Handicapping The Summer Song Of 2007

Part of the much-publicized battle for the Christmas week No. 1 in the U.K., is that record companies have long learned to gear their release schedules toward it–each holiday season ends up pitting an apparent quota of superstar releases, charity event records, TV-related novelties and the oddball left-field record championed by BBC Radio 1 or 2 against each other.
Our equivalent to the Christmas week No. 1 is the battle for the summer song. Somehow the summer song unites the adults who gave up contemporary music radio for NPR a decade ago with their kids who have allegedly never cared about it in the first place. For a few months, there is less focus on the long tail and more on the “SexyBack.” And as if to prove that the U.K. model is taking here, this summer’s crop of top contenders is, as “Hz So Good” columnist Rich Appel notes, more carefully timed than ever. So going into Memorial Day weekend, we already have Justin Timberlake’s top 5 song with “summer” in the title and Kat DeLuna’s fast-rising “Whine Up” that begins with the declaration, “It’s summertime!”
“SexyBack,” by the way, is a good illustration of why it’s always a little dangerous to predict the summer song on Memorial Day, or even to try to anoint one on Labor Day. “SexyBack” came out in mid-June–too late for this column last year–and hadn’t quite overtaken Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” by the end of the summer. But Timberlake is up to his fourth hit from “FutureSex./LoveSounds,” in which time “SexyBack” became, if not the biggest record of the summer itself, the biggest, most tenacious hit in recent memory.
But we’re not shying away from coming up with a handful of candidates. As always, we begin with the ground rule that a true summer song must be uptempo–which rules out Daughtry’s “Home,” T-Pain’s “Buy You A Drank (Shawty Snappin’), Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah,” and Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal).” It also rules out Jordin Sparks’ “This Is My Now,” even if it did become the first “American Idol” coronation song to become a hit since “A Moment Like This.”
That said, “uptempo” doesn’t always have to translate to “fun and uptempo.” Pink’s reissued “Who Knew” is uptempo and breezy musically, a contrast with its “dearly departed” lyric. But it’s not automatically out of contention, as the success of Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” in the summer of 1997 proved. And in Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls,” we have a summer song candidate in which the word “suicidal” figures prominently in the hook. But we are, for the most part, in search of dashboard pounders here.
And the candidates are:

