Handicapping The Summer Song Of 2009

It could, conceivably, have been a hard year to come up with an uptempo, feel good summer hit. Dire economic times could have turned America’s gaze inward and songs like John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” and Hank Williams, Jr.’s even starker “Red, White and Pink Slip Blues” could have spawned imitators beyond Country.
Instead, as you look at the available music going into Memorial Day weekend, one either senses a soundtrack for very cautious optimism or, if you’re not willing to go that far, a need for distraction. There’s no shortage of tempo and energy – always a prerequisite in this column for “The Summer Song.” (The other rules, for those who haven’t seen previous columns in this series, are that a song’s radio run has to cover the bulk of the season, and that it can’t be a song that peaked in spring and carried over.)
Following Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” ride back to stardom last year, there’s no shortage of visible jockeying to take advantage of the season. Rascal Flatts’ “Summer Nights” (not the “Grease” song) is already scaling the Country charts. Sean Paul’s new “So Fine” was released earlier this month, since summer often means Reggae. And Sugar Ray is making an obvious bid to follow the comeback Kid with “Boardwalk,” from the provocatively titled “Music for Cougars.” (It’s more of a left field entry–still brand new, where “All Summer Long” was an obvious hit by last May 20th.)
You can also thank some of the recent changes in R&B and Rhythmic Pop for the additional tempo, as the chugging dance beat that writer/producers Ne-Yo and Stargate helped reintroduce to the genre a few years ago becomes a more common occurrence, most notably in Sean Kingston’s “Fire Burning.” There’s also the trend to different singles for different formats, letting ex-Destiny’s Child member LeToya take a ballad to Urban and the neo-bass-music “She Ain’t Got (S*** On Me)” to Top 40.
We’ll look back at our predictions and choose a summer song right before Labor Day. But here are some of the obvious candidates:
* Lady Gaga, “LoveGame” – Top 40’s fastest growing song at this writing. If this weren’t the summer release, there would be two or three other contenders on her album.
* Kristinia DeBarge, “Goodbye” – A hit on its own merits, but in the first summer that we’ve kicked off in a while without a Rihanna single (one is expected in July/August), this song is also serving as her musical and lyrical proxy. (The recently leaked Rihanna song, “Silly Boy,” is a kiss-off along the same lines.)
* Katy Perry, “Waking Up In Vegas”; Kelly Clarkson, “I Do Not Hook Up,” Pink, “Please Don’t Leave Me” – Individually, the artists have all taken turns dominating the female power pop category. Kelly stepped in when Pink was between hits, then Pink returned the favor. Then, last summer, Perry surprised all comers with our official hit of the summer. And have you ever noticed how the lyrics of Perry’s song make more sense if you sing them as “hooking up in Vegas?”
* Black Eyed Peas, “I Got A Feeling” – “Boom Boom Pow” certainly has the potential to carry through the summer, but this even poppier song, already being performed in their live shows, will likely eclipse it at some point.
* * 3Oh!3, “Starstrukk” – Yes, they’ve got another one on deck. As provocative as “Don’t Trust Me” (and not a difficult dance floor segue into “Boom Boom Pow,” as it happens).
* Flo Rida f/Nelly Furtado, “Jump” – As with “Low,” his first singles were more winter/spring than summer in their timing, but this one is the most uptempo of his three so far and will have the help of Disney’s upcoming “G-Force.”
* Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me” – The most obvious Top 40 fit of any of her “Fearless” singles, and a pop mix is on the way.
* Pitbull, “I Know You Want Me”; David Guetta & Kelly Rowlands, “When Love Takes Over”; Madcon, “Beggin'” – It says a lot about the recent convergence of Rap, Dance, R&B that your “dance hit of the summer” contenders include a rapper reworking a Brazillian-flavored dance record, a Eurodance producer/artist and a Destiny’s Child vocalist, and a Euro-rap remake of a Four Seasons hit that started at Rhythmic first.
* Kevin Rudolph, “Welcome To The World” – Compared to the top of the list, it’s a slow build so far. But there’s the same energy and excitement as “Let It Rock.” It’s hard to believe this won’t ultimately be a hit, or at least take the summer to get where it’s going. I’m also rooting for “Paranoid,” the Jonas Brothers’ change-up record.
* Kings Of Leon, “Use Somebody” – Without a Kid Rock, there’s no uptempo Rock record already in process here. But after two long-running Rock radio hits, Kings Of Leon are finally being worked to Top 40 (which shouldn’t have waited to be asked).
* Metric, “Help I’m Alive” – The one personal pick I’m allowing myself this summer. Started on Canadian Rock radio last fall and has elbowed its way on to the Alternative chart with the help of KNDD (the End) Seattle. Unlikely to end up in front of most Top 40 PDs but would sound great if it did.
That’s not the full list of likely songs that will be hits this summer. There’s a new Jordin Sparks and a new all-format single from Green Day, as well as Drake’s fast-breaking Urban hit, “Best I Ever Had,” but they’re all ballads. Who else might weigh in? Besides Rihanna, there’s a forthcoming Mariah Carey single, a new Shakira (“She Wolf”), Diddy, Paramore, Demi Lovato, and an uptempo Colbie Caillat with a “Soak Up The Sun”-type feel.
That’s a typically long list. As usual, I’m expecting good additions from you, below.

