If you haven’t noticed, the Billboard Hot 100 is currently being dominated by songs that have been out for a long, long time. The No. 1 song in the country, Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves,” has been on the chart for over a year (more on that later), and on average, the songs that comprise the current top 10 of the chart have been on there for a whopping 28 weeks each. That doesn’t mean the top 10 has been static for months — two songs in the top 10, Doja Cat’s “Woman” and Imagine Dragons’ “Enemy,” climbed up in just the past two weeks — but it does mean that songs that have been out for months are still resonating across listeners old and new.
It also means that the song that tops Billboard’s annual Songs of the Summer chart in 2022 may very well be out by now — and has been out for a while. Although the Songs of the Summer chart doesn’t start until Memorial Day Weekend and conclude until Labor Day Weekend, we already have a fairly healthy crop of contenders, based on some slow-rising and quickly climbing tracks that seem ready to keep growing in the spring and potentially peak in the summer. Of course, there are always a few wild cards in the song of the summer showdown — like last year’s champ, the BTS smash “Butter,” which wasn’t released until mid-May, but proceeded to dominate the competition upon arrival.
So which previously released tracks are our current front-runners and dark horses? And which superstars, who may or may not have new music coming, are worth keeping an eye on? Even though it’s only March, we’re ready for warm weather — and to wade into the race for the 2022 song of the summer, with some way-too-early predictions:
Doja Cat, “Woman”
Doja Cat keeps rattling off hits from last year’s Planet Her album, and her latest, “Woman,” both enters the top 10 on this week’s Hot 100 and sounds like the type of song that could rule streaming playlists and airwaves for months to come. The mix of Afrobeat, reggae and R&B sounds like a natural fit for beach and barbecue playlists alike; as for Doja, there are few more bankable hit-makers on the planet right now, so save a frontrunner spot for Planet Her.
Latto, “Big Energy”
Latto’s sunny rap breakthrough “Big Energy” is two spots below “Woman” at No. 11 on this week’s Hot 100, and may receive a boost from a new Mariah Carey remix that nods to the interpolation of Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” that Carey’s “Fantasy” and “Big Energy” share. The song may also gain momentum in the coming months simply by being so summer-friendly: the shimmering production and boisterous hook are ready to be deployed at dance parties, and Latto is primed for an even bigger hit.
Fireboy DML feat. Ed Sheeran, “Peru”
Speaking of danceable chart-climbers, “Peru,” from Nigerian artist Fireboy DML and featuring Ed Sheeran, has continued scaling the Hot 100 as the weather warms up, bumping up nine spots to a new peak of No. 54 this week. “Peru” not only has the sound, tempo and chorus to cross over this summer, but Sheeran’s presence will certainly open the song up to radio programmers who have otherwise yet to embrace the Afropop movement. Wizkid and Tems’ “Essence” was one of the most notable hits of 2021, and there’s at least a chance that “Peru” ends up being even bigger.
Imagine Dragons feat. J.I.D, “Enemy”
Last week, Imagine Dragons scored their first top 10 hit in five years, when “Enemy,” their team-up with lightning-quick rapper J.I.D for Netflix’s Arcane soundtrack, climbed into the upper tier of the tally. The brooding, industrial-influenced “Enemy” doesn’t sound like a summer song… but neither did Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” which was one of the biggest hits of 2013 and held the record for most weeks spent on the Hot 100 for seven years. When you consider the added boost from alternative radio that “Enemy” will receive in the coming months, Imagine Dragons has to stay in the contenders’ circle.
Becky G & Karol G, “MAMIII”
The reggaetón single that pairs Latin pop stars Becky G and Karol G has resulted in mainstream pop success for both, with a top 20 bow on the Hot 100 and a current position of No. 26. The streaming numbers continue to bode well for “MAMIII,” and if the track receives a flashy primetime performance or major remix, the two G’s could be enjoying the first top 10 hit of their respective careers together — as well as a real song of the summer contender.
JNR CHOI & Sam Tompkins, “To The Moon!”
London-based rapper JNR CHOI built a drill track around a sample of singer-songwriter Sam Tompkins’ cover of Bruno Mars’ “Talking to the Moon,” named it after an Elon Musk catchphrase, watched it go viral on TikTok, and is now enjoying a No. 64 Hot 100 peak. Got all that? Even if you don’t, one listen to “To The Moon” unlocks its summer-song potential, a classic drill production with a crossover-ready pop hook at its core — and now, with a new remix featuring Gunna.
THE OUTSIDE SHOTS:
As outlined in this week’s Trending Up newsletter, Anitta’s reggaetón single has taken off on TikTok thanks to a viral dance challenge, and may serve as the stateside breakthrough that the Brazilian pop star has been attempting over the past few years. “Envolver” hasn’t hit the Hot 100 yet, but its streaming gains suggest a significant few months ahead.