  • Justin Timberlake, “Summer Love” –When “”FutureSex./LoveSounds,” came out, it was just one of many viable singles candidates. But you can’t deny him, the tempo, or the timing. It’s also interesting to see “summer love”–a songwriters’ staple of a more innocent era (or, in the case of “Summer Nights” from “Grease,” a parody of one)–resurface as a topic, particularly since Justin has long proved that he’s not a teenager anymore.
  • Avril Lavigne, “Girlfriend” –With its follow-up already on the way, it really qualifies as more of a spring than summer hit, something which can also be said for Diddy’s “Last Night,” Timbaland’s “Give It To Me,” and, to some extent, Maroon 5’s “Makes Me Wonder.” But they all have the tenor and energy of a great summer record.
  • Kat DeLuna, “Whine Up”; Sean Kingston, “Beautiful Girls” –It used to be that Reggae and Soca records first had to make it from the Caribbean to New York, then work their way from the streets to radio stations like WQHT (Hot 97) New York and WZMX (Hot 93.7) Hartford, Conn., and maybe to R&B and then Rhythmic Top 40. Now there’s more Caribbean-flavored pop and the timing is more precise. And with Rihanna not having gone the Caribbean route this summer, DeLuna and the quirky “Beautiful Girls” (which samples Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”) are both on their way to filling the opening.
  • Rihanna, “Shut Up And Drive” — Just as “SOS” missed being the hit of last summer because of timing, “Umbrella” would be a contender this year if its timing were just a little different, although it had the perfect spring subject matter, as it happened. Rich Appel jokes that the title makes this the answer to Billy Ocean’s “Get Out Of My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” but it’s really her version of “Loverboy,” the sudden venture into rock powerchords that comes out of nowhere.
  • Paula DeAnda & Bow Wow, “Easy” –Sometimes summer records kick around for months before becoming hits. In 1976, Starbuck’s “Moonlight Feels Right” took six months breaking slowly throughout the south, finally becoming a warm weather hit. It happened in reverse, too. The next year, the Paul Davis downer “I Go Crazy” came out in summer, but didn’t get played in many markets until late fall or winter ’78. “Easy” sounded like an obvious hit from its first scattered airplay this winter, but reportedly couldn’t be cleared as a single because of rapper Lil’ Wayne. Now it’s being worked with Bow Wow as the rapper and has summer on its side.
  • Amy Winehouse, “Rehab” –For anybody who follows the British charts, this one has also been sitting in the cupboard for months, as well. But the delay has worked to its advantage, as well as the albums that Winehouse has been able to sell already without radio. And it’s not hard to imagine “they tried to make me go to rehab/but I said no, no, no” as a late-night sing-along at a lot of parties this summer.
  • Fall Out Boy, “Tnks Fr The Mmrs” –The pop/punk standout in a surprisingly light field of Rock contenders as summer begins. (The new Smashing Pumpkins single, “Tarantula,” may be the big Rock radio record of the next few months, and it certainly has the requisite tempo and energy, but it will take a few listens before I can imagine it as a multi-format hit.)
  • Shop Boyz, “Party Like A Rockstar” –At this moment, it’s the most obvious Hip-Hop candidate. Has the advantage of sounding simultaneously mass-appeal (because of the subject matter) and street. In the wings behind it: Hurricane Chris’ “Ay Bay Bay.” It’s also nice to see some uptempo R&B in the pipeline, including Lloyd’s “Get It Shawty,” Chris Brown’s “Wall To Wall,” and Keyshia Cole’s “Let It Go.”
  • Jason Aldean, “Johnny Cash” –In Country, it’s been building throughout the spring, but as with Rascal Flatts’ “Me And My Gang” last year, I always feel compelled to put in a plug for the edgiest of the current Country hits, although the upcoming Big & Rich version of “You Shook Me All Night Long” certainly has a chance to take that mantle. Kenny Chesney, who helpfully gave us a record called “Summertime” in summers past has not weighed in with anything that obvious yet, although a few stations are playing “Flip Flop Summer,” a CD bonus cut that became the title of this summer’s tour.

There are also some songs worth mentioning all have some sort of track record somewhere but aren’t exactly heading into Memorial Day with the kind of momentum that would carry them for the next three months. They’re not safe predictions as “the summer song,” but they’re still great summer records and deserve a mention.

  • Lil’ Mama, “Lip Gloss” –Even before Lil’ Mama showed up on a recent remix of “Girlfriend,” this record was already Hip-Hop’s answer to Avril Lavigne’s hit–cheerleader rap with a universal subject matter (at least for women). So how is this song still under Top 40’s radar? If it can sustain its Rhythmic and R&B base for a few more weeks, maybe its June 5 release as an iTunes Music Store download will finally put it there.
  • Lily Allen, “Smile” –It’s uptempo. It’s breezy. And on British radio last year, it sounded like the obvious mainstream hit it was. In America, despite Allen’s initial album sales, this record somehow got typecast as something much more eclectic than it really was. And now there will be program directors that somehow see this and “Rehab” taking up the same slot. But “Smile” has hung in at radio for this long, and perhaps its summery feel will finally force it into contention.
  • Bob Sinclair, “World Hold On” –Another proven hit from the U.K. and worldwide. Another reggae-inflected dance record. And another song which seems a little less left-field with an airplay story behind it–in this case at WPOW (Power 96) and WHYI (Y100) Miami, both of which had been out of the dance music business for a while.
  • Cupid, “The Cupid Shuffle” –The dance that started in Lafayette, La., last year has been working its way across the south in a market or two at a time. And with Radio Disney now on board, it seems to have reached “Cha-Cha Slide” status where you will undoubtedly encounter it at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah next year, regardless of whether it ever becomes an across-the-board radio hit.
  • Peter, Bjorn & John, “Young Folks” –At any given time, there is at least one fun, uptempo indie Pop/Rock record that feels like it belongs on Top 40 but won’t go anywhere near there. So including this one is probably just wishful thinking, but then again, you wouldn’t have expected a Swedish indie rock entry to get as far as this has in the Alternative world either.
  • And now, please weigh in with your nomination for summer song by leaving a comment.

