But my money's on Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber's "I Don't Care," a song that was blocked by "Old Town Road" at No. 1 upon its Hot 100 debut but appears primed to take over Top 40 radio this season. The last time Sheeran and Bieber linked up, they hit No. 1 in the winter of 2016 with the acoustic break-up anthem "Love Yourself"; "I Don't Care" is much lighter and cuddlier, a buoyant love song that will be played at every pool party this July.
Trevor Anderson: If it’s “Old Town Road” versus the field, I’ll (nervously) take the field. Despite the long-awaited “Old Town Road” music video offering the track a second wind, I suspect it’s too far over the hill to mount an extensive season-long challenge. Yes, the video will pump the streams skyhigh in the short term -- though I’m surprised it didn’t break the 24-hour YouTube record -- but we’re just getting to the starting line of a 14-week race; are we going to be obsessed about the video even halfway through that stretch?
Also, even chart trends suggests “Old Town Road” won’t make it to the winner’s circle here. All of the Song of the Summer winners for the past decade reached No. 1 for the first time by May 25 at the earliest, with most coming in mid-June. With likely even more new singles from Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran, and even Lil Nas X himself -- not to mention complete wildcards (Rihanna, anyone?!), it’s tough to think that even the almighty “Old Town Road” can win them all.
Unterberger: I tend to agree that while "Old Town Road" may currently have the best odds of any song just because it's starting from such a position of strength, it's probably won't quite have the momentum to stay No. 1 for the whole summer. Then again, maybe it doesn't need to stay No. 1: We're seeing records for Hot 100 top 10 longevity threatened if not tied or broken on such a regular basis these days that maybe a four-quadrant hit like "Old Town Road" can score a couple weeks at No. 1 at summer's beginning and just kinda coast through the rest of the summer in the top five from there -- especially if nothing else comes along to rule the chart all season.
Is "I Don't Care" its main competitor? Maybe, but I can't help thinking it would've had a better shot for Song of the Summer in 2016 or 2017. Its upbeat, lightly dancehall-flavored production feels a little out of step with pop radio in the year of Ariana Grande, Post Malone and Billie Eilish, and as much star power and summer vibing as it boasts, I feel like what pop fans really want to rule their summer is something fresh. By those standards, is there any song that's a little newer-sounding that you guys think we should be looking out for?
Anderson: To flip the script on your rationale for denying “I Don’t Care,” my current pick is… a song from 2017! Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” was recently revived thanks to the three-piece combo of a great Coachella set, a viral TikTok meme, and its inclusion on the soundtrack to the Netflix film Someone Great.