Summer Song Week 6: The Year Without A Summer?

I’ve been on the road again this week. The place I am now is lovely and temperate—perfect summer weather. The market I was in earlier this week was sticky and hot—undeniable summer weather. And in each of them, the unavoidable song on the radio was “Stay” by Zedd & Alessia Cara, which was the unavoidable song of my Memorial Day road trip as well.

“Stay” has just been pushed out of No. 1 on the CHR chart by “Despacito.” So it may not be at this level of exposure for the second half of the summer. But it’s not going away by Labor Day. If anything, in late August, “Stay” will be the song going from No. 7 to No. 8 in the top ten.

I’m not anxious to anoint “Stay” as Summer Song 2017. It’s undeniable, but it’s not up, it’s not fun. It’s a holdover from spring.  And it raises this question about today’s recurrent driven CHR. So far, only “Despacito” and “I’m The One” have had anything approaching the ubiquity of all the spring holdovers. So if what I hear on the radio this summer is “It Ain’t Me,” “That’s What I Like,” and “Shape Of You,” is it really summer at all?

One of the frustrations of the summer has been watching major artist product arrive at a steady clip, hitting play on a new song, and knowing within seconds that it is not going to be the summer burner that you were hoping for. Sometimes the disappointment is compounded by a title that makes you think you might be getting an uptempo song. But at this point, if Pitbull teamed up with a reunited LMFAO tomorrow for a song called “Get Up And Dance Your A** Off,” there is still an excellent chance that it would be 83 BPM and start with a chopped up vocal sample.

Or maybe it would be loping tropical/house beats. I had some initial disappointment about Zedd and Liam Payne. Listening at the desk, it wasn’t quite what I wanted from a song called “Get Low.” Hearing it driving around, it comes off as far more energetic.

Finally, last week’s prediction that Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” would finally explode, after hovering outside the top 10, has definitely happened. At this writing, that song goes from No. 9- No. 5 at CHR. “Holding Me Back” is the least flashy but the most deliberately calibrated of the summer contenders. And I’m giving it a second consecutive week as this week’s Summer Song winner.

So the count is now:

Week 1 – DJ Khaled, “I’m The One”
Week 2 – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, “Despacito”
Week 3 – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, “Despacito”
Week 4 – Drake, “Passionfruit” (because I was in a market where it was still very much a summer smash)
Week 5 – Shawn Mendes, “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back”
Week 6 – Shawn Mendes, “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back”

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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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