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Summer Song 2017: It’s Week One, Yeah, It’s Week One

Zedd Alessia Cara Stay Song of the Summer 2017We went on a driving trip on Memorial Day weekend, and if it’s just the ubiquitous current song you’re interested in, that was Zedd & Alessia Cara’s “Stay,” also the No. 1 song in the country at the moment. That made it two in a row for Alessia, following the holiday week trip in December where “Scars to Your Beautiful” was the inescapable song.

But it was Bieber vs. Bieber, or DJ Khaled vs. Luis Fonsi that I was clocking. And as it happened, I came across DJ Khaled f/Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne a lot more on this trip. Then, among summer song contenders, Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” The two Bieber collaborations are pretty much flush on the Mainstream Top 40 chart this week, but I came across “I’m The One” far more than “Despacito.” So I’m giving week one to Khaled.

(There’s always one left-field song that one comes across repeatedly on trips like these; usually a song that’s peaked but hasn’t been pulled off in the medium markets or on Hot AC. In this case, it was Starley’s “Call On Me,” which still sounded like it should have been a bigger hit.)

Other notes on Summer Song Week One:

As is always the case, there have already been a few post-Memorial Day releases by major artists. As with the summer song entrants thus far, there’s not much relief from the tempo crisis. Bruno Mars went for another ballad; (hard to deny since “Versace on the Floor” already had airplay.) Fifth Harmony went downtempo. Only the usually midtempo Major Lazer went uptempo with “Know No Better.”

The new Khaled/Drake collaboration, “To The Max,” is sort-of-uptempo, languid but with a busy drum-and-bass groove. Khaled is following the Chainsmokers model of multiple releases (or arguably, helped to create it). I like the idea of him competing with himself for summer song. We may yet see some sort of battle between main artists (rather than featured) develop before summer is over.

There are always Summer Song casualties before Memorial Day, but there have been three since. Both Calvin Harris’ “Slide” and DNCE’s “Kissing Strangers” have now peaked. DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” was a great summer song without the correct timing; “Kissing Strangers” had a similar feel, but was already losing altitude by Memorial Day. Drake’s “Passionfruit” had a similar feel to “One Dance,” but won’t last the summer like that song did.

The “Handicapping the Summer Song” article always draws out a few e-mails from label people. “The song of the summer is Portugal. The Man’s ‘Feel It Still,’” wrote manager Mark Gorlick. “Higher on the Alternative charts than Sir Sly and Paramore,” he noted, citing two songs that I did write about. “Feel It Still” would sound great at pop radio, and Gorlick says there are plans to bring it there.

I’ve written before that Alternative always has an untapped supply of pop summer song candidates. Imagine Dragons midtempo-but-springy “Believer” is finally pushing across as the first Alternative crossover in a while. One hopes that there will be a second (or third) rock slot that would allow Portugal, Paramore, or Sir Sly to come over. These days, you can’t count on stations to have even one rock slot.

As always, your feedback on Song of the Summer is always welcome.

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Sean Ross is author of the Ross on Radio newsletter and VP of music and programming of Edison Research.

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