A Look at the Race for the Song of the Summer 2015

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The search for the Song of the Summer (SOTS) is not the same as it used to be. With the oversaturation of modern media, more publications are trying to find a winner. And with an increasing variety of ways music buys and plays are tracked, it’s more and more difficult to pick one clear frontrunner.

It wasn’t always this way. In years past, the SOTS have been easy to declare. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” (2012), Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (2013) and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” (2014) all were clear summer anthems—catchy and bursting with energy.

Looking to win the trophy this year, more artists were consciously trying to craft a SOTS. (Listen: Jason Derulo’s “Want To Want Me,” Demi Lovato’s “Cool For The Summer.”) But nobody likes a try-hard, and it’s best when a song feels genuinely fun and original. Billboard has run a “Song of the Summer” ranking since the week of June 13. The songs are chosen and ranked by combining radio airplay, sales data and streaming data from Nielsen Music. Here are the top 5 songs from the beginning of the summer and the end of August:

WEEK OF JUNE 20:
1. “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
2. “Bad Blood” – Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
3. “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap
4. “Shut Up and Dance” – WALK THE MOON
5. “Want to Want Me” – Jason Derulo

WEEK OF AUGUST 22:
1. “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
2. “Bad Blood” – Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
3. “Cheerleader” – OMI
4. “Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap
5. “Watch Me” – Silento

Wiz Khalifa, Taylor Swift and Fetty Wap remained in the top 5 for all the weeks in between, but “See You Again” feels too moody for the hot weather, and “Bad Blood” seems a bit like a cheap trick with the rap feature, star-studded music video and easy-to-remember but lame lyrics. Only “Trap Queen” comes out as a song made with the right intentions: go crazy, be loud and sing out of tune.

These Billboard rankings do leave some critical contenders out of the picture, though, including The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” which has been near or at the top of the magazine’s Hot 100 charts for several weeks.

Spotify made a playlist of their 25 SOTS picks, created by using its viral charts and filtering for a curated “feel-good impact.” There is more variety in this list, including “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” by Jamie xx featuring Young Thug & Popcaan, and “Lean On” by Major Lazer featuring MØ and DJ Snake. Both of these songs mix elements of tropical music, trap and pop—components that are relevant to where the public’s popular tastes seem to be headed.

So what did we learn from this year’s race? First, there are many artists that will do anything for a quick buck. Riding a topic like the SOTS can get you airtime, but it’s easy to sniff out a fraud.

Most importantly, we learned that people’s listening trends continue to change, expand and combine as streaming services grow in use. This variety in sounds, and lack of one particular SOTS winner, is evidence of the changing music environment we are currently living in.

 

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