Last summer was deemed the worst for pop music in years. Why? Critics lamented the season didn’t have a defining anthem. Many of the songs that topped the charts were angsty and mellow — nowhere near the upbeat, sunny vibes of past summer hits.
Think about it — what stood out as the definitive song of the summer? Billboard crowned Jamaican reggae/pop artist OMI’s “Cheerleader” as 2015’s warm-weather hit, but many other critics disagreed, citing songs such as Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again,” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.”
These songs are missing the saccharine, dance-at-your-desk qualities that defined past summer jams like Katy Perry’s syrupy “California Gurls” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (controversial as it may have been).
Thankfully, as we enter this season of summer entertainment, the pool of contenders looks promising. But which track will define 2016? PrettyFamous, a Graphiq site, used data from the past decade to predict this year’s winner. Of course, everyone has different musical tastes, and the song of the summer could likely differ from person to person — but there are some patterns that have stayed consistent among many critics’ picks from year to year.
After triangulating a score of lists from sources such as Billboard, The Atlantic, VH1, CNN, NPR and The Huffington Post, PrettyFamous compiled a consensus list of the songs of the summer from the past 10 years.
From this group, the entertainment data site found that the majority of these tracks have more than 110 beats per minute (BPM), which is right around the average for a typical pop song. They were also released in the few months preceding the summer in which they ruled. The only exception is Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” which was released in fall 2011, but gained popularity the next year when a YouTube video of Justin Bieber lip-syncing to the song went viral.
You might be thinking — isn’t the most upbeat song the winner? If that were the case, The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” would take the crown this summer.
But as the past winners show, it’s not all about raucous danceability. Sure, 2011’s “Party Rock Anthem” hit a heart attack-inducing 130 BPM, but just two years ago, the catchy, braggy, bass-thumping “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea clocked in at 95 BPM.
Furthermore, even “Don’t Let Me Down”’s impressive 160 BPM hasn’t yet made it to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, despite having been on the chart for 15 weeks already.
With all these factors in mind, PrettyFamous created a Smart Rating that balanced each consideration and ranked the songs accordingly. Here are the standings for this summer’s song of the summer:
Because it’s still early, they used Spotify’s “popularity score” out of 100 to determine each song’s relative trendiness. This accounts for a quality that many hits share — the ability to wiggle its way into your brain and be the cause of your incessant humming all summer long.
“This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris came out on top, promising to be the hit that will define 2016 poolside afternoons. It’s upbeat, it’s at the top of Spotify playlists everywhere and is only gaining more momentum. Though it hasn’t quite reached No. 1 on Billboard, it still has time to get there.
In close second is Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” the happy-go-lucky pop number made for DreamWorks’ upcoming animated movie “Trolls.” Reminiscent of the whimsical 2014 hit “Happy” by Pharrell, this song is textbook song of the summer. It’s high energy at 133 BPM, and it hit the No. 1 spot its first week on the Billboard charts. But the reason why it’s still second to Harris’ dance track is likely the same reason why “Happy” couldn’t top “Blurred Lines” two years ago.
Though the catchiness of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is undeniable and perfect for an outdoor barbecue, it’s less suited to a night on the town. The ubiquity of the song of the summer is paramount — both sunny and sultry.
There’s still time for many of these songs to gain momentum. Drake’s salsa-tinged hip-hop hit “One Dance” is unique enough that it could cha-cha its way to the top. And though pop usually rules the season, Desiigner’s “Panda” could turn the coming months into the first summer of trap music. It’s anyone’s game, but one thing is for certain — this summer will have something for every sunglasses-wearer to dance to.
Listen to all the top songs below: