What Makes the Ultimate Song of Summer? A Radio Programming Guru Gives the Lowdown

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What Makes the Ultimate Song of Summer? A Radio Programming Guru Gives the Lowdown featuring Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, Wiz Khalifa & More.

‘A song of the summer has to be infectious and emotional,' Tom Poleman says.

No one can influence the Song of the Summer quite like iHeartMedia national programming chief Tom Poleman, 50, whose 850 radio stations are influential enough to create the next Katy Perry or to anoint Demi Lovato’s next single.

What elements comprise a Song of the Summer?

It has to be infectious, it has to be emotional and it usually has to be uptempo and a little bit different. Magic’s "Rude" went so big because it fit all those pieces. The whole reggae vibe is always a nice touch, which is what’s working for OMI’s "Cheerleader" right now.

Both Demi Lovato and Maroon 5 released new singles with "Summer" in their titles. Does that give them a Labor Day expiration date? 

It totally does -- and we were talking about that to Demi Lovato’s camp with "Cool for the Summer." Everybody was leaning toward this song "Confidence" as [her forthcoming record’s] first single, but then there was a big debate: "If ‘Confidence’ really is the first single, then can we release ‘Cool for the Summer’ in the fall?" And we said no.

Halfway through the summer, how would you assess 2015’s contenders?

It helps to have something on the radio early so listeners are used to it when you hit the warm months, which is why you have OMI, Tove Lo’s "Talking Body," Taylor Swift’s "Bad Blood," Jason Derulo’s "Want to Want Me" and even Walk the Moon’s "Shut Up and Dance." Wiz Khalifa seems to have a big head start because his "See You Again" is also tied to Furious 7, so you have a deeper connection. The more ways you can hook somebody with something emotional, the better.

What’s your all-time favorite Song of the Summer? 

"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry. It helped her cut through in a fun, sexy way and established the groundwork for another summer song, "California Gurls," a couple years later. She’s a smart girl.

This article first appeared in the July 25 issue of Billboard.


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