Song of the Summer: Taylor Swift, Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea, Maroon 5 and Other Early Contenders
What has the early edge to be this year's hottest song of the hottest season? Here's your guide to all the potential top summer hits.
It’s never too early to look toward summer, and with it, the potential top songs of the summer.
The competition has become more of a parlor game among media and consumers in recent years, fueled in part by the 24/7 news nature of the digital age, with labels acknowledging that they now give notable consideration to how they could win the annual race. Republic Records executive VP of promotion Charlie Walk recently told Billboard that the label chose to release Ariana Grande‘s “Break Free,” featuring Zedd, as a warm-weather single last year because it “felt like summer.”
Counters Chris Lopes, Interscope Records senior VP of promotion, “The desire to [score] the biggest record possible at any time is constant, and we don’t promote songs with the specific goal in mind of being the biggest of a certain time frame.” Still, he concedes, “You do know a summer song when you hear it, so there can be a greater sense of urgency when timing a release.”
Claiming the summer’s biggest hit, as Capitol Records has done twice thanks to Katy Perry (in 2008 and 2010), is “always a great trophy for any label,” says Greg Thompson, Capitol executive VP. “It makes your summer vacation sound that much better.”
2015 Song of the Summer Poll: Vote Now for Your 2015 Summer Champ!
With this year’s battle about to officially begin – Billboard’s weekly Songs of the Summer chart measures popularity on the Billboard Hot 100 charts dated between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with the final tally revealing the season’s champ, just after wearing white goes out of style – here’s an early look at contenders for this year’s title, based on current chart action, label insights and (hopefully) educated guesses. Of course, songs not yet released, by such stars as Perry, Rihanna, Adele or any other number of acts that might return with new music, could additionally shake up the field as summer weather continues to heat up.
As you attempt to get into passable shape for beach presentation (what, that’s just me? Oh, ok …), here’s one take on the top potential 2015 songs of the summer, subjectively (although informed by the criteria above) ranked from No. 40 to No. 1, with No. 1 the most likely winner. Regardless of each song’s rank below, there’s a good chance that these are all songs that will earworm their way into countless playlists all summer long.
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40. TBD, 5 Seconds of Summer
Capitol’s Thompson reveals that a new single by the boy band is due in June or July. Given the group’s name, half the battle for a top summer smash might’ve already been won.
39. “Songs I Can’t Listen To,” Neon Trees
Similar in sound to the group’s prior hits, including “Animals” and “Everybody Talks,” so hit potential looms. Honorable alt-rock mentions: “Hallelujah,” Panic! at the Disco; “Uma Thurman,” Fall Out Boy; “Nothing Without Love,” Nate Ruess; “Budapest,” George Ezra; “Shots,” Imagine Dragons; “Someone New,” Hozier; and “Tear in My Heart,” Twenty One Pilots
38. “Invincible,” Kelly Clarkson
Honorable diva mentions: “I Really Like You,” Carly Rae Jepsen; “California Dreamin’,” Sia; “Fire N Gold,” Bea Miller; and, newly signed to Def Jam, both pop/soul newcomer Alessia Cara, with “Here,” and Leona Lewis, with “Fire Under My Feet.”
37. “Feel Right,” Mark Ronson featuring Mystikal
Can the likely follow-up (not yet officially confirmed by RCA Records), to the song of the winter, “Uptown Funk!,” featuring Bruno Mars, challenge for similar honors this summer? The track likewise mines retro R&B.
36. “Renegades,” X Ambassadors
35. “Don’t Look Down,” Martin Garrix featuring Usher
34. “Electric Love,” Borns
33. “Watch Me,” Silento
32. “Pray to God,” Calvin Harris featuring HAIM
HAIM didn’t quite break through at radio with any singles from its debut album Days Are Gone (“Forever” dented the Pop, Adult Pop and Alternative Songs charts). This collab with hitmaker Harris (along with the trio’s elevated profile after joining Taylor Swift’s celeb friend circle) could win over programmers at last (and better set the act up for its next album, as well).
31. “Beautiful Now,” Zedd featuring Jon Bellion
30. “Coming With You,” Ne-Yo
29. “King,” Years & Years
28. “Ex’s & Oh’s,” Elle King
RCA first previewed the song late last year and it’s logged a measured rise since. Now with an HBO Now synch, the feisty, and catchy track (from comedian Rob Schneider’s daughter) debuts on Alternative Songs (at No. 39) and could finally be on its way to widespread airplay.
27. “Lean On,” Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring M0
26. “Photograph,” Ed Sheeran
25. “The Night Is Still Young,” Nicki Minaj
Easily the poppiest single yet from Minaj’s The Pinkprint, and in the tradition of past smashes like “Super Bass” and “Starships.” It debuts at No. 28 on Pop Songs and No. 93 on the Hot 100 this week.
24. “Bright,” Echosmith
23. “Fight Song,” Rachel Platten
22. TBD, Miley Cyrus
21. TBD, The Weeknd
Cyrus previewed “trippy” new music in a New York City performance with The Flaming Lips on May 13, while The Weeknd is reportedly working with Max Martin – and going in a more pop direction – for his next album. Both acts could launch quickly if they release mass-appeal new singles.
