Song of the Summer 2015

Holy jeepers, it's September?!? Clearly, I need to get myself into a doctor's waiting room soon, as it's the only scientifically-proven place where time stops. Well, since summer is coming to a speedy close, we should talk about the infectious music of the season. Last year, summer pop music was terrible. Or if not terrible, the best that can be said about it is that nothing really stood out for me.

This year is very different; there's plenty to choose from! That doesn't mean the process of selecting a Song of the Summer is easy, though. Not only are there the challenges of trying to decide between two songs that are equally compelling, but you have to take certain "rules" into consideration. For some people, the Song of the Summer is simply the song that gets the most radio play. It's the song that you'll hear at every backyard barbecue, and is emanating out of every car that you're stopped next to at a red light. For others, it's the one that most aptly catches the mood of the season, which means it's guaranteed to be a propulsive, energetic pop song.

I like to split the difference between these two camps. My personal Song of the Summer will certainly be up-tempo, even if it's not about a happy topic, lyrically. But by the same token, all my favorite songs combine the best parts of mass-market pop and thoughtful indie music. Tracks that can strike that delicate balance are guaranteed to make my list, and not only during the summer. All that said, I'm terrible at discovering new music. I rely on friend and journalist recommendations to basically curate most of what I listen to. The experts definitely came through this year, and gave me a wealth of nominees to sift through. Hell, Carly Rae Jepsen has an entire album's worth of quality summer music this year (E•MO•TION).

No matter what my opinion on the matter, the "official" Songs of the Summer will be a matter of public consensus, and the public has already pretty much settled on three, one of which I love, one I like but am bound to get sick of by winter, and one I don't like at all. The one I dislike is "Cheerleader" (OMI), so let's just get all the crap out of the way first. "Cheerleader" is actively annoying, both musically and lyrically. That's all we need: A combination of irritating reggae components and lyrics about a woman who serves no purpose but to fawn over the singer. And while we're talking about inexplicably popular songs, we have to mention "Bad Blood" (Taylor Swift), too. Does nobody else notice that she's singing the same five notes over and over? "Shake it Off" and "Blank Space" had some issues, but they're damned catchy. "Bad Blood" is just bland mush. At least Taylor Swift is worth mentioning, unlike anything that comes from 5 Seconds of Summer, a band whose very name is a perfect encapsulation of how disposable they are.

OK, now that the detritus is dealt with, let's get to some songs that are way more enjoyable, but lack that certain something to be my Song of the Summer. A few songs would get solid recommends from me, but aren't quite "poppy" enough to win:

"Better in the Morning" (Little Boots)
"Entropy" (Grimes, Bleacher)
"My Type" (Saint Motel)
"Ex's & Oh's" (Elle King)

Some are plenty up-tempo enough, and even though I love them, they don't have the wide appeal necessary for a Song of the Summer:

"Diamonds" (Giorgio Moroder, Charli XCX)
"Bombastic" (Bonnie McKee)
"On the Regular" (Shamir)
"Déjà Vu" (Giorgio Moroder, Sia)

That brings us down to the final six, any of which would be worthy winner. Of those six, three are what I'd call "consensus" songs, which are the popular ones you've been hearing everywhere. The other three are "personal" songs, which appeal to me directly, but haven't caught on in the public eye. All of them are great, but it's time to do some whittling, so I'll reluctantly drop two from each category:

Consensus Songs:
"Shut up and Dance" (WALK THE MOON) - This is the one I mentioned above as really liking, but I can tell that I'll be over it by December.
"Can't Feel My Face" (The Weeknd) - Similar situation here. Happy to hear it whenever it pops up (which is often), but doesn't have longevity.

Personal Songs:
"Yoga" (Janelle Monáe and Jidenna) - Goddamn, do I love Janelle Monáe. You should see the embarrassing moves this song brings out in me as I'm driving down the street.
"New Obsession" (Frankie) - It may be a silly little song about a girl wanting a quick fling with the local stud, but the beat has effortlessly infected my brain. This one is the current go-to song for belting in the shower.

That brings it down to the final two to battle it out for supremacy. Ultimately, first runner up must go to the Personal Song, though it'll definitely be in the running for the Best of 2015. My friend Kyle pointed this one out to me; I'd never have run across it otherwise. I just can't get "King" (Years & Years) out of my head:

It's a jam, right? However, there's only one song that has all the necessary attributes of a Song of the Summer winner. It's got a beat. Its lyrics aren't stupid or insulting. I won't be sick of it in a month. It's popular with the general public, but has that air of indie credibility. Ladies and gentleman, the 2015 Song of the Summer is... "Lean On" (Major Lazer and DJ Snake, featuring MØ). Kick it!


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