Your Summer Song And My Summer Song

It’s interesting that I’m still getting e-mails, tweets, and other communications from readers asking me when I’m going to name my Song of the Summer. Maybe, in their busy lives, they missed that moment where I knowingly went entirely off the grid and gave it to “Praying” by Kesha. Maybe it’s their way of saying “for real, though.”

I’ve been ready for the last month to write the column acknowledging that “Despacito” is, at the very least, the Record of Summer 2017. If it were just the song that I’d heard the most for the last two-thirds of summer, it would be Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” But “Despacito,” by claiming the summer crown for a song (largely) in another language, was clearly more of an event and cultural signifier. “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” was a big hit record, but never phenomenal.

If it were the song I’d heard most this summer altogether, it would be Zedd & Alessia Cara’s “Stay.” It was really a spring hit. It didn’t particularly have the right feel to me. But it was the unavoidable song of Memorial Day weekend, and took the entire summer to fall out of the top 10. Then again, with CHR’s current emphasis on recurrents, the lingering spring hit may end up being the biggest hit of every summer.

If it were the song that readers most scolded me for excluding, it would probably be Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road.” I never wrote about it as a Summer Song 2017 contender because of tempo, but those considerations have long gone out the window. Clearly, Hunt is phenomenal. Like Taylor Swift a decade ago, Country PDs torture over his role in the format. But he is Swift’s truest successor as the “I don’t usually like Country, but I love _____” artist. And there were still multiple votes for “Body” at summer’s end, when I took to Facebook to ask readers for their Summer Song 2017 choices.

If it were the record I enjoyed most on the radio this summer, it would be Calvin Harris’ “Feels.” As with much of Harris’ worthy output over the last year, “Feels” never quite reached the undeniable heights of its competition. But it still got several reader mentions. “If ‘Feels’ had come out a few weeks earlier, it would have won the summer,” wrote Jay Lawrence.

Timing also plays in to “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man. In June, industry vet Mark Gorlick, now part of the band’s management team, wrote in on their behalf. But “Feel” it was still a few weeks away from going to pop radio. And given the paucity of Alternative to CHR crossovers, the notion of that song as a pop hit (while exciting to consider) was still an abstraction.

But this week, “Feel It Still” is the fifth biggest gainer at CHR. At this moment, it certainly seems like a song that will still be heavily played on CHR when we start discussing next summer’s hits. And it is also the song that the largest number of Ross on Radio readers cite as their Song of Summer 2017, edging “Despacito” and Sam Hunt. Interestingly, much of its support comes from people whose day-to-day world is not focused (or focused entirely) around CHR radio — something worth considering as CHR’s primacy in the radio universe starts to falter again.

Then there’s my summer song choice. When I wrote about Kesha’s “Praying,” it really seemed to be in that place from which Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” had been launched skyward. The initial believers were moving it from 15 spins a week to 60 spins. The initially skeptical large-market CHRs were suddenly moving it into significant rotation. As the column hit, the medium-market growth continued, but the large markets held at a few spins a day, waiting for that first good week of callout. And over the next few weeks, the issue went from whether “Praying” would be a song for the ages to whether it would be a power.

At this writing, “Praying” is No. 12 at CHR. The medium-market stories continue. There are encouraging signs of growth in the large markets again, but whether it is ultimately a power or a Harry Styles “Sign of the Times”-type curio is still very much in play. There were derisive comments about my choice, but there were a lot of earnest “I don’t get it” responses as well. All of those comments, it is worth noting, were from men. And if any song tests the potential disconnect of our mostly male pop programmers and their female target audience, it will probably be this one.

Seeing the reaction to “Praying” among my female co-workers was, under any circumstances, my galvanizing music moment of the summer. That hasn’t changed, even as the song’s fortunes fluctuate. Galvanizing music moments are in short supply right now.

And if you haven’t reached out yet, what is your Song of Summer 2017?

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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. Every summer I ask @ 20 people what the song of summer is and get maybe 17 different answers. Even with “Despacito’s” chart dominance, same thing this summer. Here are 6 I thought jumped off the page.

    1. At one of my college’s welcome-back fairs last week, with DJ, I was reminded of the power of “Despacito.” Was also reminded when I showed a still from the video to my Mass Media class and heard a collective “Oh yeah.” (Last time that happened was a couple of summers ago with Silento’s “Watch Me.”)

    2. For me and a few others it was “Body Like a Back Road,” given its breezy, summer feel and sexual metaphors, which if they’re not in a summer hit, go back and try again. It’s with an asterisk because, like “Despacito,” for many fans of something other than top 40, it was more like a spring hit.

    3. For sheer pop perfection, it was “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” although I sense it won’t be the first song anyone thinks of from this summer even a year from now.

    4. What I predicted would be song of this summer showed up just under the wire, but it was still the summer’s biggest shared and discussed music event, that of course “Look What You Made Me Do,” so I imagine lots of folks will remember it that way, whether or not they like it. (Perhaps ironically, “…Ready For It” strikes me as the more powerful song and shoulda-been opening salvo for Taylor.)

    5. While “Praying” was a look-at-the-radio record, to me jury’s still out on whether it turns the corner and reaches everyone who should hear it. Ask my 18-year-old daughter her song of summer and she’ll surely tell you it’s Kesha’s “Woman,” an anthem end-to-end with the chorus that screams “hit.”

    6. Finally, there’s the ’20/20 hindsight’ song of summer, as in the one not obvious now but will sound like it years from now. Kind of like “Brown Eyed Girl” in the summer of ’67, which clawed its way to the top 10 but didn’t especially stand out at the time, unlike now when it seems like the de facto #1 song of the entire 1960s. For me this summer, that’s “Bodak Yellow,” which has already gotten the nod from everyone having downloaded, streamed and Shazam’d it, and which continues the growing disconnect between giant rap tracks and top 40. Not to mention Cardi’s VMA appearances drove it home that she’s for real.

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