23 replies
  1. steve sobczuk
    steve sobczuk says:

    As much as I like Timberlake’s Summer Love it will probably peak before the Fourth of July weekend and another single will be in place to peak at Labor Day. Don’t get me wrong, Justin is the biggest pop artist of the era, it’s just that the timing is off and the fourth single from the CD.
    In a perfect world Amy Winehouse’s Rehab would be the record of the summer, but apart from the Lindsay Lohan’s of the world, this song has a little *too* much of an adult appeal. Still amazed at how long it’s taken radio to grab on this act, her album is terrific.
    A left field shot is the Peter Bjorn and John hookfest Young Folks. This deserves a real push from radio, but sounds so unlike everything else, it’s never going to initally test well and then die on the vine from a lack of spins, because it doesn’t sound like everything else. CHR could afford to expand its rock vocabulary beyond the “Hot Topic” punk and play a something as hip as this. Uptempo, big hooks, great lyrics and whistling, what more could anyone ask for?
    My picks go to the new Rihanna track Shut Up and Drive. She has the career momentum Beyonce only wishes she had today. Apart from Timberlake there is no hotter pop star today that Rihanna.
    Kat Deluna’s Whine Up has the same kind of urgency, feel and rhythmic spice that made Sean Paul’s Get Busy one of the biggest hits of the decade. There is a wide and vast audience for the kind of pop hooked filled reggae pioneered by Maxamillion a decade back and made good on by Sean Paul and Rihanna the last few years. It says “Summertime” right up front, how could it miss?
    Also not mentioned is the new Timberland track “The Way I Am” a very welcome respite from all of the boring, draggy and excessively downtempo hip hop. Today’s rap producers need to lay off the cough syrup and pay more attention to Mr. Moseley. Featuring a funny self deprecating lyric from the hottest producer in the world this is over in only 2:40 and leaves you begging for more. Look at the legs “Give It To Me” has had, This is the song to bet your lunch money on.

  2. Jas
    Jas says:

    Jive Records is on fire (makes you wonder what the other guys are doing). There are songs coming that will overshadow a lot of the above includeing Justin Timberlakes “official” 3rd single – LoveStoned, R. Kelly’s “Rock Star” to mention two. The Avril song is very catchy (particularly with the new remix and Lil Mama) Pink’s “U & Ur Hand” is still a great uptempo and while not “the summer song” as it’s peaked at #1 for the past month, will get a lot of club action and play. T-Pain, Bartender, Buy You a Drank, etc., etc. Crazy!

  3. John Kuliak
    John Kuliak says:

    Just getting started at Alternative is Dogboy’s “Can’t Buy Soul”, with a Caribbean groove, Grease-like funky rhythm, and an insouciant easy swagger. The link is for the video, posted on Revver.

  4. Tom Calococci
    Tom Calococci says:

    I have a feeling that this year it will be Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls”.
    This is an instant smash and probably will crossover several formats including CHR, Rythmic and Hot AC.

  5. Don Tandler
    Don Tandler says:

    “Smile” & “Young Folks” have been two of my favorite songs for several months. I’m almost 50. Maybe that’s why top 40 radio won’t play them!

  6. James Bogart
    James Bogart says:

    Interesting analysis. I posit that the song with the most crossover potential is “The Sweet Escape”, the title cut from Gwen Stefani’s latest release.
    This song went from American Idol to Mainstream AC in a matter of weeks.
    It’s also, after only a handful of spins, our TOP REQUESTED song.
    If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be playing anything involving Akon, I would have laughed at you. But, who’s laughing now?
    James Bogart
    Program Director, WYXL

  7. george bush sr
    george bush sr says:

    Kinston’s Beautiful Girls uses the Ben E. King “Stand By Me” instrumental build effectively – while Stand By Me is without a doubt a classic, this Kingston track should do well. Kids today won’t recognize it, but I certainly do. Right Barb?

  8. MC Marcus Chapman
    MC Marcus Chapman says:

    From an urban radio perspective, I’d have to go with “Party Like a Rock Star” from the songs that are out right now. It’s doing well on the air and in the clubs. Unfortunately, most songs don’t stay hot for long these days so it might not last through Labor Day. We’ll see if something else comes out of nowhere in June or July.

  9. Greg Gillispie
    Greg Gillispie says:

    Any of these songs could win the vote. Unfortunately, chances are the vote winner and losers won’t be remembered at this time next year.

