Overlooked Songs of the Summer: Billboard Staffers Pick Their Should've-Been-Bigger Favorites
If the transpiring of Labor Day weekend wasn't enough of a sign that summer is sadly at its end, then Billboard's closing of our official Songs of the Summer chart -- along with the chart's finall overall tally -- pretty much puts the nail in the coffin.
But while the jams that defined the summer -- led, of course, by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee's Justin Bieber-featuring "Despacito" -- are now frozen in amber, there's still plenty of songs from the warmest months worth catching up on that didn't get that level of exposure. Some of them are by big artists who saw other songs of theirs get the spotlight the past season, others are from artists who've yet to blow up the way we'd like them too. But all of them helped define our individual summers at Billboard, and we hope they can play a large part in your autumns as well.
Here are seven of our favorite summer jams that didn't quite get the attention they deserved.
KWAYE, "SWEETEST LIFE"
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Patrick Crowley: This song about the giddiness of falling in love is what summer is supposed to sound like. The track starts out slow and builds into charming, vibrant hook. With handclaps, an endorphin explosion of a chorus and hints of Michael Jackson and Toni Braxton, this is one magnetic bop from a superstar in the making.
AMINE FEAT. KEHLANI, "HEEBIEJEEBIES"
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Tatiana Cirisano: Everything about Aminé screams summer, from the rapper’s bubbly vibe and light-hearted lyricism to his affinity for bananas and the color yellow. So anyone who didn’t use the season as an excuse to bump the Porland MC's sun-drenched May release “Heebiejeebies” at full blast is missing out. The track about a head-over-heels crush is as fun-seeking as its goofy title implies, meshing funky piano chords with honeyed vocals from burgeoning R&B star Kehlani, and a sticky chorus that manages to squeeze in a Game of Thrones reference. As a matter of fact, to hell with summer -- this one’s sunny enough to brighten your playlist any time of year.
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Carl Lamarre: Despite only charting for four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, Drake's island-tinged deep cut "Blem" rang off in the clubs all summer. Because "Blem" was buried under a barrage of more radio-ready tracks from More Life, including "Passionfruit" and "Portland," this sleeper track remained a potent-enough secret weapon to set off any party.
DAGNY, "WEARING NOTHING"
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Jason Lipshutz: The season with the least amount of required clothing should have been one of dominance for "Wearing Nothing," the latest single from Norwegian pop import Dagny and a delirious representation of romantic vulnerability. "When I'm with you, I feel like wearing nothing" is a simple line that's both sexy and tender as a declaration of a deeper connection.
DEJ LOAF, "NO FEAR"
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Steven J. Horowitz: Dej Loaf has mainly stayed in a singsong hip-hop lane throughout her career, landing a pair of hits that lingered just outside of top 40 on the Hot 100 (“Try Me,” “Back Up” featuring Big Sean). But it’s “No Fear,” her nose-first dive into pop, that stands out in her discography, a bopping single timed for summer playlists that somehow missed out entirely. Perhaps it’s because fans of the Detroit native aren’t used to her switching lanes, but even then, the snub doesn’t make sense, considering how she sets her signature purr against the shimmery beat. A botched opportunity for all of us, indeed.
PVRIS, "WHAT'S WRONG"
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Chris Payne: So the pulsating synth-rocker from this sneakily huge Massachusetts trio isn't your typical feel good summer jam (Sample lyric: "Don't need a metaphor for you to know I'm miserable") but it was one of my most-played, go-to tracks this summer as I waited for their sophomore album to drop at the end of August. It's not that I had a particularly angsty summer; I just have a thing for angsty music, especially with dark disco hooks like this.
J HUS, "DID YOU SEE"
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Andrew Unterberger: J Hus' sleight-of-hand afrobeats banger put all of the increasingly cloud-covered trop pop dominating U.S. airwaves to shame this summer with a gently clanging dancehall shuffle and the simple, slurred refrain: "Did you see what I done?/ Came in the black Benz, left in the white one." They caught on overseas, where the song became a top 10 U.K. hit, but American audiences still had their fangs buried too deep in More Life -- hopefully the similarly sublime Mura Masa remix gives it some extra juice as we head into sweater weather.
CALVIN HARRIS FEAT. ARIANA GRANDE, PHARRELL WILLIAMS & YOUNG THUG, "HEATSTROKE"
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Dan Rys: Maybe it was the timing of the song's release -- March 31, less than two weeks into the start of spring -- that led to this cut missing out on the summertime surge, its momentum burning out before barbecues and beach days kicked into gear. That's a shame, because on an album full of carefree, star-studded grooves, "Heatstroke" still stands apart from the pack, with a Pharrell falsetto, an airy Ariana and a raucous Young Thug combining for an irresistibly catchy pop song. Even more surprising was that the song topped out at No. 96 on the Hot 100, when "Feels" -- essentially a cookie-cutter replica in style and energy, with Grande and Thug swapped for Katy Perry and Big Sean -- climbed all the way to No. 20 after its June release. The only problem with "Heatstroke" seems to be that people weren't ready for it when it first arrived.