"Every artist from Jamaica wants to thrive in the U.S.," says OMI (born Omar Samuel Pasley), 29. "There are so many great songs that deserve the recognition that 'Cheerleader' has had. I'm just grateful."
Billboard's Songs of the Summer Chart
Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" (featuring Charlie Puth) had led Songs of the Summer most of the season (for 13 of the chart's first 15 tracking weeks), but the six-week Hot 100 reign of "Cheerleader" (which ranked at No. 16 on the season's first Songs of the Summer survey) pushes it to the pinnacle. "Again," whose 12-week Hot 100 command began prior to the Songs of the Summer tracking span, finishes the summer at No. 2.
OMI is the third rookie act to claim the top song of the summer with a first Hot 100 hit in the last four years. Then-newcomers Iggy Azalea ("Fancy") and Carly Rae Jepsen ("Call Me Maybe") won in 2014 and 2012, respectively. OMI is the first male soloist to earn the honor with a debut Hot 100 hit in Billboard's 30-year archive of top summer tracks.
Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" featuring Kendrick Lamar, ranks at No. 3 for summer 2015, followed by The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" (No. 4) and Silento's "Watch Me" (No. 5) rounding out the top five. Like "Cheerleader," "Face" also started at No. 16 on Songs of the Summer, although not until the July 25 tally.
Swift's hit, meanwhile, is one of OMI's summer 2015 favorites. Among others? "Again," Jason Derulo's "Want to Want Me" and Skrillex and Diplo's "Where Are U Now," with Justin Bieber. (Not that listening to hits took up all of OMI's summer. His tasks included judging a Jamaican cheerleader competition. "I was there giving my support," he says with a gentlemanly chuckle.)
Billboard's Summer Songs 1985-2014: From 'Shout' to 'Fancy'
Of course, many others count "Cheerleader" among their summer 2015 essentials. "I followed the success of 'Cheerleader' overseas for many months," says Rick Thomas, WBMP (92.3 AMP Radio) New York program director. AMP leads all U.S. radio stations in plays for the hit (more than 2,300 since first spinning it in January, according to Nielsen Music) after Felix Jaehn's remix of the song, first released in its original form in 2012, had spurred it to top multiple global charts ahead of its American breakthrough.
And, despite the song's age, it truly bloomed this summer: it sold 87 percent of its 2.2 million downloads sold to date during the Songs of the Summer tracking weeks.
"I wasn't surprised after we saw massive numbers and success around the world. We knew the chances were pretty good for the U.S. landscape," says Columbia executive VP promotion Lee Leipsner. "We had a story to spread in every single market where the song was exposed.
"The appeal of 'Cheerleader' has been its simple message and cool groove. It's a breezy record that just makes you happy."
OMI: 5 Things You Didn't Know About the 'Cheerleader' Singer
Up next for OMI: his debut Louder Than Life/Ultra/Columbia album, Me 4 U, due Oct. 16, ushered in by new single "Hula Hoop." The song, which echoes the feel-good vibe of "Cheerleader," is already drawing pop radio play. "When you have a hit single, and this is just my humble opinion, and people are anticipating the follow-up, you don't want to go too far away from what they originally knew you for," OMI says. "At the same time, ['Hula Hoop'] is not another 'Cheerleader.' It's a good transition."
And, quite possibly, a contender for top song of fall.