Ask Billboard: What's 2014's Song Of The Summer?
A (sort of) confident attempt to (hopefully) pick the 40 biggest hits of the (hopefully) warm months
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WHAT'S 2014's SONG OF THE SUMMER?
What are the top songs of summer 2014 in your opinion?
Now that it's (occasionally) in the 70s temperature-wise here in New York … this might be as close to summer as we're going to get. So, why not prepare musically!
In attempting to predict this year's top summer songs (a fairly new favorite sport for music fans and industry-watchers each spring), I figured it would first be wise to go back exactly a year and see if any eventual 2013 top contenders we're already in the mix in mid-May a year ago.
Here's how the eventual top five Songs of the Summer 2013 ranked on the Hot 100 in the second week of May last year:
No. 1, "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell (89-70, third week)
No. 2, "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons (10-8)
No. 3, "Get Lucky," feat. Pharrell Williams (14-17)
No. 4, "We Can't Stop," Miley Cyrus (n/a; did not debut until June 22)
No. 5, "Can't Hold Us," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton (2-1)
That's a pretty mixed bag. Three songs were in the top 20 (with one dropping three spots), the eventual song of the summer was ambling along in the chart's lower rungs, and another was a month away. The lesson: As Billboard's Songs of the Summer chart covers the chart weeks from Memorial Day through Labor Day, mid-May provides only a glimpse of how the summer months' hits will unfold.
So, as of now … it's pretty much anyone's guess. And, I'm not sure how remotely close I'll get with my predictions. I never thought that "Blurred Lines" would become as big as it did last year. Despite the high profile of its video, Thicke had never before hit the top 10 and his then-biggest hit, "Lost Without U" (No. 14), had been in 2007. ("Growing Pains" fan that I am, I was more familiar with Alan Thicke's work than his son's.) Eventually, "Lines" became the Hot 100's longest-leading No. 1 of the 2010s (12 weeks) and Williams, thanks to "Lines" and "Lucky," was leading a traditional-R&B resurgence, with his own 10-week No. 1 "Happy" soon to follow.
But, I'm happy to give this my best shot, hoping that I won't miss too badly. (I should probably just draft a document now called "Ask Billboard: How I Got (Sun)Burnt Attempting to Pick 2014's Top Summer Hits!" and save it for September, when all I'll have to do is fill in the real winners. It would save me work then, too, which would likely be useful, since I'll probably need time to shovel the season's first Nor'easter ...)
Anyway … summer! Here are my top 40 picks for 2014's top summer smashes, based on a combination of chart action and hunches, counting down to No. 1. (Current Hot 100 moves, where applicable, are in parentheses):
40, "Habits (Stay High)," Tove Lo
39, "The Worst," Jhene Aiko (47-46)
38, "Supernova," Ray LaMontagne
37, "The Walker," Fitz and the Tantrums (71-74)
36, "Stay With Me," Sam Smith (78-69)
35, "Of the Night," Bastille
First, a few longshots. Tove Lo's song is a U.K. top 10 currently rising at alternative. Aiko's is an R&B/hip-hop No. 1 with a catchy enough chorus to cross over to wider audiences. The same for "Supernova," but from rock to pop (and it features the poppy production of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach). "The Walker" sounds like a summer song, with its breezy hooks and whistling. "Stay With Me" has received much buzz, but it could face a climb due to its lack of tempo (with tempo traditionally, although not always, a hallmark of the biggest summer hits). Bastille's "Of the Night" isn't (yet?) a single, but it reimagines Corona's scorching '90s club classic "Rhythm of the Night."
On with the countdown. (Sing in your head: "No. 34!")
34, "Ten Feet Tall," Afrojack feat. Wrabel
33, "Dare (La La La)," Shakira
32, "Good Kisser," Usher (debut No. 70)
31, "West Coast," Lana Del Rey
In addition to EDM star Afrojack, three basically new singles from three pop heavy-hitters. "Don't Stop" should have a large first sales week this week and enter the Hot 100 next week. For Shakira and Usher, could the TV coaches' new songs surge after the "Voice" has given way to summer reruns? And, "West Coast" recently soared onto the Hot 100 at No. 17 due to sales before departing the following week, but its radio promotion has yet to officially begin.
30, "I Wanna Get Better," Bleachers
29, "Rather Be," Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne
28, "Drink to That All Night," Jerrod Niemann feat. Pitbull (60-65)
These three cuts have been building and all feature anthemic, uptempo choruses. Niemann's song has already topped Hot Country Songs; with Pitbull's assistance, could it emerge as this year's "Cruise," similar to how Florida Georgia Line enlisted Nelly for its pop crossover last year?
