Summer is always an amazing time for music, and this year has been no exception, with several notable releases. Usually there’s a single track that is unofficially crowned “the song of the summer.” It’s that one song you can’t escape. You hear it on the radio all the time and you can’t get it out of your head. Last summer it was the bubblegum anthem “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. 2011 had the ultra-catchy “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. 2010 was “California Gurls” by Katy Perry, and who could escape 2009’s “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas?
As a rule, “Songs of the Summer” tend to be pretty superficial. Just take for example 2007’s “Umbrella” by Rihanna, which was about her inviting her boyfriend to stand underneath her umbrella (ella, ella, eh, eh, eh!). But the lack of depth doesn’t make them any less important to know them if you’re planning on doing karaoke any time soon.
The five songs that really have a chance at being 2013’s “song of the summer” hold many of the same themes; sex, partying, and… nuclear fallout? Okay, maybe there’s one exception. But you’ll see that some of the songs contain stuff seen ubiquitously across pop culture. They may feel a little different than past selections, in that they’re not as “bubble-gummy” as, say, “Call Me Maybe”, but they are catchy nonetheless.
5. “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons released their wildly successful album Night Visions at the end of last summer, and many songs from it have enjoyed success on the charts (“On Top of the World”, “Demons”, “It’s Time”). “Radioactive” is big now, which is strange because it’s not very upbeat, though it does have an extremely heavy bass. Its apocalyptic themes might be why it’s connecting, because, if you’ve been to the local cinema recently, you know that the apocalypse is huge right now (which is just fine with us).
4. “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus
Ms. Cyrus is in the running for pop-music’s resident antinomian. Miley is on a mission to prove that she is no longer controlled by the family-friendly Disney channel, and this song serves as a sort of a declaration of that. “This is our house, these are our rules”, she gleefully sings. But the most interesting line of the song is “To my home girls here with the big butt, shaking it like we at a strip club, remember only God can judge you / Forget the haters ‘cause somebody loves you.” A bit deeper than most summer anthems perhaps – at least in some topics it addresses. The need for love always connects, even if there are more emotionally resonant ways of finding it. I can’t help but think about a series on Axl Rose from a couple of years ago when I listen to it. Both singers grew up in very strict law-centered environments, and both changed significantly when they were freed from those cultures. Of course, I don’t want to psychoanalyze Miley Cyrus just from this song (or really at all), and her situation is nowhere near as extreme as Axl’s. But it is interesting to see the artist she’s become after release from the restrictions as a Disney star.
3. “Can’t Hold Us” By Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
A really fun pump-up song that got popular in the spring but lost some momentum over the summer, “Can’t Hold Us” comes from one of music’s most interesting pop artists, Macklemore. On his album The Heist, one song he’s talking about thrift shopping, the next he’s talking about turning down a record deal to remain independent, and then he goes to some really dark places about his childhood, then he talks about Malcolm Gladwell, of all people. “Can’t Hold Us” surely isn’t one of the deepest songs on The Heist, but it’s definitely catchy, which makes it the perfect candidate for “song of the summer.”
2. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams)
I’ve put the music videos for the other songs here, but I won’t put the video for “Blurred Lines” because it’s kind of…how should it be put…not safe for work? Maybe not for leisure, either. It’s basically Thicke whispering somewhat misogynistic thoughts into the ears of several naked models over and over again. “Blurred Lines” is undoubtedly catchy, and in all honesty, will probably take the number one spot on the list at the end of the summer, but it’s understandably come under fire for its content.
Here’s a great, much more fun, version (ht BJ)!
1. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk (featuring Pharrell Williams)
No matter if “Get Lucky” or “Blurred Lines” wins “song of the summer”, this summer’s true winner will be Pharrell Williams. Pharrell has actually been around for a while, recording with NERD and producing for artists like Usher and Beyoncé, but he’s taken off this summer. (If you didn’t catch the Nardwuar interview that we posted a couple weeks ago, run don’t walk!) He’s only the 12th artist in history to simultaneously hold the number one and two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He also produced the soundtrack for the second highest grossing movie of the summer, and one of my personal favorites, Despicable Me 2. “Get Lucky” is the lead single for Daft Punk’s widely acclaimed album, Random Access Memories. Its funky vibe coupled with its robotic dance made it the type of song you loved having stuck in your head. The New Yorker called it “as close to magic as pop comes” and Annie Mac of BBC radio said that it wasn’t “electronic dance music, but actually real music to dance to.” It’s also simply made for the summer, because it emphasizes the “seize the moment (and the one you “love”) mentality that summer can produce sometime. It may not be virtuous, but it sure is groovy. Steven Colbert also danced to it last night which makes me love it even more!
These summer songs give us a sort of comfort that says, “forget about your troubles, just dance!” It’s fairly hollow stuff, of course, but it can be a nice escape from a traffic jam, a painfully awkward dinner party, or the like. Two weeks ago, I was jamming out to “Get Lucky” to prevent myself from going crazy attempting to cross New York’s bumper-to-bumper traffic. The voice on the speakers was telling me to not worry, and it was comforting. Whether or not this comfort is justified is another question. But to avoid that question, I’m just gonna stop worrying and dance!