For an editorial Drake University’s Times-Delphic newspaper last summer, I was asked to give my best guess as to what would be (or was, at the time) 2015’s song of the summer. Last year was tough — there weren’t many songs that stood out as either 1) great or 2) ubiquitous, which are usually the defining characteristics of a song of the summer. In any case, it ended up being a horse race between OMI’s “Cheerleader” remix and Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen”, both of which were songs that I outlined as possibilities in last year’s song of the summer post.
In my analysis of past songs of the summer, I was able to determine a few qualities that give a song a leg up in being the song of the summer. It’s almost always danceable (“Call Me Maybe”, “Blurred Lines”) and there’s usually something about the song that separates it from traditional top 40 pop. For example, “Trap Queen” was one of the very first trap-influenced songs to make it near the top of the charts, and America’s infatuation with hip hop culture allowed it to contend for song of the summer. This year, I’ve identified a few songs that have those qualities, and I’m rating the likeliness for ubiquity this summer below. I’ve also added some of my personal favorites that’ll be blasting out of my car for all of summer 2016. Enjoy!
Justin Timberlake | “Can’t Stop The Feeling”
I’ve said that this song is better than it needs to be without being good. It’s about as safe as you can get with a pop song in 2016 without being completely boring. Still, we have an immensely recognizable voice and personality in Timberlake, an upbeat, likable chorus, and a movie tie-in (Trolls) that will keep this song chugging along until the its release, which isn’t until November!
Likelihood: 8/10. On paper, this should be the song of the summer, but American top 40 radio has a way of getting surprising songs to #1 — especially in the summer months.
Drake | “One Dance” (feat. Kyla & Wizkid)
This song is already ubiquitous, so it’s got a bit of a head start on the competition. For some reason, the United States loves their Canadian dancehall music, so Drake’s got that in his favor as well. My only concern is that it’s not quite as transcendent or poppy as most of the music that gets the song of the summer, but Kyla’s quirky vocal line gives this song enough variety to last.
Likelihood: 7/10. Drake just missed this title last year with the late-blooming “Hotline Bling”, and “One Dance” might be his best chance yet.
Desiigner | “Panda”
Hell yeah. This is what I’m talking about. Just about all of America, from hip hop heads to radio listeners, agrees that “Panda” bangs harder than any other song from 2016. Its slow burn to the top means that it’s far from being done. It’s supremely danceable, hilariously quotable, and opportunities for dabbing are frequent. If I had it my way, “Panda” would be 2016’s song of the summer.
Likelihood: 4/10. It’s too vulgar. Your average white soccer mom with her tween children aren’t going to want to listen to the obscene ramblings of a teenage black kid.
Fifth Harmony | “Work From Home” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
“Work From Home” is already perhaps Fifth Harmony’s best song (rivaled only by “BO$$”). So it’s no wonder that with that soaring chorus and great feature from Ty Dolla $ign, it’d be a contender. It checks all the boxes: danceable, has a feature from a black dude, has production from a Dr. Luke disciple. This will be all over the radio this summer.
Likelihood: 6/10. It may have peaked too early, and doesn’t seem to have the lasting power to maintain its stranglehold on pop radio.
Calvin Harris | “This Is What You Came For” (feat. Rihanna)
Finally, Calvin Harris developed some class in his production. The EDM bombast of his previous work was a little bit too much for me, but “This Is What You Came For” fits snugly into the tropical house paradigm that the modern pop landscape finds itself in. It’s got a great driving house beat and some synthesized bells that could be mistaken for the summer sounds of a marimba.
Likelihood: 8/10. It’s a pretty good song, and we’ve already seen the Rihanna/Calvin Harris duo dominate the charts with “We Found Love”. It’s also peaking at the right time.
Joey Purp | “Girls @” (feat. Chance The Rapper)
One of the most underrated summer songs of the 2000s is Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. It’s got an endlessly repeatable hook, but the real highlight is the Neptunes’ production. Spacious and punchy, it’s ideal for vibing out next to the pool or in the car.
“Girls @”, from Chicago rapper Joey Purp, evokes that feeling better than any song in recent memory. A simple question (Where all the girls at?) is turned into a killer track with a fantastic guest verse from Chance The Rapper, who manages to rhyme Ta-Nehisi Coates with “SpottieOttieDope” and make it all sound natural.
Hundred Waters | “Show Me Love” [Skrillex Remix] (feat. Chance The Rapper)
The feeling that “Show Me Love” evokes isn’t euphoric fun. It’s the rush of endorphins you feel when you realize just how great of a time you’re having with friends and family. The song promotes one simple idea: spread love, and in return, you will receive. It’s an absolute melting pot of collaborators (Hundred Waters, EDM-whiz Skrillex, gospel singer Moses Sumney, Robin Hannibal of bedroom-pop duo Rhye, and Chance The motherfucking Rapper) that all come together to sound like they’re enjoying live as much as is humanly possible.
Chance The Rapper | “No Problem” (feat. 2Chainz & Lil Wayne)
Yep, three Chance The Rapper songs. But that’s just how good he is at bringing out happiness from within. This song’s quotable chorus (“You don’t want no problems with me!”) is only matched by the great verses from best pals 2Chainz and Lil Wayne.
Pinegrove | “Old Friends”
As summer winds down, I imagine that I’ll be listening to this song more and more. It’s a great reflection on time with people; regretful hindsight mixed with satisfied memories. Maybe I’ll look back on the summer of 2016 and wish that I had asked friends out more, or done something a little bit different. If that happens, this is the song I’ll remember.
YG | “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” (feat. Nipsey Hussle)
It’s YG. And the hook is literally “Fuck Donald Trump.” That’s about all you need to know.