The Race Is On for "Song of the Summer"

Justin Bieber is gonna absolutely own the summer of '17.
Justin Bieber is gonna absolutely own the summer of '17.
Photo by Marco Torres

Contrary to popular belief, “song of the summer” isn’t some unofficial title. In fact, Billboard has charted that very title in recent years with its annual Songs of the Summer chart.

This makes sense, in a way. Summer is a time for vacations, nights at the ballpark, beach-going, weekends at the lake – basically, events that all revolve around making memories that last a lifetime. And what better triggers a memory than that special song? Yes, anytime Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie” hits the radio, I’m reminded of my awful bleached-blond haircut and red Yankees cap from the summer of 1999, and while this is certainly an embarrassing memory, it’s also a fond one in its own way.

So, yeah, the “song of the summer” is an actual thing, both officially and in our hearts, minds and memories. Last summer was the summer of Drake, as his “One Dance” ruled the summer charts; oddly enough, the Drake song that didn’t own the summer was “Summer Sixteen,” mostly because it was released in January. Going back even further, summers past have been owned by the likes of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” (2014); Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg teaming up for “California Gurls” in 2010; and Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell absolutely owning summer 2013 with “Blurred Lines.” Don’t pretend in hindsight that you didn’t jam “Blurred Lines” — everyone jammed “Blurred Lines.”

Summer 2017 doesn’t officially begin for another couple of weeks, but let’s be real: It began the moment school let out for the summer. Hell, Free Press Summer Fest already endured its annual downpour — around here, that’s the epitome of a summer tradition!

So the race is on for the title of “Song of the Summer” once again. Justin Bieber is all over it. Bruno Mars is in there. Drake, surprisingly, is not; ‘Passionfruit’ seems to have hit its peak. Kendrick Lamar may very well own the thing, same for Future. It’s anyone’s game. But how does the competition stack up?

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LUIS FONSI & DADDY YANKEE Feat.. JUSTIN BIEBER
"Despacito"
Pros: The song has a lot going for it in the race for our crown. For starters, it’s unique, in that most of the lyrics are in Spanish. Second, while each man is an absolute legend in his native Puerto Rico, neither Fonsi nor Daddy Yankee is exactly a household name in the U.S., which certainly adds to the curiosity factor. However, they offset that by teaming up with one of the biggest pop stars in the game today. Regardless your opinion of him, Bieber has been on an absolute tear since kinda-sorta getting his life together, and the hits keep coming.

Cons: The song has already experienced a bit of backlash, both because Bieber keeps butchering the lyrics (almost offensively so) and because some were turned off once they deciphered the lyrics and realized the whole song is about slow and sensual lovemaking.

Odds: It’s topped pretty much every chart known to mankind, it’s catchy as hell and it really sounds like a song that was meant to own the summer. Plus, it’s got about as much crossover appeal as a pop song possibly can. To make a sports analogy, “Despacito” is the Golden State Warriors of the 2017 “song of the summer” race.

DJ KHALED Feat. JUSTIN BIEBER, QUAVO, CHANCE THE RAPPER & LIL WAYNE
"I’m the One"
Pros: This single lacks for not a damn thing as hits go. It’s got Bieber on the hook, the flavor of the month in Migos’ Quavo, not to mention a hip-hop legend (Weezy) and one of the hottest wordsmiths in the game today (Chance). Plus, it’s got that lovable DJ Khaled running the show. It’s light, upbeat and kinda has that whole “day at the beach” vibe to it.

Cons: It almost feels like listeners had to take a side in the great Bieber debate of summer 2017, and in doing so, opted for “Despacito” over “I’m the One.”

Odds: “I’m the One” marked the first time a hip-hop song debuted atop the Billboard charts since Eminem’s “Not Afraid” in 2010. That’s pretty exclusive company, and if it picks up steam as the summer rolls on, “I’m the One” just may challenge “Despacito” for the crown.

KENDRICK LAMAR
"Humble"/"Loyalty"
Pros: Whether Kendrick wins the “song of the summer” race is fairly inconsequential. He released one of the best albums of 2017 (DAMN), somehow managing to outdo his previous efforts in the process. “Humble” has slipped a bit on the singles charts, but if Kendrick really wants to bring this thing home, he should release “Loyalty” – which features Rihanna – as soon as possible. Rihanna is gold on the charts, and “Loyalty” is arguably the best track from arguably the best album of the year to this point.

Cons: None. This should be the summer of Kendrick.

Odds: “Humble” has been showcased as the official song of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, but those are about to wrap up, so now is the time to drop “Loyalty.” Doing so may give the latter the momentum necessary to overtake Bieber in his quest to own all things Summer 2017.

BRUNO MARS
"That's What I Like"
Pros: Bruno Mars is no stranger to hit singles; “That’s What I Like” marks his fifth No. 1 in the U.S. And as a summer song, the hit checks all the boxes. Short and catchy. Lyrics that basically serve as an all-expenses-paid trip around the globe during a season most known for jet-setting and vacationing. Mars showcasing that voice of his. It’s all there.

Cons: The song is a damn fine pop single and a bona fide hit. However, if “Despacito” is the Golden State Warriors of the summer charts, “That’s What I Like” is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Any other year might be your year, were it not for the unstoppable force that sits atop the kingdom.

Odds: Not nearly as good as they would be in any other year.


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