Sometimes, declaring the “song of the summer” for any given year is a fairly easy call. See last summer, when “Despacito” lapped the field, and deservedly so. The song is slickly produced, catchy as hell and, simply put, sounds like summer.
As for 2018, it wasn’t quite that simple, mostly because no single track emerged from the field. This certainly made for good summer playlists, but it didn’t exactly make for an easy call with regard to which song ruled summer 2018.
Alas, the eight tracks below certainly had their say, so let’s take a look at the songs that vied for the title of 2018’s song of the summer.
CHILDISH GAMBINO, ‘THIS IS AMERICA’
There was a point in time when the man who sometimes goes by Donald Glover had the inside track on “song of the summer” status. And while it ruled the charts for a few weeks, "This is America" didn’t quite have the staying power some originally thought it might. That said, the song is tight and politically conscious, and the video equally so. This is the song that cemented Childish Gambino as a legitimate mainstream star.
CARDI B FEAT. BAD BUNNY AND J BALVIN, ‘I LIKE IT’
This one checks a lot of boxes. For one, it was released just before Memorial Day, aka the unofficial start of summer. Secondly, pretty much everything Cardi B touches turns to gold. Most importantly, this song – a fresh blend of trap and salsa music – sounds like summer, and that goes a long way.
DRAKE, ‘GOD’S PLAN’
“God’s Plan” was released in early 2018 as the lead single to Drake’s new mega-album, Scorpion. Unsurprisingly, it debuted atop every chart in which it was eligible, yet another notch in the belt of hits that Drake has worn for the past decade. So successful was the song that that it remained in the Billboard Top 20 singles chart for seven months upon its release. Speaking of Drake…
DRAKE, ‘IN MY FEELINGS’
“In My Feelings,” which debuted last month, was a little late to the “song of the summer” party. Released in July, it did manage to break the single-day streaming record the day it was released, quickly rocketing to the top of the Billboard Singles chart while inspiring the “In My Feelings” Challenge, a challenge in which even the Astros partook. Drake ruled the summer with Scorpion, and this is the song that helped make it so. Except…
DRAKE, ‘NICE FOR WHAT’
Well, “Nice for What” preceded “In My Feelings” by three months and ruled the charts equally so. It’s not easy to break records when you’ve had Drake’s career, but nonetheless, he managed to do so with this single, which marked the first time an artist in the U.S. had their new single (“Nice for What”) replace their previous single (“God’s Plan”) atop the Billboard charts. “Nice for What” definitely has that summer sound; it’s bouncy and up-tempo. You could enjoy it by the pool or at the beach, but you could also turn it up at the club and fit right in. That’s what a summer song is all about.
ARIANA GRANDE, ‘NO TEARS LEFT TO CRY’
This is how you work through heartbreak. Grande had just played a show in Manchester, U.K. in May 2017, when a terrorist bombing killed more than 20 people and injured nearly 150 more. Grande was understandably heartbroken following the tragedy, and put music to the side in favor of time with friends and family. When she returned to the studio, she and her production team put together “No Tears Left to Cry,” a song about resilience and the power of positive energy. Coupled with an up-tempo, almost joyful beat, the song manages to walk a fine line between tragedy and positivity. This is how pop music perfection is done.
POST MALONE FEAT. TY DOLLA $IGN, ‘PSYCHO’
Give Post credit – the dude makes hits, and “Psycho” was no exception. While released in late February, the song – in typical Post Malone fashion – was more than popular enough to withstand the summer charts rush, and it’s smooth, syrupy delivery definitely fits with a nice, boozy summer day by the water.
MAROON 5 FEAT. CARDI B, ‘GIRLS LIKE YOU’
This is a textbook case of a music video and a star-driven guest appearance elevating an otherwise average song. “Girls Like You” is perfectly fine as Maroon 5 songs go, but adding Cardi B to the mix both gave it some added energy and relevance. And the female-empowering video, which features the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Danica Patrick, and Gal Gadot is a masterclass in how a no-frills approach can sometimes send the greatest message.