Magazine Feature

2017 Song of the Summer Showdown: 6 Bold Predictions, From Bieber to the Biggest Sleeper

Radio and streaming pros name the tracks they’re betting will achieve beach ubiquity — including the biggest sleeper.

1) Justin Bieber — singing on other artists’ hits — will be the act to beat.

The two early front-runners are “Despacito,” the Luis Fonsi-Daddy Yankee smash that topped the Billboard Hot 100 after the 23-year-old superstar hopped on a remix, and “I’m the One,” DJ Khaled’s No. 1 posse cut that boasts a Bieber hook. With an as-yet-unannounced collaboration with an EDM star expected in June, “it could very well be the summer of Bieber,” says Erik Bradley, music director of WBBM-FM (B96) Chicago.

2) Diva Watch: Miley, Camila and Selena will thrive... and don’t count out Katy just yet.

Tom Poleman, president of the national programming group at iHeartMedia, expects Camila Cabello’s “Crying in the Club” and Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar” to connect at radio, and Miley Cyrus’ “Malibu” has entered the top 10 of the Hot 100. Katy Perry’s most recent singles haven’t soared, but Poleman is hopeful her Witness album, out June 9, has some top 40 gems. “Katy has dominated pop culture,” he says. “She’s capable of having a hit at any given moment.”

Liam Hemsworth
Miley Cyrus

3) The One Direction boys turned men will be major players.

Harry Styles’ rock opus “Sign of the Times” hangs on in the top 20, while Niall Horan’s sensual “Slow Hands” is rising; Louis Tomlinson has been performing his Steve Aoki team-up “Just Hold On” at dance festivals. A new Zayn Malik album is due this year, and Liam Payne’s first solo track, the rhythmic “Strip That Down” (featuring Quavo), was released May 19. “It was such an edgy, different song for me to do,” says Payne, who co-wrote the song with Ed Sheeran.

4) For the first time in years, a rock song will make a splash on pop radio.

Four years after Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” finished at No. 2 on the 2013 Song of the Summer chart, the alt-rock group is back with the intense singalong “Believer,” which has spent nearly three months atop the Hot Rock Songs tally and is gaining at top 40. “It has been building slowly, but we’ve always taken that approach,” says frontman Dan Reynolds. “When it comes to bringing something to pop, it’s about believing in the longevity of the song — making something that doesn’t wear on people’s ears quickly.”

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images
Imagine Dragons

5) Huge streaming numbers will help boost hip-hop to the top.

In the wake of Hot 100 chart-toppers like Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” more viral-friendly rap hits will dominate the dog days, with Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” French Montana’s “Unforgettable” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO TOUR Llif3” as the early favorites. Poleman also thinks that Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” (No. 29 on the Hot 100) “could be the one that helps him break through” to mainstream listeners.

6) The sleepers will rise up: Halsey, Shawn Mendes ... and Blackbear?

Dark-horse contenders include Halsey’s “Now or Never” and Shawn Mendes’ follow-up to “Mercy,” “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” which WHTZ (Z100) New York program director Mark Medina thinks “is going to be a smash at pop radio.” And Shazam global head of content Julian Marshall says to keep an eye on “Do Re Mi,” the pulsating trap single from Florida native (and former Bieber co-writer) Blackbear. “It’s not doing [big] numbers yet,” says Marshall, “but it’s definitely a potential summer slow-burner.”

James Minchin
Shawn Mendes
Kirsten Ulve
   Kirsten Ulve

This article appears in the June 3 issue of Billboard.