So, you might be asking yourself why you’re reading about Songs of the Summer now that we’re ankle deep in college football season and drowning in Pumpkin Spice Everything (I’m more a fan of the Caramel Apple Spice, but that’s neither here not there). A year or two ago, Billboard switched their Songs of the Summer chart from being one final chart for the whole summer to a chart that updated every week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I kept an eye on this damn thing for the last month for some sort of final list, but they finally stopped updating it this month without doing one final summer list for me to cover. I’m late enough already, so I took the confirmed top five, and fiddled with Billboard’s math to rig an approximate top ten. It’s not the Official Billboard Songs of the Summer, but it’s pretty damn close. Also, their list is now twenty songs, which is like, entirely too much work. Anyway, here we are.
10. Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MO – “Lean On”
“Lean On” is one of the better distillations of Diplo’s “world EDM”, and probably my favorite EDM crossover hit of the summer. That production is slick as hell–it even manages to make DJ Snake’s signature wheup wheups sound light on their feet–and MØ’s cooler than thou vocals give the song a color to stand out on the radio. Apparently Rihanna turned down the song, and I get why: you can practically hear her on it, but it’s also the sort of thing she seems bored with, if her new stuff is any indication. I’m glad someone picked it up, though.
9. Skrillex & Diplo With Justin Bieber – “Where Are U Now?”
Man, two music villains and the dude who has the sins of dubstep laid at his feet. This song shouldn’t have had a chance. And yet, it works more or less because everyone involved is a goddamn professional. Skrillex and Diplo’s beat has a nice build to it with one hell of a payoff in that post chorus that thumps in like six different ways, and doing a feature like this was a nice soft opening for the inevitable Biebaissance. Bieber’s vocals are best when they’re pitched beyond belief; he’s just a little too mewling here for my liking–but this is still better than it had the right to be.
8. David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha, and Afrojack – “Hey Mama”
Oh my God, the bottom third of this list has enough people for its own fantasy league. Anyway, the beat’s a standard D.Guetta speaker destroyer that feels claustrophobic, but with a few Caribbean tones thrown in. Nicki’s at that level where she can show up in mercenary hitmaker mode, add a touch of her own Trinidadian roots (and a solid verse), and redeem what would otherwise by complete filler. I didn’t think I’d look at a David Guetta song in 2015, but here you go.
7. Walk the Moon – “Shut Up and Dance”
I’m conflicted about these dudes. On one hand, I’m happy to see anyone from Cincinnati blow up, but on the other hand, they feel made up of the least interesting parts of The Killers. That Edge-biting guitar riff, the manic dance beat, corny lyrics, unabashed delivery, and the shamelessly 80s revivalism? All Killers standbys! This song is Walk the Moon’s chase the radio moment, and while it’s basic as shit, that “Whoo-hoo-hoo!” on the chorus is one hell of a hook. Sometimes a song doesn’t make you just shut up and dance, but smile like you mean it.
6. Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”
It’s been so much damn fun to watch the critical consensus on Fetty Wap shift as this year’s gone on. With its gleefully amateur, well, everything, “Trap Queen” is one of those songs that kind of nags you when you first hear it. And then everyone realize the beat hits kind of hard while still being catchy, the whole concept is kind of crazy awesome, Fetty Wap launches himself into the song, and he did it two more times, and Fetty Wap became one of the year’s bigger success stories. “Trap Queen” still isn’t as much fun for me as “My Way”, but putting this many hits up at once has rightly put Fetty Wap in pop rap’s center. Couldn’t have happened to a more beautiful cinnamon roll.
5. Silento – “Watch Me”
In my younger and more vulnerable years, I worked as a summer camp counselor, which meant tons of exposure to whatever that year’s dance craze was, along with whichever teen stars were big at the time (it’s entirely possible this is why I’m still weary of Bieber). I mention this because I am positive that, if I still worked there, I would have heard “Watch Me” at least four times a week, and hate it. As it stands, I have only heard “Watch Me” in full recently. And hate it.
4. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
Earlier this week, I surmised that Max Martin in 2014 wasn’t Quincy Jones in 1982. Max Martin in 2015 is still not Quincy Jones in 1982, but damn is he close. No small part of that is Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, who officially overtakes Bruno Mars for Most Baldfaced Michael Jackson Impression for “Can’t Feel My Face”. The intro still feels a little disjointed from the rest of the song, but once that first chorus (and that bassline, dear God that bassline) kicks in, “Can’t Feel My Face” becomes downright addictive. Is a G-rated banger written in collaboration with the mainstream pop producer a sell out move? Absolutely. Do I care? Not at all, and neither should you.
3. Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood” [remix]
This remix only kind of works–the beat feels a little slapdashed and like someone’s idea of a remix instead of an actual one–but can we appreciate how hilariously out of place Kendrick Lamar sounds here? Kendrick on mainstream pop remixes will never not be funny to me because he sounds good, but so out of his lane. He’s such a wordy rapper, and even though he gets in a nice Deez Nuts joke and “Backseat Freestyle” reference, he also namechecks the Iraqi Civil War and West Coast gansta rap on a goddamn Taylor Swift song. His airy delivery goes a long way, but still: Swift’s rhyming “problems” with “solve’em” while he’s playing tongue twisters with the letter “b” and stringing “need ya”, “procedure” and “amnesia” together. You’re working too hard.
2. Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
Man, this list almost made it without a brick (you could count “Watch Me”, but it’s more meme than song), then it drops a big one. This is one of those songs that clearly wants to feel deep and important but comes off maudlin and trite. The beat sounds like it was thrown together for someone’s high school graduation slideshow, asking Wiz Khalifa for emotional insight in the face of loss is akin to nurturing a plant with bong water, and Charlie Puth just an exceedingly poor version of Sam Smith. It’s blatant emotional profiteering at Paul Walker’s death; I feel like a chump just for listening to it.
1. OMI – “Cheerleader” [Felix Jaehn Remix]
Normally, this is where I’d say congrats to OMI for winning the annual Song of the Summer fight, but I’m starting to think the position’s cursed. LMFAO from 2011’s Party Rock came down hard the next year, and have been regulated to club hell since launching solo work. 2012’s winner Carly Rae Jepsen is trying so hard for a career that the blogosphere can’t will into existence no matter how hard they try. And then you have 2013 and 2014’s winners. Robin Thicke paid for “Blurred Lines” basically with his life, while last year’s breakout star Iggy Azalea’s career came crashing down so hard she had to cancel her tour. So congratulations OMI, but be careful, dude. Hope this thing comes after Felix Jaehn; he’s the one who got you here in the first place.