Halfway through the calendar year and with Fourth of July just around the corner, the always much-anticipated Song of the Summer race is now officially underway.
Two weeks into Billboard‘s annual Songs of the Summer chart, and the leader remains BTS‘ “Butter” — which has led the Billboard Hot 100 for each of the last five weeks — followed by Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” and Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” (featuring DaBaby), both of which have also finished just behind BTS for the past two Hot 100 listings.
Will “Butter” reign atop the chart for the whole season? And what songs could threaten its supremacy? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.
1. The Song of the Summer for the first two weeks of Billboard’s official chart has been BTS’ “Butter.” How likely do you think it is to end the season on top as well?
Rania Aniftos: Very likely. BTS released the ultimate summer song right at the start of summer, so why fix a No. 1 spot that’s not broken? We saw a similar pattern last year with DaBaby’s “Rockstar,” which was also released just before the summer and dominated the chart the whole season. I see “Butter” having the same success.
Katie Atkinson: It’s best not to bet against BTS, but I think “Butter” might have needed the full juice of its first five weeks to be on top by Labor Day. It may be BTS’ biggest hit ever, but it feels like there’s still room for another song to sneak into the top spot. Would I be surprised if it pulled it off though? Not really, so I’ll give it a 75% chance.
Jason Lipshutz: I’d give it a 70 percent chance. As “Butter” spends its fifth week atop the Hot 100, the song also bumps up two spots to No. 12 on the Pop Airplay chart — which means that, even if the latest BTS hit slips out of the top of the Hot 100 in the coming weeks, its growth at U.S. radio could help sustain its momentum and remain in the driver’s seat for Song of the Summer. There’s still a lot of time left on the clock, but “Butter” is entering this phase of the game with a sizable lead.
Heran Mamo: It has potential, especially given last year’s leader: DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s “Rockstar.” That smash led the Songs of the Summer tally for 13 out of its 15 tracking weeks while holding at No. 1 on the Hot 100 for seven weeks. “Butter” just churned out its fifth consecutive week on top of the all-genre tally, so it just might stick to No. 1 on the summery summary, as Billboard’s Gary Trust likes to say this time of year.
Andrew Unterberger: I’ll say around a 65 percent chance, but it largely depends on how long the ARMY is willing to fight this battle. Though the streaming and radio presence of “Butter” is considerable, it’s certainly the song’s staggering weekly sales totals — over 100k for each of its five weeks, at a time when songs regularly lead Billboard‘s Digital Song Sales chart with tallies in the 10k-20k range — that have kept BTS at No. 1 the Hot 100. That’s a testament to their fans’ commitment to going out of pocket to ensure that their favs remain on top. Will they be able and willing to keep it up all summer? Underestimate them at your own peril.
2. If not “Butter,” which of the songs currently in the chart’s top 10 do you think has the best shot of dethroning it for the overall seasonal tally?
Rania Aniftos: Doja Cat and SZA’s “Kiss Me More,” for sure. It’s already climbing up the chart, and continues to make waves on TikTok without any sign of slowing down. The breezy lyrics, the beat, Doja and SZA’s voices and basically everything about the song screams “summer” to me, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it leads the seasonal tally soon.
Katie Atkinson: Definitely Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U.” It topped the Hot 100 and has only been behind “Butter” since then. I think “Good 4 U” might have more room for growth than “Butter” does – especially if it (finally) gets played on alternative radio or climbs to the upper reaches of the Adult Pop Airplay chart, like her previous No. 1 “Drivers License.”
Jason Lipshutz: Anecdotally, I have heard “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat and SZA an astonishing number of times on top 40 radio over the past month, and enjoy the song a little bit more each listen. It’s the cooler, edgier kid sister to Doja Cat’s “Say So,” more subtle in its main hook deployment but no less vibrant. “Kiss Me More” has yet to really challenge for the top of the Hot 100, but I could foresee the single hanging around in the top 5 for several weeks, gathering chart points, and slipping into No. 1 at some point, thus competing with “Butter” for Song of the Summer crown.