Dove Cameron, “Boyfriend”
Meanwhile, Dove Cameron’s “Boyfriend” has made the Hot 100, and is quickly rising — up seven spots to No. 42 in its sixth week on the tally. The former Disney Channel star teased the sensual, gender-convention-flipping single in the weeks leading up to its February release, which yielded a notable streaming debut; sonically, “Boyfriend” is more muted than a typical summer song, but don’t be surprised if it keeps climbing, especially with a brand new music video.
Megan Thee Stallion & Dua Lipa, “Sweetest Pie”
Camila Cabello feat. Ed Sheeran, “Bam Bam”
Consider these two recently released collaborations in the same category of summer-song potential: both the Megan/Dua pop confection “Sweetest Pie” and the Camila/Ed post-breakup sing-along “Bam Bam” were released in early March, missed out on top 10 Hot 100 debuts, but are still sitting in the top 40 of the chart as pop radio support starts to kick in. The four artists across these two songs possess such mainstream power and radio cachet that the (slightly) slow starts of “Sweetest Pie” and “Bam Bam” can’t disqualify them from summer contention.
Tiësto & Ava Max, “The Motto”
Last year, Dutch EDM powerhouse Tiësto made a song of the summer bid with “The Business,” while top 40 mainstay Ava Max collected another hit with “My Head & My Heart.” This year, they’ve teamed up for the thumping “The Motto,” and fans of both are buying in: the song shoots up 13 spots to No. 51 on this week’s Hot 100. With more outdoor festivals and major tours this year, expect to hear that bass line from “The Motto” a whole lot.
Glass Animals, “Heat Waves”
Well… can you really rule it out? The current biggest song in the country for the fourth week in a row made history for the longest climb to the top of the Hot 100 ever, at 59 weeks — to show you how long “Heat Waves,” originally released by Glass Animals in June 2020, has hung around, it was also featured as an outside shot in last year’s Way-Too-Early Song of the Summer round-up! “Heat Waves” staying atop the Hot 100 well into the summer seems improbable, but this song keeps defying expectation — plus, it’s called “Heat Waves” and takes place in the middle of June, so it’s a readymade summer anthem!
Not that many hours hours from now, Styles will kick off his third solo era with “As It Was,” the lead single from his May album Harry’s House. Will the song continue his mainstream dominance following smashes like “Adore You” and “Watermelon Sugar,” return to the more meditative grandiosity of his first album, or offer something totally different from both? We’ll soon have an inkling of Styles’ creative focus, but after the enormity of his Fine Line singles, “As It Was” (or any subsequent radio hopefuls from Harry’s House) should be considered an instant contender.
Lizzo returned last August with “Rumors,” a Cardi B collaboration that bowed at No. 4 on the Hot 100 and… didn’t exactly kick off the new album cycle pop fans were breathlessly anticipating. Fortunately, it looks like that cycle is upon us eight months later, with a new single, “About Damn Time,” arriving next month, to coincide with a double-duty SNL gig on Apr. 15. Lizzo won over streaming platforms and pop radio with smashes like “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell,” and it shouldn’t be hard to find support when her next project officially materializes.
After a relatively quiet 2021, Minaj has started off the year with a bang — first with back-to-back Lil Baby team-ups, “Do We Have a Problem?” and “Bussin,” and then last week with the Fivio Foreign collaboration “We Go Up.” The proper follow-up to 2018’s Queen is hopefully on the horizon, too, so whether Minaj enters the song of the summer competition with one of these songs, an upcoming collaboration or a solo track, she has the pedigree to dominate during a particularly prolific period.
Lil Nas X
This week, Lil Nas X is focused on his previously released music — Montero is up for album of the year at this Sunday’s Grammys, while “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” is nominated for record of the year and song of the year. But that doesn’t mean new music isn’t also around the corner: earlier this month, he teased an unreleased song titled “Lean on My Body” on TikTok. A little over six months after Montero’s release, are we that far away from its follow-up? Even if the answer is “yes, sadly,” Nas could rule with a one-off single and reclaim the crown “Old Town Road” first earned him in 2019.
The wait continues for Cardi B’s follow-up to her stunning debut album, Invasion of Privacy — next week will mark the four-year anniversary of its release — although the hip-hop superstar has said that new music is on the way this year. Whenever it does, it will undoubtedly have a strong shot at the top of the Hot 100, considering Cardi’s two most recent singles as a lead artist, 2020’s “WAP” with Megan Thee Stallion and 2021’s “Up,” both made it there. Give us an “I Like It” reunion with Bad Bunny and J Balvin, Cardi, and watch the 2022 SOTS title become your own.
Finally, we have the reigning song of the summer champs, whose “Butter” dominated for 10 non-consecutive weeks (briefly interrupted by another BTS single, “Permission to Dance,” atop the Hot 100). Fan theories abound on when we might get a new BTS single or album, but rest assured, whenever new music drops, season-long domination is a distinct possibility for the group with six No. 1 singles in the past two years.