Summer Song 2015: The Party Starts Now

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I first got asked to predict the Summer Song of 2015 in late February. The person asking me was probably just making polite conversation, but when I said that it was too soon — we’d been through three presumptive leaders by last Memorial Day — I could tell I wasn’t keeping up my end of the bargain. It was like a talk-show guest deviating from what they said during the pre-interview. Where do you leave the host to go when that happens? Jimmy Fallon recently introduced LunchMoney Lewis by saying that his “Bills” was “already on the short list for song of the summer.” But that prediction might be off on several counts. For one, who wants a summer song about working, however lighthearted? Also, “Bills,” despite a fast start and big-name call letters, is losing spins at CHR. Most significant, it’s not a short list. Whatever my reticence two months ago, it’s never been easier to see so many troops massing up in late April.

One reason is EDM. With dance music now well-established as a core sound of so many mainstream top 40 stations, there are already more than a half-dozen superstar DJs/producers working their way up the charts, starting just outside the top 10, although one fast-rising song, Zedd & Selena Gomez’s “I Want You to Know” is already losing spins at No. 12, at least at this writing. But the field also includes:

No. 18 at this writing – David Guetta f/Nicki Minaj, “Hey Mama

22 – DJ Snake & AlnumaGeorge, “You Know You Like It

36 – Skrillex & Diplo f/Justin Bieber, “Where Are U Now

41 – Martin Garrix f/Usher, “Don’t Look Down

43 – Calvin Harris f/Haim, “Pray to God

44 – Alesso f/Roy English, “Cool

49 – Dillon Francis & DJ Snake, “Get Low

67 – Major Lazer & DJ Snake, “Lean On

69 – Galantis, “Runaway (U & I)

77 – Steve Aoki & Moxie, “I Love It When You Cry

It’s no longer a new observation that the Summer Song competition is America’s equivalent of the British race for the holiday No. 1 — the moment when everybody cares what the big song is. But with so

many dance records in position, it’s also reminiscent of the annual UK race for the Summer Dance Anthem, when the song most heard at Ibiza in August becomes a September radio hit.

Meanwhile, the rise of EDM seemed to have sent singer-driven rhythmic pop into hiding for a while, but that genre’s biggest artists are getting into position as well, mostly with their own “party like there’s no tomorrow” anthems:

50 – Pitbull f/Chris Brown, “Fun

54 – Ne-Yo, “Coming With You

60 – Jeremih f/Flo Rida, “Tonight Belongs to U

69 – Nicki Minaj, “The Night Is Still Young

83 – Flo Rida f/Robin Thicke & Verdine White, “I Don’t Like It, I Love It

There are also multiple reggae choices this year, thanks to Shaggy’s “I Need Your Love” and the reworking of the classic “Bum Bum” by Kat Deluna, but I am willing to offer early Song of Summer frontrunner status to the remix of Omi’s “Cheerleader,” which has the double summer advantage of being both reggae and EDM. “Cheerleader” was already spreading around the world in February; I probably could have cited it as a contender then. Like “Rude” by Magic!, last summer, its American release was probably timed for maximum summer impact. The retro-flavored “King” by Years and Years is another uptempo international hit with strong early signs here. If it doesn’t take “Summer Song of 2015,” it can probably content itself with being “Summer Song of 1987.”

It was about this time last year that I attempted to call radio’s attention to the handful of worthy summer-song contenders perched on the alternative chart. Saint Motel’s “My Type” and the Borns’ “Electric Love” both could have been summer hits of previous decades as well. But with Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” having taken months to be recognized as a pop record, who knows when or if those songs will get to pop. Interesting, however, that with an iTunes top 5 composed of Wiz Khalifa, Walk the Moon, Fetty Wap, Little Big Town, and Jason Derulo, only the latter is the sort of mainstream rhythmic pop that always finds a home at CHR.

I’m not sure what to predict for Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” by summer. After a few sluggish months, some of the same sort of things are starting to happen for it as “Call Me Maybe”: better call letters, more viral activity. What’s missing so far is a proven hit record. Justin Bieber discovered “Maybe” as an already phenomenal record in Canada. That said, I always root for Jepsen, and if she has a second legitimate U.S. hit of any magnitude, she will emerge from summer triumphant.

Finally, the battle for Country Song of Summer is gearing up as well, complicated by the knowledge that even a well-received song released now might not have peaked by Labor Day at the slower-moving format. But it’s easy to see the intent of Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” (more for its title than content), Zac Brown Band’s “Loving You Easy,” Thompson Square’s “Trans Am,” Cole Swindell’s “Let Me See You Girl,” and Sam Hunt’s “House Party” as well.

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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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