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Party Rock Is In The House Again: Summer Song Week 3

It was weird to look out over the field of Summer Song 2017 contenders and realize that there was no party song.

Once the Song of Summer became a phenomenon, part of the calculation in the battle for Summer Song became building in usage. “Party Rock Anthem” had a clear mission statement. “I Gotta Feeling,” by pitching weddings, parties, and bar/bat mitzvahs, guaranteed itself an audience beyond the radio. And reaching people beyond the usual footprint of CHR is part the shared experience that helps a song become the song of summer.

Summer songs didn’t have to be about partying like there was no tomorrow—see “Call Me Maybe,” “Blurred Lines,” “Cheerleader.” EDM took on new seriousness of purpose; the Chainsmokers, for all their alleged frat-bro vapidity, were never frivolous again after “Selfie.” It took Justin Timberlake, trying to front-load last year’s race with a guaranteed crowd-pleaser to once again exhort listeners to “dance, dance, dance.”

It’s amazing that we made it a month into summer with no party song. And it wasn’t until I heard one that I knew what was missing. But I’ve now identified a party rock anthem for 2017. And rather than write further about it, I am just going to direct your attention to “Instruction” by Jax Jones f/Demi Lovato & Stefflon Don.  

Even without “Instruction,” which has just burst on to U.K. radio (where Jones’ “You Don’t Know Me” was also a smash), I started feeling better about the Summer Song field this week. WSTR (Star 94.1) Atlanta PD Tony Lorino sent me an e-mail tagging “Feels” by Calvin Harris, featuring Pharrell, Katy Perry, and Big Sean as his Song of Summer prediction within minutes of its release.

“Feels” as Lorino notes, has the throwback jam playfulness of “Blurred Lines”: “not quite as nasty, but still a little sexy.” It’s also the best distillation so far of Harris’ recent excursions into a more R&B sound. Pop radio’s incursion of EDM superstar DJs had at least a little to do with the near-disappearance of R&B from Top 40 for a while. Now Harris is working with Future, Khaled, etc., and his competition this week is DJ Khaled, Rihanna, and Bryson Tiller with “Wild Thoughts.”

As for the battle between the existing front-runners, it certainly seemed like “Despacito” had pulled ahead of “I’m The One.” I’m giving “Despacito” the week, but I’m not declaring that battle over. The two are still No. 2 and 3 on the Mainstream Top 40 charts, although “Despacito” has the bigger airplay gain. And part of what made “Can’t Stop the Feeling” so potent last summer is that even though it seemed to peak early, it somehow endured all summer.

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”

I’m enjoying your comments on Song of the Summer. Please keep them coming.

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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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