Beyond Drake: We Asked 12 Tastemakers Around the World About Their Country's Song of the Summer

Prince Williams/WireImage

Drake attends Gold Room Saturday Nights at Gold Room on May 6, 2018 in Atlanta.

From Mexico to Russia, Singapore to South Africa

Every year, Billboard’s Songs of the Summer chart tallies up the season’s biggest hits, based on cumulative performance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This year, Drake has taken the crown (for the second time in his career) with “In My Feelings,” the breakout Scorpion hit fueled in part by a viral dance challenge. Last year, the chart was topped by a non-English language track for the first time, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's “Despacito,” featuring Justin Bieber.

There’s a long history of foreign-language music on the Billboard charts, from Nena's “99 Luftballons” in 1984 all the way back to France’s The Singing Nun, who scored a No. 1, "Dominique," in 1963. But while the charts are now especially open to international and non-English language music as streaming helps makes global hits easier to find — honey-voiced Puerto Rican singer Ozuna just notched the largest U.S. streaming week ever for a Latin release, while Korean group BTS are breaking records on a practically weekly basis — the Hot 100 is still based on U.S. streaming, airplay and sales figures only. To find out what was popping off in other corners of the world the past few months (and why), Billboard spoke to a dozen tastemakers and influencers — from Mexico to Russia, South Africa to Singapore — about their respective countries’ summer songs.

France: Naza, “Putain de Merde”

Louise Chen (DJ/promoter, Paris): “It’s great ‘cause it has a serious Afro-Carribean beat, and then the lyrics are basically just about wanting some cash. The French football team championed this song in their Instagram videos all throughout the World Cup, and what’s been so infectious has been seeing all the players dance, sing, and dab to this song.”

Nigeria: Skepta & WizKid, “Energy (Stay Far Away)”

Stephen Tayo (photographer, Lagos): “‘Energy’ is played at the club, in taxis and pretty much everywhere in the city of Lagos. It’s especially popular with young people, as it’s so vibrant and has great wordplay and a feel-good vibe. WizKid’s super famous here, and I think he’s been able to put Nigeria on the world map. Skepta is bring a London vibe to Lagos — I feel like he’s very comfortable with his roots at this moment in time, and it’s such a great thing to witness.”

Russia: Monetochka, “Every Time”

Sasha Tsereteli (musician and party promoter, St. Petersburg): “It’s by the young Russian artist Monetochka (meaning 'Coin') who appeared seemingly out of nowhere and exploits memes as a theme. The lyrics revolve around a cheesy internet saying, which goes, ‘If I were paid every time I think of you, I'd be rich’ — but Monetochka sings, ‘I'd be begging for money on the streets.’ It’s probably the most popular song right now, but unlike most pop songs, it is not considered 'trash' in slightly more underground scenes.”

Singapore: Yung Raja, “Mustafa”

Cherry Chan (DJ/promoter, Singapore): “Yung Raja is rapping about realities that people in Singapore and Malaysia can relate to. Mustafa is a 24/7 super-mall in Singapore that’s almost like a maze — it’s the go-to destination for random late-night shopping — and the song is also about that same hustle. I really like that both Yung Raja and Fariz Jabba, another Singaporean rapper, are doing bilingual raps in both English and Tamil or English and Malay. It’s fresh.”

Italy: Boomdabash & Loredana Bertè, “Non Ti Dico No”

Davide Lentini (DJ, R101, Milan): “You hear it coming from cars at all times of the day, and Italians always sing along. Boomdabash is a young band from Salento, Puglia, and they sing in their local dialect. But Loredana Bertè is a famous Italian singer — she’s 67 years old and a gay icon. So the song appeals to young and old, men and women, heterosexuals and gay people! The song also helped Loredana Bertè’s rebirth.”

Australia: 5 Seconds Of Summer, “Youngblood”

Nic Kelly (DJ, 101.3 Sea FM, Sydney): “The beauty of this song is its universality. It cemented 5SOS locally as a dominant and mature radio act, rather than a teen band, and in a country that’s traditionally shied away from pop music, it taught the naysayers that pop belters can be truly great songs. It’s that one song of the year [where] indie kids admit it is great, rock heads love it because ‘they play their own instruments,’ and pop kids stan it because the production is forward thinking.”

Japan: DA PUMP, “USA”

Dan Bailey (DJ and photographer, Tokyo Dandy, Tokyo): “You’ll hear this song in any heavily air-conditioned convenience store or beach bar. It’s resonating with those who have nostalgia for the ‘90s and early 2000s. DA PUMP is a ‘90s group, and their sound is the Eurobeat style that was popular back then too. With the Emperor [of Japan] abdicating next year and preparations underway for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the sense of change in Japan is palpable, and this track subconsciously taps into that in a fun way. The dance has become popular, too, with people uploading their own versions to social media.”

U.K.: Drake, “In My Feelings”

Clara Amfo (DJ, BBC Radio 1, London): “I played it on my show loads, it was a U.K. No. 1, I heard it at various house parties and it went off at Notting Hill Carnival. By default, I think it’s most loved by young black and brown people — particularly women, who have always been essential to Drake’s fan base. One of Drake’s biggest USPs is that he is The Rapper That Does Feelings™?. He’s not afraid to be vulnerable with his audience, whether he raps or sings. Drake is also aware of how meme-able he and his music can be. This song was destined to do well, but Shiggy elevated it with his dance challenge.”

Mexico: Bomba Estéreo, “To My Love” (Tainy Remix)

Lauro Robles (DJ/producer, Mexico City): “The original version of the song came out in 2015, but the remix became popular this year when the band started touring again and released the video this summer. I’ve heard it in places from clubs to construction sites — and one of my best friends told me that his one-year-old baby girl loves the tune and that he sings it to her every day. It just portrays good vibes. In Mexico, there's hope in some aspects of society lately, and young people are in the mood for hybrid songs that mix genres like alternative, electronic, Latin and pop."

India: Prabh Deep x Seedhe Maut x Sez on the Beat, “Class-Sikh Maut Vol. II”

Abhi Meer (DJ/journalist, Bombay): “It’s an earworm and an absolute weapon in a DJ’s crate. The hip-hop community in the north of India is most drawn to it, but a lot more people from all over India are getting behind it. I think it’s a bold and assertive rap song that deviates a bit from the ‘gully rap’ that’s driven a lot of Indian hip-hop into the mainstream, so it stands apart. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a very solid production with some flawless wordplay.”

South Africa: Kwesta, “Spirit” ft. Wale

Ph Madubela (DJ/Producer, Western Cape): “It sampled a big South African hit from a few years ago — Spiritchaser’s ‘These Tears’ — and the music video acknowledged the various cultures in South Africa. All ages and races grew to love this song. As diverse as we are, we are a dancing nation. This ruled our dance floors and cropped up as background music in Snaps and social media posts.”

Barbados: Jus D, “Manager”

Jon Deesy (producer/DJ, HOTT 95.3 FM, Bridgetown): “This was everywhere in Barbados — radio stations of varying formats, parties, kids’ phones, malls... you name it. At almost every major show this summer, Jus D was a headline performer. It developed into an anthem for the ladies, because of the song’s message: ‘Raise your hand if you don’t need a manager / You only need a man who can manage you.’ Women latched on quickly, and from there it blew up. We all know that usually, if the ladies catch on, the fellas aren't too far behind.”


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