Heran Mamo: “Kiss Me More” feels like it has a pretty good shot of being song of the summer (and it just reached the top 5 this week). Ushering in summer flings after mass vaccination has helped curb COVID, Doja Cat and SZA’s ode to kissing feels the timeliest of the bunch, and it’s been getting a lot of love on the rhythmic, pop and all-genre radio charts. Those elements could contribute to the slow burning sensation of “Kiss Me More” rising to No. 1 on the summer tally, where Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj’s “Say So” wrapped at No. 7 last year.
Andrew Unterberger: The timing certainly seems right with “Kiss Me More,” especially with it likely to get a large bump this week following the release of parent album Planet Her. I also wouldn’t totally rule out Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” with Daniel Caesar and Giveon — it’s likely already hit its commercial peak since debuting at No. 1 a few months back, but it seems absolutely unkillable on radio and streaming. If there ends up being a lot of turnover elsewhere on the chart, slow and steady (and stoned) could potentially win the race there.
3. What’s a song that’s still a little too new or underground to really register in the chart’s top tier, but you think has a pretty good shot of growing into contention for eventual Song of the Summer honors?
Rania Aniftos: Speaking of Doja Cat, her new collaboration with Ariana Grande, “I Don’t Do Drugs,” is just starting its journey in the music world. The harmonies are smooth and beachy, and Grande’s verse in particular is really, really catchy. Also, my 16-year-old cousin listens to it on repeat, so I’m going to trust Gen-Z’s taste and guess that this song will make its way up the Song of the Summer chart soon.
Katie Atkinson: It’s hard to ignore the power of Doja Cat and The Weeknd coming to the Hot 100 and (probably) the Songs of the Summer chart next week with “You Right” from Doja’s Planet Her album. Both have put in time at the top of the Hot 100 and are certified hitmakers. The only thing potentially working against this one is its laid-back tempo, so it might not exactly work on your playlist for BBQs and pool parties.
Jason Lipshutz: Rauw Alejandro’s “Todo de Ti” makes its listeners immediately snap to attention, a sweaty and jubilant dance track that’s currently flying up the Hot 100 (up nine spots to No. 36 this week). To me, its top 10 ascent is all but inevitable; maybe “Todo de Ti” pushes into the Song of the Summer race in August, but that will be too late to unseat the front-runners. Still, Alejandro’s breakthrough solo hit is strong enough to warrant at least a dark horse mention.
Heran Mamo: Following the success of Megan Thee Stallion & Beyonce’s “Savage,” which topped the 2020 Songs of the Summer chart for a week before “Rockstar” eventually took the title, Meg’s new single “Thot Shit” feels like a strong contender. The inventor of Hot Girl Summer can’t be excluded from this conversation, especially when fans were on their knees praying for a twerk-along anthem to ring in the season, and she certainly delivered.
Andrew Unterberger: I’ll co-sign “Todo de Ti,” and I’ll also throw in Willow’s Travis Barker-featuring “transparentsoul,” a pop-punk scorcher that’s been heating up the streaming charts for months and is now starting to singe the Hot 100 as well. And don’t forget a couple of long-simmering hits in Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” and Kali Uchis’ “Telepatía,” both of which have been around since late last year but are still hitting new peaks in popularity.
4. Which artist are we still waiting on a potential summer song from — one who you think could absolutely blow the competition of out of the saltwater if they come correct with their new beach banger?
Rania Aniftos: Time for Harry Styles to give us another fruit-themed summer hit!
Katie Atkinson: If Rihanna decides to end her musical hiatus today and puts a splash of Barbados sunshine into her first single, it’s over for all you other gyals. After all, her 2007 megahit “Umbrella” practically invented the very concept of the song of the summer.
