And the Song of Summer is ...
Sorry, you might be dumber for knowing this
It was the summer of 1996.
Theaters welcomed “Independence Day,” “Trainspotting” and “Courage Under Fire.” Baseball fans watched New York Yankees rookie shortstop Derek Jeter, and Americans celebrated the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where they fell in love with Kerri Strug and her one-legged landing off the vault that gave the U.S. women’s gymnastics team the gold medal.
And, in the background, at every break in the action, from the smallest of car stereos to the largest of stadium loud speakers, one song played: the “Macarena.”
The “Macarena,” a Spanish dance song by Los del Rio that the Bayside Boys remixed to add English lyrics, was the 1996 Song of the Summer.
It was inescapable. It was catchy. It had its own dance! Sure, people didn’t understand the lyrics — the song is about a party girl named Macarena who wants to live in New York — but that didn’t stop them from wiggling their hips when it played ... everywhere.
(We apologize if the “Macarena” is stuck in your head again after taking 18 years to dislodge.)
Although the “Macarena” won’t be remembered as one of history’s greatest songs, it will be remembered. That’s the power of the Song of the Summer, a title given to that one song each summer that hogs radio airwaves or, fast forwarding from the ‘90s, also dominates digital downloads and online streaming.
Billboard.com, the online extension of Billboard magazine, tracks the summer’s most popular songs from Memorial Day through Labor Day based on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart and other radio, sales and steaming activity data, according to billboard.com/charts/summer-songs.
In 2013, the Song of the Summer was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” In 2012, it was Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
In 2014, however, no song made itself the clear winner of the Song of Summer label. There were hits, but nothing truly captivated.
Despite this, and since Labor Day is just days away, it is hard to envision a huge shift in this year’s Top 10 list from Billboard.com, we checked in to see what this year’s Song of Summer (By Default) was as of Wednesday, Aug. 27. Hint: Get ready for a trip to the mini-bar.
Song: “Turn Down For What”
Artist: DJ Snake & Lil John
Released: Dec. 18 as a single.
What is this song saying? Shots, either alcoholic or gun shots, are done at high volume and why would we turn the volume down, anyway? It features 12 words repeated for 3 minutes, 33 seconds.
Why it was popular: The dance beat from DJ Snake.
Artist: Pharrell Williams
Released: June 18, 2013, on “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack; March 3 on album “G I R L.”
What is this song saying? Happiness is the truth, and if you clap it’ll make you happier.
Why it was popular: People liked the movie “Despicable Me 2,” but people LOVE Williams and his super cool vibe and hats. Plus, he’s been everywhere the past two years, collaborating with Miley Cyrus on her 2012 “Bangerz” album and appearing in 2013 with Daft Punk on “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke on “Blurred Lines.” Then again, maybe people liked this song because it made them happy.
Artist: Calvin Harris
Released: March 14 as a single.
What is this song saying? Meeting someone in the summer is great, particularly to heavy electronic beats and cool synthesized sounds. Then, someone lies, and it’s over, but the beat goes on.
Why it was popular: It’s an electronic dance, and people like to think about summer in March when this came out.
Artist: Jason Derulo featuring Snoop Dogg
Released: April 15 on album “Talk Dirty.”
What is this song saying? Women with “big fat butts” can wiggle and swing, and some guys really like that. In fact, some guys might make “your booty like two planets” famous on Instagram. Congrats?
Why it was popular: It’s an updated version of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 hit “Baby Got Back,” giving a new generation a song glorifying big butts, albeit one that’s less funny. Or, people bought it without looking at the lyrics.
Song: “All Of Me”
Artist: John Legend
Released: Aug. 6, 2013, as a single; April 15 on the album “Love in the Future.”
What is this song saying? Legend really loves his wife, Chrissy Teigen. He wrote this ballad for her, detailing how beautiful and in love with her he is. It’s pretty much the sweetest, most romantic gesture ever and is the exact opposite of most songs on this list.
Why it was popular: If you’ve heard Legend sing and play piano then you know why. Also, summer is wedding season. This is a song to play at receptions.
Song: “Am I Wrong”
Artist: Nico & Vinz
Released: Jan. 21 as a single internationally, the album “Black Star Elephant” will be released Sept. 16.
What is this song saying? If it’s wrong to be different, to think outside the box and to reach for love and fame — maybe? — then these men don’t want to be right.
Why it was popular: It’s a catchy, upbeat R&B song with easy-to-understand vocals. It went up the iTunes chart and people kept buying it because others were buying it, we’re assuming. Also, Nico and Vinz hail from Norway, so that’s cool.
Artist: “Stay With Me”
Artist: Sam Smith
Released: early June 2014 in the United States as a single; June 17 on the album “In the Lonely Hour.”
What is this song saying? One-night stands are emotionally tough, even for the guy, so stay with him, hold his hand. He knows you should go, but he really just wants you to stay. He might make you pancakes. Fine, we made that last part up.
Why it was popular: It’s hard to believe the soulful crooner singing this song is a 22-year-old British guy with a bit of an Eddie Munster haircut, particularly when you consider other famous British musicians of similar age are in boy band One Direction.
Artist: Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea
Released: April 27 as a single; Aug. 25 on the album “My Everything.”
What is this song saying? Classic tale of a girl knowing her life would have one less problem if that loser guy would just leave her alone, but the girl is not really trying that hard to get rid of him. Instead, she’ll just sing about how she’d have one less problem without him before bringing in the tough, rapping friend (Azalea) to lay the smack down and tell the guy to get out.
Why it was popular: Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea?!? Like, together on one song?!? Those two could sing/rap a John Steinbeck novel and people would buy it.
Released: Oct. 12 as a single; June 3 on the album “Don’t Kill the Magic.”
What is this song saying? When a young man asks for a father’s blessing to marry his daughter, it’s rude for the father to say, “No.” When Dad does, the young man says he’s marrying her anyway, and they’ll be a family, and maybe start a band and use all capital letters and an exclamation point in the name to prove how awesome it is. Fine, we made that last part up, too.
Why it was popular: Honestly, we’re not sure. Maybe because of its reggae-inspired beats and instrumentation that were so different from other summer pop songs?
1 — 2014 Song of Summer (BY DEFAULT)
Artist: Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX
Released: Feb. 17 as a single; April 22 on the album, “The New Classic.”
What is this song saying? Fancy girls take their liquor straight, don’t shop at department stores and have no time to worry “‘bout no haters” because they are in the fast lane, getting drunk ON the hotel mini bar and are too good for you.
Why it was popular: It propelled Azalea, an Australian rapper, onto the scene, and there weren’t any other Australian, female rappers on the scene. The chorus sung by Charli XCX is catchy, although we’re not entirely sure why they define “fancy” with vulgarity, drunkenness and swagger.
Song: “Bang Bang”
Artist: Jessie J with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
Released: July 29 as a single.
What is this song saying? Some women think they are really good at sex. (We wish we could unsee these lyrics.)
Why it was popular: The drum beats, hand clapping, horns blaring and vocal harmonies combine to make a catchy song, but it didn’t come out until the end of July, preventing it from getting into the Top 10 as of Wednesday, Aug. 27.
Song: “Shake It Off”
Artist: Taylor Swift
Released: Aug. 18 as a single.
What is this song saying? People “hate” on Swift, but she’s learned to shake it off, do her own thing and make the music she loves.
Why it was popular: It’s from Tay-Tay. Had this been released in mid-May or early-June, it would’ve been the Song of the Summer. Swift is music gold.