Seven Songs That Weren't 'Song of the Summer' (But Should Have Been)
These *N SYNC, Whitney Houston and Lil Wayne jams defined their summers better than the ACTUAL Songs of the Summer.
With Song of the Summer season nearly upon us, we at Billboard have spent the last week looking back at the past three decades of summer songs, from the days of Tears For Fears to the reign of I-G-G-Y last year. Each year, one song tends to rise above its Hot 100 competition and define the most sweltering season -- think Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" in 2012, Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" in '05 and that blasted "Macarena" in 1996. Occasionally, however, there's simply a de facto Song of the Summer, a single that ended the season atop our chart list but should have ceded the spot to a better summer song in retrospect.
From *N SYNC to NKOTB (and a few non-boy band selections, too), here are the seven songs that ended up in the runner-up spot on Billboard's Songs of the Summer chart, but best defined their respective summers:
Whitney Houston, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
Blocked By: Heart, "Alone"
Immediately after Whitney Houston's mesmerizing dance track "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" spent a pair of weeks at No. 1 in the summer of 1987, Heart's power ballad "Alone" took over in the top spot, where it stayed for three weeks and eventually snagged Song of the Summer honors. And while "Alone" is a great callback to the 80's, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" is an all-timer, specifically designed to inspire movement.
Martika, "Toy Soldiers"
Blocked By: Richard Marx, "Right Here Waiting"
1989 was just a strange year for summer songs: with a whopping 12 songs hitting No. 1 in the span of 15 weeks, that season simply lacked a consensus Song of the Summer, and Richard Marx's weepy "Right Here Waiting" snuck away with the prize after three weeks atop the Hot 100 in the end. The only other song to spent multiple weeks at No. 1 that summer was Martika's equally reflective "Toy Soldiers," which at least has a massive chorus and some plugged-in snarl going for it. Plus, "Toy Soldiers" just sounds like the last summer of the 80's, you know?
New Kids On The Block, "Step By Step"
Blocked By: Mariah Carey, "Vision Of Love"
Mariah Carey's discography boasts a slew of summer-friendly tracks -- and she recorded another Song of the Summer in 2005 with "We Belong Together" -- but "Vision of Love," which spent four weeks at No. 1 in August 1990, isn't her most astonishing warm-weather jam. Meanwhile, NKOTB had their best shot at Song of the Summer in '90 with "Step By Step," which stayed at No. 1 for three weeks and remains arguably the boy band's most memorable track. Donnie Wahlberg deserved to be the king of one summer, and 1990 should have been his castle.
*N SYNC, "It's Gonna Be Me"
Blocked By: Matchbox Twenty, "Bent"
If you quizzed a million people with the question, "What song was the 2000 song of the summer in the U.S.?," how many of those people would come up with Matchbox Twenty's somber rock single "Bent"? Although Rob Thomas and co. only spent one week atop the Hot 100 with the track, "Bent" beat out *N SYNC's "It's Gonna Be Me," the delightfully dance-oriented follow-up to "Bye Bye Bye." This ranking is definitely worth getting bent out of shape over (sorry, so sorry).
Usher, "U Remind Me"
Blocked By: Eve feat. Gwen Stefani, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"
Look, we love "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" as much as anybody… but how can a song that never hit No. 1 be the Song of the Summer? The Eve-Gwen team-up peaked at No. 2 in 2001, but spent enough of the summer dominating radio stations that "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" eventually blew by the Song of the Summer competition. The First Lady of Ruff Ryders blocked out "U Remind Me," one of Usher's breeziest mega-hits, as well as deeply enjoyable summer fare like Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)," Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious" and Jagged Edge's "Where The Party At."
Blocked By: Usher, "Confessions Part II"
In 2004, four Usher singles spent a combined 28 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart. Think about that: Usher was No. 1 for over half a year! And while "Yeah!" was the biggest hit from his Confessions album and ruled the spring, "Burn" and "Confessions Part II" traded off the top spot during that summer, with the latter eventually claiming the Song of the Summer crown. That's unfortunate, since "Burn" is light-years better than "Confessions Part II" and remained Usher's go-to slow jam up until the 2012 release of "Climax."
Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, "Lollipop"
Blocked By: Katy Perry, "I Kissed a Girl"
2008 was the year of Lil Wayne: the rapper broke through to the mainstream after spending years on his mixtape grind, scored the year's biggest album bow with Tha Carter III, ruled the Grammy nominations and, perhaps most memorably, scored an impossibly strange hit with "Lollipop." The Static Major collaboration still sounds unlike any other No. 1 single in history, spending four weeks atop the Hot 100 and ruling that summer on radio (in our minds, anyway). Katy Perry made a successful late push with "I Kissed a Girl," but she would have a more iconic Song of the Summer two years later with "California Gurls"; Weezy deserved this one.