14 replies
  1. Pj Lacey
    Pj Lacey says:

    Craig Morgan’s “Bonfire”. It captures the fun of those summer bonfires with friends and family.
    Also, Jack Ingram’s “Barefoot and Crazy” makes you want to cruise to the beach.

  2. steve sobczuk
    steve sobczuk says:

    The summer song of 2009 has to be Pitbull’s I Know You Want Me, already top ten in airplay in New York at Z1200 and Now, Miami at Y100 and in Los Angeles at KIIS and Amp and working its way across the continent.
    This breezy uptempo number crosses mulitple genre lines from dance to latin to reggae to R&B/hip hop with all the pop hooks anyone could want.
    “I Know You Want Me’s” “come on” title makes a funny catch phrase that I have been found to be muttering to myself on several occasions. It is also the biggest thing at my club gig, along with Lady Gaga and Flo-Rida, where “I Know You Want Me” exploded on contact.
    The Pitbull song feels like summer. If only yes.com would stop identifying it by the sample of “75 Brazil Street”
    Although a little late in the Memorial Day-Labor Day cycle, attention must be paid to Jamie Foxx & T-Pain’s Blame It (On The Alcohol) and the genre busting and surprisingly slow building Day and Nite by Kid Cudi.
    A little early in the summer cycle is Micharl Franti and Spearhead’s Hey You (I Love You), which has a great rock and reggae vibe that should be a multi format hit from Modern Rock to CHR to Hot AC.

  3. Michael McDowell/Blitz Magazine
    Michael McDowell/Blitz Magazine says:

    Of those you mentioned, Lady Gaga may get an extra push by virture of her acclaimed recent appearance on Dancing With The Stars. But the concept would be far more effective if there was a song out there that personified the virtues of the season itself (for example, as War’s “Summer” did in its day), rather than one that simply sounds good during the season.
    You are definitely right, though, that there are signs of guarded optimism out there. My push is for whatever record will further that cause!

  4. Lou P.
    Lou P. says:

    As usual, this is my favorite topic you cover, Sean. It’s fun to see what will end up as the “summer song” of the year, though predicting it this year seems tougher than years past.
    I’m high on 3Oh!3 — Bubba the Love Sponge

  5. Jerry Noble
    Jerry Noble says:

    The same “spider-sense” that tingled when WIOG broke “All Summer Long” says “This Afternoon” from Nickelback. Either do your own radio edit, or scream at your Roadrunner Rep until they give you one.
    You can thank me later. 🙂

  6. Mike Rossi
    Mike Rossi says:

    Thanks Sean for sharing your stack of potent summer hits. The choice of Metric is bold and fun! While considering it for our HD-2 Alternative, I’ve had the feeling it has pop potential. I also like how the Michael Franti and Spearfish is positioned for summertime growth. Allow me to bring one into the discussion: Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.” It is an absolute romp! Have a great summer!

  7. Jeff D.
    Jeff D. says:

    I really think “Sinner” by Big B and Scott Russo has the right sound to be a summer song if CHR would pick up on it.

  8. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    I Know You Want Me is awesome, but it’s hard for Pitbull to get a breakthrough top 40 single.
    Put Don’t Trust Me to work through the summer and definitely the new Jordin Sparks’ Battlefield.
    Let’s see what rhythmic is able to crossover.
    Birthday Sex – SMASH

  9. greg gillispie
    greg gillispie says:

    simply bring back last summer’s Kid Rock song…won’t find anything better…and it is already familiar and a favorite!

  10. Brian
    Brian says:

    Great list Sean…ashamed that Kristinia Debarge went south so quickly! Perfect for summer!! Maybe my favorite on tthe list!

  11. Chris R
    Chris R says:

    Great list Mr Ross!
    I would like to 2nd Michael McDowell’s nominations for the Michael Franti & Spearhead song. As well as Kid Cudi’s “Day And Night”. That was a surprisingly slow building song… but it has to be considered for Song of the Summer – and the faster-tempo’d Crookers Mix version. Not the slower (original) version.


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