  10. Bill Bailey
    Bill Bailey says:

    You should check out “Shot of Laughter” by Sugar Ray. It was released for a minute, last summer but got no real support. They should re-release it. If they were looking for a Beach Boys sound (!) they nailed it.
    Bill Bailey
    Grand Rapids, Mich.

  11. Pete Cosenza
    Pete Cosenza says:

    I’ve been telling people Peter Bjorn and John will be one of the songs of Summer ’07! I love that you included this on your list. AAA, Adult Top 40 and continued success at Mod Rock. And I do believe Top 40 will have a run with it as well. Love the multi-format thing!
    Pete Cosenza
    Sr. VP Promotion/Adult Formats
    Columbia Records

  12. brianCarter
    brianCarter says:

    Sean,Once again you throw the darts and they hit……I’m Gonna go with SEAN KINGSTON(someone has to take SHAGGY or SEAN PAUL’s place right now,I dont see this impacting Urban)but it’s just quirky enough,I’m also lovin AMY WINEHOUSE..TPain is becoming the “KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND” of HIPHOP.
    I personally like BEYONCE’s GET ME BODIED..should’ve been the 2nd single.The extended version gives ‘dance instructions”that rival “bad electric slide”moves at a wedding.
    SHOP BOYS is desting for many a sporting event p.a. system!

  13. toni
    toni says:

    okay so sean kingston is an automatic shoein. but i also think that cartel’s say something [else] is quite a summer hit, along with bowling for soup’s come back to texas.. rihanna will do well this summer too!

  14. Mike Mullaney
    Mike Mullaney says:

    Amy Winehouse is the type of smash radio should always be watching for, one that sells like crazy before the airplay kicks in, generates huge buzz and is backed up by the best album of the year. The official season of shirking ones responsiblity to sober up is Summer…and rumor is that Linsey is planning a major jump off the wagon in a couple of weeks…cue the hit of the summer “REHAB”!

  15. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    My money’s on something from Prince’s upcoming album “Planet Earth.” The first single “Guitar” rocks, as surely will other as-yet-unknown tracks.

  16. Mike
    Mike says:

    I agree that I think Sean Kingston has already won the prize. In L.A., it’s on virtually every hour on KIIS, KPWR, KXOL/Latino 96.3, etc.
    Here in L.A., another candidate would be DownAKAKilo’s “Lean Like a Cholo.” It’s this summer’s novelty hit (the new Macarena?) at the very least.

  17. Bryan Martinez
    Bryan Martinez says:

    My pick is “Beautiful Girls”.
    But only one person mentioned Timbaland’s “The Way I Are”?! That is **definitely** a dashboard pounder! Also, honorable mentions for “Clothes Off” by Gym Class Heroes (featuring the hook from Jermaine Stewart’s 1986 single “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off”), Red Jump Suit Apparatus “Face Down”, Enrique Iglesias “Do You Know (The Ping Pong Song)”, and Elliott Yamin “Wait For You”, even though it is a ballad.
    One also has to wonder if “Before He Cheats” will be just as strong by the time we hit Labor Day.
    Bryan Martinez
    Weekends, 106.1 BLI
    Long Island, NY

  18. Jimmyz
    Jimmyz says:

    BILLBOARD.COM Single Review:
    When You’re Gone
    Producer(s): Butch Walker
    Label: RCA
    Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” propelled the singer/songwriter to a lofty pedestal: The 22-year-old now has the most No. 1 top 40 hits this decade at five and is the No. 2 artist in the 14-year history of Nielsen BDS,
    behind Mariah Carey’s six chart-toppers. “When You’re Gone,” the second single from No. 1 album “The Best Damn Thing,” shifts the pacing from the frenetic head-banging of “Girlfriend” to a pensive, piano-driven power ballad. A poignant videoclip adds to universality, featuring a husband leaving his pregnant wife for war, a senior who has lost his wife and a teen couple forbidden to be together. Splendid melody, visible message and ace solemn production add up to likelihood of another No. 1 pop peak. ?Chuck Taylor (Billboard.com)
    It’s official – see weblink.
    Since Avril Lavigne has been making music for only five years, I wonder how successful she will be become by decades end?


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