NEXT: Nos. 20-1
20. “Where Are U Now,” Skrillex and Diplo featuring Justin Bieber
19. “Ghost Town,” Adam Lambert
Can a song with a wordless whistle as its hook become a hit? (J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold,” Roxette’s “Joyride” and Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” combine whistling with traditional choruses …) At least it’s a catchy whistle, as are the song’s (sung) verses. (Honorable ghost town mention: Madonna’s “Ghosttown”)
18. “Fun,” Pitbull featuring Chris Brown
17. “You Know You Like It,” DJ Snake and AlunaGeorge
16. “Dear Future Husband,” Meghan Trainor
15. “Post to Be,” Omarion featuring Chris Brown and Jhene Aiko
14. “Take Your Time,” Sam Hunt
It’s not a new single, as it recently wrapped an 11-week reign atop the Hot Country Songs chart. But, now that it’s being promoted to pop and adult pop radio, the love song could take on new life as a crossover, a la Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” which became a summer 2013 smash after first conquering country. Honorable country mentions: Hunt’s new single, “House Party”; “Girl Crush,” Little Big Town; “Sangria,” Blake Shelton; “Loving You Easy,” Zac Brown Band; and “Love Is Your Name,” Steven Tyler
13. “Worth It,” Fifth Harmony
12. “Talking Body,” Tove Lo
And, the top 10 …
Tie: 10. “Bad Blood,” Taylor Swift and “Like I Can,” Sam Smith
Big Machine and Republic Records have yet to confirm “Blood” as the official fourth single from Swift’s album 1989, but its star-stuffed video will premiere on the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday (May 17). Meanwhile, Smith’s album In the Lonely Hour is now four singles deep, but this track adds a new element: the joyous cut is the set’s first uptempo single, just in time for radio’s preferred faster summer pace.
9. “Pretty Girls,” Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea
Could Azalea repeat, having claimed last year’s No. 1 song of the summer with her debut smash “Fancy” (featuring Charli XCX)? With its cheerleader-chant chorus and celebratory summer vibe (“All around the world, pretty girls wipe the floor with all the boys / Pour the drinks, bring the noise / We’re just so pretty!”), “Girls” launches at No. 29 on the Hot 100. And, the pair’s performance on the BBMAs will add to its momentum. Speaking of cheerleaders …
8. “Cheerleader,” OMI
The Jamaican artist’s sunny 2012 reggae/pop song has hit new heights following its remix by Felix Jaehn. It bounds 63-47 in its third week on the Hot 100 after hitting the top 10 in more than 15 countries. It’s also currently No. 1 in the UK.
(Honorable reggae mention: From the act with last year’s No. 2 song of the summer: “No Way No,” by MAGIC!)
7. “Honey, I’m Good,” Andy Grammer
6. “Hey Mama,” David Guetta, featuring Nicki Minaj and Afrojack
Two high-energy hits – “Good” and “Mama” – are soaring toward the Hot 100’s top 10. Timing could be on the songs’ sides, as they could challenge for the chart’s upper reaches just as summer kicks in.
5. “Trap Queen,” Fetty Wap (honorable rap mention: “Nasty Freestyle,” T-Wayne; also see No. 33 above)
Both hits represent the rise of indie viral rap hits, with the tracks having bounded into the Hot 100’s top 10. Radio lags far behind their sales and streaming activity, however; if airplay can catch up, the atypical pop hits sport a greater chance in their campaigns for summer success.
4. “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt,” Maroon 5
“We’re thinking that Maroon 5 might have something to say about [this summer’s biggest hit],” says Interscope’s Lopes. The group’s new song will be added to its album V. As long as the original R-rated version is (heavily) edited, the single’s hook, mass-appeal pop sound and, of course, strategic title, should make for seemingly endless summer airplay.
Top three time …
3. “Shut Up and Dance,” Walk the Moon
With its mix of rock and dance, and its continued rise (as it reaches No. 1 on Adult Pop Songs this week), a sustained run in the Hot 100’s top 10 seems likely, making it strongly in play for top 2015 summer smash.
2. “Want to Want Me,” Jason Derulo
The retro R&B/dance/pop hit could likewise be ascending at the right time, currently bulleting at No. 8 on the Hot 100. Its feel-good vibe fits the template for top song of the summer, a la “Fancy,” 2013 winner “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. and Pharrell) and 2012 champ “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
1. “See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
What?! Such an anticlimactic, safe pick, since it’s currently No. 1 on the Hot 100 while it’s still spring? The reasoning: Given its wide lead over all competitors on the chart, it could be in for a long stay at the summit and in the top 10, and longevity in the Hot 100’s upper reaches is key to ranking high on the final Songs of the Summer chart come September. At this time in 2014, eventual winner “Fancy” ranked at No. 3 on the Hot 100. Two weeks later, it would hit No. 1 for the first of seven weeks, setting up its seasonal victory. And airplay for “Again” remains trending upward, as the rap ballad bounds 7-4 on Radio Songs and is the Hot 100’s top Airplay Gainer for a fourth week.
For now … have a great summer! And, see you in September … when we’ll find out all the eventual, and officially ranked, top songs of the summer of 2015.
An edited version of this story originally appeared in the May 23 issue of Billboard.