It’s still cold out; in some parts of the country, there’s still snow on the ground. We haven’t even gotten to springtime yet! So why are we already talking about the Song of the Summer race?
Because the most ubiquitous songs of each summer season — the ones that we hear over and over, on portable speakers at the beach and on every barbecue playlist — typically take a few months to catch on, contenders for the top of Billboard’s annual Songs of the Summer chart are often released well before summer starts, and sometimes even before spring starts.
The original version of “Despacito,” the Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee smash that topped the 2017 Song of the Summer chart, was released in January of that year. Other recent Songs of the Summer, from Drake’s “One Dance” to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” were issued months before the official chart got going around Memorial Day in their respective calendar years.While we won’t what the official 2019 Song of the Summer will be for nearly six months, there’s a pretty solid chance that we’ve already heard it.
So which songs that we know about are worth keeping an eye on, as major contenders or as outside shots? And which artists could very well impact the Song of the Summer race before we even hear their new tunes? Here’s a way-too-early breakdown of a 2019 Song of the Summer race that’s still brewing — and contains a ton of fascinating competitors:
THE MAJOR CONTENDERS
Jonas Brothers, “Sucker”
A Jonas Brothers single is one of the early contenders for song of the summer 2019? Indeed, the surprise return of Nick, Joe and Kevin was heralded by “Sucker,” a sly, sprightly piece of pop-rock that rocketed straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 — giving the JoBros the biggest hit of their career. Time will tell if that massive debut was solely a symptom of excitement surrounding the reunion, but if “Sucker” has legs, its top 10 run could stretch well into the summer months.
Cardi B & Bruno Mars, “Please Me”
This superstar alliance has certainly paid dividends before, in the form of the Cardi-assisted remix to Mars’ “Finesse,” which became a durable Hot 100 top 5 hit last year. “Please Me” finds Cardi dominating the spotlight as Mars delivers the yearning hook; it’s slower and more overtly sexual than “Finesse,” which may yield a rougher road at Top 40 radio. Yet these two stars have been so bankable over the course of their careers that they shouldn’t be counted out — especially considering that “Please Me” just zoomed to a new peak of No. 3 on the Hot 100.
Speaking of Cardi B, she just hopped on a remix of “Thotiana,” the burgeoning strip club anthem from California MC Blueface, whose offbeat rapping made its way into the top 10 of the Hot 100 earlier this month. Released several months ago but recently receiving the type of mainstream groundswell that most unknown artists would kill for, the ultra-quotable “Thotiana” could climb even higher this spring and ride that momentum to summer supremacy.
Juice WRLD, “Fast”
Although “Robbery” is currently the highest-charting single from Juice WRLD’s new album Death Race For Love, don’t count out “Fast,” the catchy and contemplative new track that serves as something of a spiritual successor to his 2018 smash “Lucid Dreams.” Juice WRLD is already a streaming behemoth — checking those projected first-week numbers for Death Race For Love — and “Fast” sounds like it could be connective tissue within any summer playlist.
Normani & Sam Smith, “Dancing With a Stranger”
Released near the top of the year, “Dancing With a Stranger” has quietly grown into another hit for Fifth Harmony solo star Normani — fresh off her “Love Lies” success alongside Khalid — and Smith, who scores his first Hot 100 top 20 single since “Too Good at Goodbyes” two years ago. Both artists have track records at Top 40 radio, and the muted disco thump of “Stranger” should continue reaching new listeners over the spring, with a prolonged summer push if things go well enough.
THE OUTSIDE SHOTS
Ariana Grande, “Bloodline”
Can Ariana’s hot streak extend into summer? Grande has been in the business of ruling the Hot 100 for most of 2019, first with the Thank U, Next title track, then with Sound of Music-sampling follow-up single “7 Rings.” “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” has already become a breakout hit from the track list, debuting at No. 2 on the chart, and while there are multiple new songs worthy of single treatment, the horns from “Bloodline” absolutely deserve to ring out from car stereos on sweltering afternoons in 2019. If “Bloodline” gets the radio look it deserves, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ariana reign through this summer.
