We’re already thinking about summer. Can you blame us?
With much of the music industry in flux due to the coronavirus pandemic, several spring tours, festivals and events have been impacted. While music fans are still turning to their most cherished songs and albums, and watching their favorite artists through livestream performances and social media, everyone is looking forward to the day in which “social distancing” is not the law of the land, and that we can gather again with friends as a celebratory playlist soundtracks our reunions. So let’s talk about what might be the song of the summer for 2020!
Mid-March may seem too early to begin this discussion, but since the majority of popular songs takes some time before becoming mainstream obsessions, there’s a good chance that the biggest song of this upcoming summer — the one that will top Billboard’s annual Songs of the Summer chart — has already been released. After all, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” the 2019 song of the summer, was originally released in December 2018 and first hit the Hot 100 chart last March. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” was first released in January 2017 before dominating that summer; the 2016 song of the summer, Drake’s “One Dance,” was released on Apr. 5, 2016. We won’t know what the official song of this summer will be for a few months, but there’s a good chance it already exists in the world.
Let’s take a look at three categories of early 2020 summer song contenders: the front-runners, better known as the best bets at this juncture; the outside shots, which may creep up the Hot 100 in the coming months (if they crack the chart at all); and the to-be-determineds, featuring five superstars who may rule the summer with a single we might not have heard yet. Here’s the definitive way-too-early breakdown of this year’s song of the summer race:
Doja Cat, “Say So”
Let’s hear it for the No. 1 pick in this year’s song of the summer draft: Doja Cat’s “Say So” — a mix of disco, modern pop and rap that has streaked to a No. 16 peak on the Hot 100 chart — has exhibited the telltale signs of a single that’s about to be inescapable. Doja Cat, once a meme dispenser with “Mooo!,” is quickly morphing into one of the more intriguing new personalities in mainstream pop, and “Say So” bottles up her strongest attributes as an ambidextrous vocalist. The involvement of Dr. Luke as a co-writer may spark some understandable resistance to the track, but barring a widespread backlash, “Say So” could conquer the Hot 100 in the coming weeks.
Lil Uzi Vert, “That Way”
Other songs from Uzi’s recently released Eternal Atake have scored higher debuts on the Hot 100 chart, but “That Way” — which interpolates Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” — has the best shot for a sustained pop crossover. If top 40 radio picks this up in a way that Uzi, who is much more dominant on streaming services, hasn’t experienced before, “That Way” could soon be everywhere. (Click here to read more about Uzi’s big debut, and what his next crossover hit might be.)
Harry Styles, “Adore You”
Speaking of top 40 radio treats, Harry Styles’ Fine Line single “Adore You” has become a bonafide hit, climbing to No. 6 on the Pop Songs chart this week on the back of a ‘70s pop-rock vibe and a happy-go-lucky hook. If the generally likable “Adore You” sustains its upward momentum, the song could make run into the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart (it’s peaked at No. 14 so far) and shimmer through the late spring, on its way to song of the summer contention.
Lady Gaga, “Stupid Love”
With a new album dropping in April and every indication that it will be a return to the dance-ready sound that defined her early-career chart dominance, Lady Gaga has to be factored in when discussing the song of the summer 2020 race. Will her top candidate be a still-to-be-released single from Chromatica, or will it be “Stupid Love,” the joyful electro-pop workout that debuted at No. 5 on last week’s Hot 100? As more radio stations start adding “Stupid Love” to their heavy rotation, the song certainly has a shot at reaching ubiquity during the summer.
The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
Like Gaga, The Weeknd may have a stronger song of the summer contender on his forthcoming album, After Hours — but don’t count out “Blinding Lights,” the synth-pop opus which Abel Tesfaye released in late 2019. While his single “Heartless” shot to the top of the Hot 100 chart soon after its release, “Blinding Lights” has steadily climbed toward the summit, reaching a new peak of No. 4 this week. Soon we’ll know whether After Hours contains a more obvious summer single for the Weeknd, or if “Blinding Lights” is his best shot as a slow-burning smash.
The Outside Shots
Surfaces, “Sunday Best”
This beautifully breezy single from pop duo Surfaces was released back in early 2019, but just recently hit the Hot 100. “Sunday Best” sounds designed for cracking open a cold one alongside a friend on a beach (“Feeling good, like I should,” begins the chorus), and in these trying times, Surfaces may have offered the perfect piece of summer escapism.
Jack Harlow, “Whats Poppin”
For those looking for the next runaway hip-hop single to grab the torch from Roddy Ricch’s “The Box,” it may be “Whats Poppin,” the ebullient single from Louisville native Jack Harlow. The track has peaked at No. 74 on the Hot 100, and while it doesn’t have the type of immediate hook that a summer song typically requires, Harlow’s energy may push it pretty high in the coming weeks.
Benee feat. Gus Dapperton, “Supalonely”
When a song both spawns a TikTok challenge and gets praised by Sir Elton John, it demands to be taken seriously. “Supalonely,” a sleek dance-pop track from New Zealand artist Benee, has made waves overseas without yet cracking the Hot 100 in the U.S., but the potential for a stateside run certainly exists, based upon growing streaming numbers (the song just entered the Spotify U.S. Daily top 20).
Breland, “My Truck”
Daniel Breland has offered us the 2020 edition of “Old Town Road”: “My Truck,” a giddy country-trap anthem from the 24-year-old, has become a viral hit and keeps climbing up the Hot Country Songs chart. Although its formula may resemble Lil Nas X’s, recalling a record-setting 19-week No. 1 Hot 100 hit isn’t the worst commercial fate, either.
If the coronavirus pandemic can become the defining global story of 2020… could a remix of Cardi B saying “coronavirus” become the song of summer 2020? Probably not — in part, due to copyright violations — but this song is catching on, and could be one of the more unexpected Hot 100 hits in recent memory.
In 2018, Donald Glover topped the Hot 100 with the provocative “This Is America,” which would go on to make history by winning record of the year and song of the year at the following year’s Grammy Awards. A few days ago, Glover released… something: Donald Glover Presents emerged on Mar. 15 as a mysterious new project streaming on a loop, before disappearing. Whether or not Donald Glover Presents — which featured stars including Ariana Grande and 21 Savage — eventually becomes a proper album release, the multi-hyphenate is clearly tinkering with new tunes, and could rule the summer if the right song is unveiled in coming weeks.
Rih made this list as a to-be-determined in 2019, a year in which we all thought she would release new music — and then, she didn’t! In this time of crisis, how great would a new Rihanna single sound, though? Perhaps she was simply waiting to return until the world needed her the most.
In case you missed it, Drake just set the record for the most career Hot 100 entries, with 208 songs reaching the tally over the course of his career. He scored the song of the summer in 2016 with “One Dance,” and 2018 with “In My Feelings,” so he might just swing back around to rule another even-numbered year. Even without a new album being imminently released, would you bet against him?
“Don’t Start Now” has surpassed “New Rules” as the highest-charting Hot 100 single of Dua Lipa’s career, and even if the No. 2-peaking track isn’t still in the upper tier of the chart at the start of summer, another song from her Future Nostalgia album, due out Apr. 3, might be. Lipa has turned into a reliable hitmaker since her debut album was released in 2017, and the right single could propel her career even further.
If the rumors of an Adele album arriving in September are true, then that means we’re getting a new single some time in the summer, right? The lead singles from the last two Adele albums were “Rolling in the Deep” and “Hello,” both enormous No. 1 hits. Those songs were released in the winter and fall, respectively; if Adele decides to drop a summer anthem this time around, best of luck to the competition.