27, "Tennis Court," Lorde
26, "Raging Fire," Phillip Phillips (93-98)
25, "Come With Me Now," KONGOS (67-62)
24, "Wild Wild Love," Pitbull feat. G.R.L. (30-30)
23, "Really Don't Care," Demi Lovato feat. Cher Lloyd
The last song is new from Lovato's album "Demi." She's hit the Pop Songs top 10 with the release's "Heart Attack" and "Neon Lights," and this song's easy hook could translate to a third big hit. (Some people also like to spend hot summer months sweating on tennis courts, so Lorde's new single – which she'll perform on Sunday night's Billboard Music Awards – nets extra points for timing.)
22, "Love Runs Out," OneRepublic
21, "Red Lights," Tiesto (64-58)
20, "Classic," MKTO (28-26)
19, "Latch," Disclosure feat. Sam Smith (52-34)
18, "She Looks So Perfect," 5 Seconds of Summer (45-37)
17, "Rude," MAGIC! (62-39)
16, "Wiggle," Jason Derulo feat. Snoop Dogg (68-24)
15, "Me and My Broken Heart," Rixton (14-16)
14, "Love Never Felt So Good," Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake (20-22)
The Jackson/Timberlake duet could surge past novelty status. It soars into the Digital Songs top 10 this week (15-6; 101,000 downloads sold, up 25 percent according to Nielsen SoundScan) in the tracking period covering its first full week of availability. Its radio future seems less predictable, although it logs a promising second week at Adult Contemporary (23-19). Still, its sales look to remain strong, as it's holding in the iTunes top five. Jackson is also set to be a centerpiece of the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday. Incredibly, five years after his passing, and 40 years after the Jackson 5 first hit the Hot 100, the King of Pop is in the mix to continue his reign.
13, "Turn Down for What," DJ Snake & Lil Jon (7-6)
12, "Happy," Pharrell Williams (2-2)
11, "Come Get It Bae," Pharrell Williams (debut No. 82)
"Happy" will likely keep in the Hot 100's upper reaches into summer, thus accumulating enough points to remain in the discussion of this year's top summer songs. Williams' follow-up, however, the catchy "Bae," could pick up where "Happy," "Lines" and "Lucky" left off, continuing his incredible run of comeback hits. And, we're still not done with the artist who's fashionably made over the Hot 100 as the … Hat 100 (groans … And, how have I not used that before?) Keep reading.
Now, the top 10.
10, "Am I Wrong," Nico & Vinz (26-18)
9, "All of Me," John Legend (1-1)
8, "A Sky Full of Stars," Coldplay (24-43)
7, "Ain't It Fun," Paramore (13-10)
6, "Sing," Ed Sheeran (15-15)
5, "Birthday," Katy Perry (29-25)
Coldplay could score its biggest hit since 2008's No. 1 "Viva La Vida," as the hooky "Stars" takes the band into EDM, thanks to Avicii's production and writing. Sheeran's "Sing" and Perry's "Birthday" (another BBMAs performance Sunday) are both still early in their chart, and radio, lives. Both also boast potential to cross further to adult formats, which could extend their runs after they peak at pop radio. And, "Sing" features Williams' magic writing and production touch.
4, "Summer," Calvin Harris (18-14)
3, "Not a Bad Thing," Justin Timberlake (8-8)
Extra points simply for the title of Harris' fast-climbing hit. (Nothing's beating that unless a song literally called "Song of the Summer" is released, which given today's marketing, seems entirely possible). Timberlake's hit, like Sheeran's and Perry's, is center-lane pop and with plenty of time yet to keep growing at pop and adult radio.
2, "Problem," Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea (3-4)
1, "Fancy," Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX (4-3)
Like Thicke last year, could this year's top summer song come from an artist that might seem a bit unexpected for the honor? Azalea is just the third woman in Hot 100 history to chart in the top five with her first two entries concurrently, and both titles might just be beginning at the right time to capture the season's chart crown. "Fancy" ranks at No. 2 on Digital Songs and Streaming Songs and is storming toward the Radio Songs top 10 (14-11). Its "Clueless"-themed video adds to its fun vibe, along with Charlie XCX's vocals in the chorus.
So … I'm apparently predicting "Fancy" to log a potent run at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and emerge as 2014's top song of the summer.
An important qualifier: This list covers only songs already released. Stars like Adele, Taylor Swift or Rihanna could always surprise with sooner than expected next album releases. I.e., anyone could pull a Beyonce (including even Beyonce again).
And, if there's one lesson that 2014 has taught us so far, it's that it's the year of "Frozen." The new Disney "DConstructed" album includes DJ Armin van Buuren's reworking of Idina Menzel's "Let It Go," so the ballad could maintain heat throughout summer in a new form.
Or, maybe another "Frozen" track will catch on: Josh Gad's "In Summer."
Those are my picks. What do you think? Ask Billboard Asks You: What are your predictions for summer 2014's biggest hits? Tweet @gthot20 and/or email [email protected] and we'll continue the discussion as the weather (hopefully) gets even warmer.