YK Osiris, “Worth It”
The new hit from this Def Jam newcomer is quickly climbing the Hot 100 thanks to an enormous hook, surprisingly tender lyrics and, oddly enough, an electric guitar solo during the bridge. “Worth It” is a strange hybrid of styles that is serving as a breakthrough hit — don’t be shocked if this becomes inescapable by the end of the spring.
Mabel, “Don’t Call Me Up”
Mabel, the 23-year-old daughter of Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey, has scored a handful of hits in her native U.K. since making her debut in 2015, but the propulsive breakup track “Don’t Call Me Up” appears to have the juice to make the leap across the pond. This week the track bows on the Pop Songs chart at No. 37, and the uptempo kiss-off could climb higher as the cold melts away.
Calboy, “Envy Me”
At exactly two minutes, Calboy’s chilly breakthrough single “Envy Me” is certainly not a traditional summer song, yet a kinetic beat and a corresponding viral dance challenge have helped the track slowly climb the Hot 100, entering the top 40 this week after three months on the chart. It’s difficult to imagine pop radio latching on to “Envy Me,” but Calboy might not need that audience if his streaming numbers continue to balloon in the coming months.
Marshmello & Chvrches, “Here With Me”
The last time EDM titan Marshmello hooked up with an alt-rock mainstay from the United Kingdom, “Happier,” his collaboration with Bastille, became a multi-format juggernaut and the biggest hit of his career. “Here With Me,” the recently released team-up with Scottish trio Chvrches, certainly has the type of hook that could linger around for months on end, and could finally deliver the group’s Lauren Mayberry — one of the more compelling voices in modern indie music — to a crossover American audience.
BTS is a worldwide phenomenon, one which continued to set U.S. chart records in 2018. With an April 12 release date announced for new album Map of the Soul: Persona, expect a ton of interest around the new music leading into the summer, with the potential of a single that could surpass their highest-charting Hot 100 hit thus far, last year’s “Fake Love” (No. 10 peak). And if you don’t think a single that’s not primarily in English could be the song of the summer, you should ask Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee about their 2017.
All hail the reigning song of the summer king! Not only did Drake top last year’s summer songs chart with the viral-friendly “In My Feelings,” he also dominated the chart two years prior with “One Dance.” Who knows if he will even have a proper single to serve as a 2019 summer bid — outside of his new co-starring role on Summer Walker’s “Girls Need Love,” anyway — but discounting an artist as prolific and unstoppable as Drake seems like a poor decision.
In a month, the time between the release of Rihanna’s 2016 full-length Anti and now will officially mark the longest album drought in the pop superstar’s career. We know that she has new music coming in 2019… but will it come soon enough for a summer-owning anthem to be unleashed upon the thirsty world? With scant information available about Rih’s next project and its timing, cross your fingers and toes, folks.
Few artists in modern pop are as in-demand as Billie Eilish, the 17-year-old singer-songwriter who has exploded on streaming services ahead of her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, out March 29. Eilish has released a few tracks ahead of the record release — the menacing “Bury a Friend” recently became her highest-charting hit to date, streaking to No. 14 on the Hot 100 — but it will be interesting to hear what bullets she’s saving for the album, and potentially for a single release ahead of this summer. If one of the album tracks catches fire upon release and receives a splashy live debut at Coachella in April, look for Eilish to enter her first song of the summer race.
Chance the Rapper
With 2016’s Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper transitioned from mixtape darling to A-lister; since that lauded project’s release, he’s also topped the Hot 100 for the first time as part of DJ Khaled’s “I’m The One” with Justin Bieber, Quavo and Lil Wayne. Anticipation is high for the newly married rapper’s next project, which has been given a July release date. If a more traditional album rollout yields a splashy lead single issued in May or June, Chance may be primed to compete for a Song of the Summer crown to potentially replace his signature ‘3’ baseball cap.