Ten years ago, Rihanna and Jay Z’s “Umbrella” was the undisputed song of the summer. While the category is often a fickle one, “Umbrella” is one of the few Songs of the Summer that truly stands the test of time—and Rihanna’s current status as one of the world’s biggest pop stars a decade later should be testament to the breakthrough song of her career.
Not all Songs of the Summer are fleeting one-hit-wonders whose only future is to appear at No. 7 on Buzzfeed’s “35 Songs You Totally Forgot About, But Were Everything.” For every “Party Rock Anthem” there’s a “Rolling in the Deep.” For every “Bring Me to Life” there’s a “Crazy in Love.”
The Song of the Summer can also be the song of the year, and right now, going into summer, we have the chance to make that happen. These are the hits that deserve to be the 2017 Song of the Summer.
Lana Del Rey feat. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti – “Summer Bummer”
What’s summer without Lana Del Rey there to cool you down and A$AP Rocky with yet another guest verse? “Summer Bummer” does almost exactly what its title suggests. Here’s a song that makes summer flings seem sinister in a way that only Lana Del Rey can pull off. “Blood red sangria / we travel for weeks just to escape your demons,” turns brunches and vacations into more of a sultry nightmare.
SZA – “Drew Barrymore”
SZA opens this track with a valid question: “Why’s it so hard to accept that the party is over?” It’s one of those existential questions that can only be answered via hungover self-searching and episodes of Narcos, as SZA explains over a cozy beat by The Antydote and Carter Lang. It will most definitely be warm enough for you.
Dua Lipa feat. Miguel – “Lost in Your Light”
The only way to raise the temperature on a track as hot as Dua Lipa’s “Lost in Your Light” is to add a dash of Miguel. What starts out as an ’80s club ballad grows into a soaring duet between the two and never gives its breathless forward motion.
Tyler, The Creator – “See You Again”
Known for more horrorcore-leaning rap, Tyler takes a few sweet turns on his latest album Flower Boy. One of them is on “See You Again,” which includes the succulent hook from Kali Uchis. He also is surprisingly romantic on the track, musing, “I wonder if you look both ways when you’re running through my mind.” How’d you get so cute, Tyler?
Lil Yachty – “Forever Young”
Just to warn you, Lil Yachty is on here at least twice. I have no problem with that, as the guy’s name is Lil Yachty, which in and of itself is summer af. That, plus Diplo’s beach party club beat, makes this the perfect song to make warm days last forever. This’ll be the song that college seniors play on their final night together or that summer flings play while hooking up for the last time. Carpe diem or whatever.
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cut to the Feeling”
Like some sort of rom-com that removes all the bullshit and just gets to the sappy parts, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” wastes absolutely no time getting to the chorus. It arrives pretty abruptly 30 seconds into the song. And that’s totally fine, because it’s another Jepsen hook that’s like pop-music heroin, made from every known addictive ingredient with the intention to be mainlined directly into your skull.
Drake – “Passionfruit”
Drake is at his best when he’s fully embracing his Drakeness. A beat like a Nintendo 64 game became a oceanside club, Drake sings about a passion uninhibited by the bounds of physical distance in a voice so melancholy and devoid of affectation that you have to believe he means it.
Lorde – “Green Light”
Lorde seems like the only millennial qualified to sing about the modern teenager. Sure, her formative years were hardly normal, but she seems to have a removed objectivity about her peers that makes her an authority. That, and she avoids cliches both musically and thematically, crafting pop music that’s neither obnoxiously bubbly nor overtly somber. Instead she exists in a fascinating middle ground.
Selena Gomez – “Bad Liar”
Really the only opinion that matters here is David Byrne’s. On “Bad Liar,” Gomez effortlessly samples Tina Weymouth’s bass line from Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” And David Byrne gave his stamp of approval, saying, “I really like the song…and her performance too.”
Kyle feat. Lil Yachty – “iSpy”
Look, this song is dumb, but Lil Yachty is the personification of your mind after four hours of day drinking in the sun.
Calvin Harris – “Slide”
Assuming Migos don’t oversaturate themselves by July, the viral hip-hop group’s collaboration with Calvin Harris and Frank Ocean has what’s perhaps the greatest formula in 2017 pop music.
Chromatics – “Shadow”
Sure, Twin Peaks fans aren’t the target consumers for the Song of the Summer, but having appeared in the new season of the cult hit, this might be the breakthrough moment Chromatics were created for.
Kendrick Lamar feat. Rihanna – “Loyalty”
Though Kendrick Lamar’s music is more worthy of academic analysis than as background music for a barbecue, “Loyalty,” thanks to a banging chorus from Rihanna, will have everyone geeked and fired up this summer.
HAIM – “Want You Back”
You’re better served spending these sunny days looking for a summer fling rather than regretting a breakup. But sometimes that’s unavoidable. If you’re going to do it anyway, Haim’s “Want You Back” is probably the most fun way to do so.
Gorillaz feat. Popcaan – “Saturnz Barz”
This’ll be Popcaan’s third year in a row with a Song of the Summer. There was Jamie XX’s 2015 party anthem “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” followed by Drake’s “Controlla” in 2016. His dancehall style has become one of the most coveted sounds in pop music. This is why.
Harry Styles – “Meet Me in the Hallway”
There’s always room for at least one ballad to become a Song of the Summer. And this year, the best contender is for Harry Styles’ breezy album opener “Meet Me in the Hallway.” With nostalgic Pink Floyd vibes and a wistful slide guitar solo, it’s a beautiful companion for a warm sunset.