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Summer Song 2017: Week Two Rocks, Really

Three years ago, I wrote a Summer Song preview suggesting that there was an actual chance that the Song of Summer 2014 might come from the Alternative/Triple-A world. The article was written during the brief span when Kongos, “Come With Me Now” looked like a CHR hit, and when “The Walker” by Fitz & the Tantrums was picking up its first Top 40 spins. 

I was wrong but I wasn’t, you know, wrong. Either of those songs would have sounded great as CHR hits, and provided some balance. And if the spotty presence of Alternative crossovers was in any way an issue three years ago, the absence of those songs is acutely felt now, given pop music’s current sonic claustrophobia. 

So here we go again. As I write this, Imagine Dragons, one of the bands that seemed trapped in rock radio’s Spin (Doctors) Cycle of “big album, backlash, move on to next savior of Rock radio, repeat” has CHR’s No. 3  “Greatest Gainer” with “Believer.” The follow-up that’s starting to scale the Alternative chart, “Thunder,” is an even more obvious pop hit.

And on June 14, the Killers, who went through that same cycle more than a decade ago, strutted back in to relevance with The Man.  It’s certainly possible that I could be experiencing first listen love (I’m up to three listens at this point), but “The Man” finally recaptures the initial audacity of that first listen to “Somebody Told Me.” On June 15, anyway, it certainly sounds like a summer hit.  And then there’s only the question of whether it could negotiate the glacial rock-to-pop crossover process in time to get to the pop charts before summer 2018.

Then there’s the e-mail I got from ROR reader and record promo veteran William “Biff” Kennedy: “For me, the Song of the Summer is ‘The Power’ from Sweet Spirit. If there was still a home on pop radio for garage rock nuggets, amidst the songs by committee, this would own the summer of 2017.” I listened and heard more of a decidedly contemporary take on “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” (which is garage rock in its own way).

At this moment, “The Power” is playing on two radio stations. My friends at non-comm Triple-A WXPN Philadelphia started it, which is where Kennedy heard it. Now it’s on KCMP (the Current) Minneapolis. Neither of those are likely on a pop programmer’s watch list, but they’re both pretty good recommendations.

And by the time I’d heard either of these songs this week, I’d already heard the uptempo, energizing “Automatic” by Mondo Cozmo, which is just starting to scale Triple-A and Alternative now.

The song that more programmers are likely to think of as an entrant into the Summer Song battle is David Guetta’s “2U,” previewed in our Memorial Day handicap. “2U” is the third Summer Song contender featuring Justin Bieber. It’s a throwback to the time 4-5 years ago when dubstep was starting to enter the pop mainstream (which still makes it different sounding from what’s there now).

And so far, Bieber still figures into both our Summer Song contenders. On the Mainstream Top 40 charts, Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” has overtaken DJ Khaled’s “I’m The One,” heading into  the chart’s top 5. It’s our Week 2 winner in the Song of the Summer derby.

Week 1 – DJ Khaled, “I’m The One”

Week 2 – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, “Despacito”

So what are your thoughts on Song of the Summer?

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

1 Comment


  1. The Kongos (Come With Me Now – should of been a bigger hit) and the Killers new song (another great single) will have a tough run if they are rejected by the big radio groups. Radio programmers need to get back to what serves their station, and their market best. With two or three companies controlling about half of the music adds, the other half needs to determine if that single actually fits into their rotation. The last few Katy Perry singles are a good example, added by the big groups rejected by the others. It amazes me when a programmer in a social marketing group says they added a certain single, but in the next sentence confesses it is awful (and many others agree). This is poor programming at its best. I remember back in ’89 we were a Gavin Reporter (HA!). To the dismay of the record reps, there were several singles we didn’t add because they didn’t fit into our rotation.

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