Jason Lipshutz: It’s Drake, of course, whose Certified Lover Boy album has been delayed more times than “What’s Next” has been played on NBA playoff broadcasts this summer. However, I remain convinced that Silk Sonic has an uptempo heater to follow up their chart-topping slow jam, “Leave The Door Open.” Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak: if you’re reading this, drop a dance-friendly follow-up single and enter the Song of the Summer competition in earnest!
Heran Mamo: Drake is quietly waiting to give us some heat with Certified Lover Boy. After months of postponing the album, he already confirmed it’s coming out before the end of the summer. For whatever reason it hasn’t come out yet, CLB is the “outside” music we’ve all been waiting for this season. Having it drop during the pandemic could’ve crushed the mood entirely (unless it has some “Marvin’s Room”-type ballads that would’ve made the LP perfect for the pandemic), but now it’s ready to meet the moment.
Andrew Unterberger: Since Silk Sonic seem to be having too much fun not releasing a second single to actually dominate the summer with one, I’ll say Lil Nas X. “Montero” is proving to be a lasting hit well beyond its initial controversy, his recent BET Awards performance demonstrates how spectacularly he’s grown into his pop star skin, and everyone involved with his latest seems very confident in the heat that’s still to come on the full album. And one thing about Lil Nas X: He knows how to to get to the top of a chart and stay there.
5. Based on what’s been popping so far and your general early impressions of our first summer in the (quasi-, sorta-) post-pandemic era, what do you think are the kind of songs people will gravitate towards this summer? Or will it be largely indistinguishable from the pop music of the previous 15 months spent mostly indoors?
Rania Aniftos: At this point, everyone (myself included) is deeply craving some social interaction, vacation and fun. As a result, we’ll see the same feel-good, groovy pop songs that got us through quarantine continue into the summer, mostly because we can now actually dance to them with our friends on a dancefloor instead of alone in our kitchens at 2 p.m.
Katie Atkinson: It’s been indistinguishable so far, which makes me think we deserve an out-and-out summer smash this year since we’re finally getting to make up for lost time outdoors. We need a “Despacito” (2017) or a “California Gurls” (2010) or “I Gotta Feeling” (2009) – a song that feels as sunny and fun as the season itself, not just a song that happens to be popular during the summer months. Who will be our summer savior??
Jason Lipshutz: “Intensity” is the word I keep coming back to: whether it’s BTS’s full-throttle pop-rap, Olivia Rodrigo’s punk flair-up, Masked Wolf’s possessed rhyming or DaBaby’s bullet-time disco shimmy alongside Dua Lipa, this year’s crop of summer songs don’t leave much room for laid-back vibes (the exception here is Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” which seems to be gobbling up those vibes for the rest of the top 10 combined). Maybe that’s just coincidence, or maybe we’re just collectively ready to feel something again.
Heran Mamo: Tasty, refreshing, even fruit-flavored hits seem to be in season again, from Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” last year to Justin Bieber, Giveon and Daniel Caesar’s “Peaches” and BTS’ “Butter” in 2021. But I don’t think fans are going to discriminate against dance songs based on whether we were mostly indoors at the time of their release or when we were finally able to enjoy them outdoors. Dua Lipa and DaBaby’s “Levitating” entered the Songs of the Summer chart at No. 3 (where it remains for a second week) and is still holding at the top five of the Hot 100, even though the original version sans Billboard Baby himself has been out for over a year, basically since the beginning of the pandemic. If hits from Lipa’s sophomore album Future Nostalgia can be repurposed from the kitchen to the club, then some pandemic anthems are more likely to crossover into this summer.
Andrew Unterberger: It seems to me like this summer is setting up to be an interesting showdown between the deliriously vibe-y hits (Bieber, Doja, Kali Uchis, Glass Animals) and the punchier in-your-face cuts (Rodrigo, Willow, Alejandro, perhaps Lil Nas X) — whichever wins out may depend on how intensely folks want to celebrate their first summer back. Either way, I think it’s pretty awesome to have plenty of both.