Amid some heated A-list competition from Taylor Swift and The Weeknd, a rookie artist from Jamaica has earned Billboard‘s coveted Song of the Summer honor with a single first released in 2012.
With the tally complete, OMI’s remixed global reggae-pop smash “Cheerleader” sits atop the annual Songs of the Summer chart, which tracks the most popular hits based on cumulative performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
“Every artist from Jamaica wants to thrive in the U.S.,” says the 29-year-old OMI (born Omar Samuel Pasley). “There are so many great songs that deserve the recognition that ‘Cheerleader’ has had. I’m just grateful.”
Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” (featuring Charlie Puth) had led the Songs of the Summer list most of the season (for 13 of the chart’s first 15 tracking weeks), but the late-charting, six-week Hot 100 reign of “Cheerleader” proved decisive. “Again,” whose 12-week Hot 100 command began prior to the Songs of the Summer tracking span, finishes the season at No. 2.
Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) ranks at No. 3, followed by The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (No. 4) and Silento’s “Watch Me” (No. 5). “Can’t Feel My Face” started at No. 16 on Songs of the Summer, although not until the July 25 tally.
Swift’s hit, meanwhile, is one of OMI’s summer favorites. The singer also favors “Again,” Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me,” and Skrillex and Diplo’s “Where Are U Now” with Justin Bieber. (Not that listening to the hits took up all of OMI’s summer. His tasks included judging a Jamaican cheerleader competition. “I was there giving my support,” he says with a gentlemanly chuckle.)
Of course, many others count “Cheerleader” among their summer essentials. “I followed the success of ‘Cheerleader’ overseas for many months,” says Rick Thomas, program director at WBMP New York. WBMP leads all U.S. radio stations in airplay for the hit — more than 2,300 spins since first playing it in January, according to Nielsen Music — after Felix Jaehn’s remix, released in its original form in 2012, had spurred it to top multiple global charts ahead of its American breakthrough.
Up next for OMI: his debut Louder Than Life/Ultra/Columbia album, Me 4 U, due Oct. 16, ushered in by new feel-good single “Hula Hoop.” “When you have a hit,” says OMI, “you don’t want to go too far away from that for the follow-up. ‘Hula Hoop’ is a good transition.”
And, quite possibly, a contender for top song of the fall.