I had to include it just to point out something important. Bruno Mars may be a musical genius, but this dude has shit timing for SOTS. Do you realize that “Uptown Funk” held the #1 spot for a Billboard-record 14 consecutive weeks—except they were from January through April? Piss-poor timing. “Uptown Funk” could have taken a shot at Carly Rae’s crown, but people started getting sick of it precisely at the start of summer. While “That’s What I Like” is a worthy SOTS contender, it’s #2 on the charts and will be played-out by Independence Day.
All bets are off if he releases “Chunky” as the next single, though.
Carly Rae didn’t hear no bell! The SOTS Queen herself just released a new song to kick-off Memorial Day Weekend, and it’s got ALL of the ingredients for a SOTS. I’m pretty sure CRJ has spent the last few years studying the tides on when to release this jam. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song ushers in that summer weather we’ve been waiting on. Look for this one to hang around.
David Berry will be updating the Song of the Summer standings throughout the summer, so tweet him your favorites.