As Memorial Day weekend draws near, you'll need a bumpin' soundtrack for your backyard barbecue, beach hangout, or somber remembrance of those lost at war. Problem is, the field of contenders for Song of the Summer 2015 is just taking shape (speaking of reflection: local writer Sarah Harper studied last year's crop, settling on Charli XCX's "Boom Clap").
So who will claim the SoS prize this year? The folks at Billboard recently launched an exploratory poll, which we'll use as the basis for our analysis into determining the season's hottest jam. There are plenty of familiar/symmetrical faces (Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Britney Spears), some hot-shot producers (David Guetta, Skrillex, Diplo), and even a couple of newcomers (Fetty Wap, Tove Lo). Without further ado, let's break down some potential breakout hits.
One Direction: 'Girl Almighty' Pro: Title-wise, it's tactically ingenious for a boy band to deify the female listener. There are some breezy, global Paul Simon vibes going on here, too. In contention with Walk the Moon's entry as the most traditionally "rocking" song, demonstrative of rock 'n' roll's current standing with Top 40 listeners. Con:Insanely pandering. SoS Likelihood (1-10): 7.5. Boy-band stigma might hold this track back, but it shouldn't.
Fetty Wap: 'Trap Queen' Pro: This cyclopic 24-year-old newcomer has the goods, as far as sing-songy pop rap is concerned. This is windows-down music. Con: Can a largely anonymous upstart win favor fast enough? SoS Likelihood: 8. Sleeper pick! And to answer the above question: yes.
Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar: 'Bad Blood' Pro: Massive, call-to-arms beat + reigning King of Rap Kendrick Lamar + the most unstoppable pop star on the planet? Yikes. Con: Taylor pretty well covered crumbling relationships with omnipresent single "Blank Space," so there's a slight risk of singles redundancy on the 1989 album cycle. SoS Likelihood: 9. Why would you bet against Taylor Swift?
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth: 'See You Again' Pro: Uplifting, emotionally exposed rally song. Wiz, never hard by any stretch, takes an unabashed swing for pop stardom. Con: Charlie Puth, the tender-voiced singer/pianist, steals the show. Too sappy for a summertime smash? SoS Likelihood: 7. Solid, but is this one gonna bring down the party?
Skrillex & Diplo feat. Justin Bieber: 'Where Are Ü Now' Pro: Homage to Hüsker Dü? Con: It's Beiber waxing romantic over a janky club beat. No thanks. SoS Likelihood: 5. Two legit stud producers should have arrived at something better than this.
Meghan Trainor: 'Dear Future Husband' Pro: Don't hear a lot of doo-wop on the radio. Con: Another grating, high-concept gimmick track from Trainor, who again tries to skate on personality alone. In terms of feminist credentials, the end goal is still marriage and the key to it (plus sex!) is his not being a monster. Revolutionary stuff. SoS Likelihood: 3.5. What did we do to deserve Trainor?
David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack: 'Hey Mama' Pro: Guetta pulled out all the fucking stops on this beat. It's colossal, snowballing EDM with tropical flavor and blasting horns. Minaj, per usual, kills it on the verses. Bebe nails the sticky hook. Con: Lyrically, it's a troubling, cater-to-him regressive song. But nobody cares about lyrics. SoS Likelihood: 9. Unsurprisingly, it's Nicki vs. Taylor at this point.
Maroon 5: 'Sugar' Pro: The people being surprised with Maroon 5 as their wedding band in the music video seem to like it. Con: We can do better than schlocky, disco-indebted pop rock. SoS Likelihood: 3. This is every Maroon song.
Jason Derulo: 'Want To Want Me' Pro: Uptempo, crazy charismatic, feel-good generic pop. It's impossible to intellectualize this one. Con: Derulo is a total cornball, but a blissfully indulgent one. SoS Likelihood:6.5. "Trumpets" was better.
Rihanna: 'Bitch Better Have My Money' Pro: So much 'tude. Con: Lacking rhythm, groove, hooks, and a chorus that isn't abrasive shouting. Couldn't Rihanna have named a foreign car — any foreign car? Sorta lazy. SoS Likelihood: 7. Punk-rock single choice for a bad-ass entertainer, but the SoS ingredients aren't there.
Tove Lo: 'Talking Body' Pro: Super-glue sticky. This one is getting wedged into your brain after one run through the chorus — whether you like it or not. Con: Feels slopped together. Lo, a Swedish upstart with an interchangeable voice and lacking personality, doesn't project staying power. SoS Likelihood: 7. Ear Worm City.
Walk the Moon: 'Shut Up and Dance' Pro: Don't click play! The hook tentacles on this puppy probably squeezed into your brain from just reading the title ... so it's got that going for it. Con: Prefab, say-nothing pop rock. Overeager new wave that just wears on you, man. No one should be this giddy. We got wars and stuff. SoS Likelihood: 2. Ship has sailed on Walk the Moon, anyway; "Shut Up" has been on the charts for 27 weeks.
Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea: 'Pretty Girls' Pro: Same minimal, synth-y beat that delivered us Iggy with "Fancy." Con: Iggy's just the worst. Did physically attractive people really need another anthem? Lyrical clunker, obviously. SoS Likelihood: 8. Man ... this might be it. A paint-by-numbers summer jam that might prove unavoidable. Doesn't mean you have to like it.
The Weeknd: 'Earned It' Pro: An amorous, string-swelling, vocally skillful slice of PBR&B, the tongue-in-cheek genre that's picking up steam. Con: The track is a bit dated, having been released way back in December 2014. It's not just sultry to the ears, either; "Earned It" was featured on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, which feels like forever ago. SoS Likelihood: 3. This is (solid) bedroom music, not Song of the Summer music.
Fifth Harmony feat. Kid Ink: 'Worth It' Pro: Brass hooks! Somebody needs to right a thinkpiece about the horn renaissance in Top 40 — "Problem," "Trumpets," others I can't think of right now. Whistle hook's coming back next. Anyway, this X-Factor-spawned throwback girl group doesn't do anything extraordinary on "Worth It," but rhythmic catchiness, likable assists from Kid Ink, and chorus repetition make for a decent pop song. Con: It's boilerplate pop. SoS Likelihood: 6. The song's significant radio heyday appears to be waning. These girls were born from 1993 to 1997, so expect to hear from them again. Or never again. It's showbiz.
Andy Grammer: 'Honey, I'm Good' Pro: Err ... big win for marriage? Con: The absence of being a philandering dick — the thrust of this obscenely hokey soul-pop song that also smacks of latent conservatism — doesn't make you a good guy. Also: major humble-brag regarding how much ass you could be getting. SoS Likelihood: 3. Dude's the most cocky/annoying bro in your church youth group.
Ellie Goulding: 'Love Me Like You Do' Pro: Pop wizard Max Martin co-wrote this song with friend of the article Tove Lo, although it couldn't have been that hard to write. Con: It's every other Goulding song, whether that's a pro or con is up to you. SoS Likelihood: 3. Another cut from the Fifty Shades soundtrack, "Love Me Like You Do" is perfectly passable but completely forgettable. What's it about? What's unique about its sound? Who cares?
Omarion Ft. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko: 'Post To Be' Pro: Omarion — he of early '00s B2K fame — offers up an easy flowing, killer catchy pop R&B track; it's unclear whether the title has anything to do with social media. Charming guest singer Jhené Aiko drops the line, "I might let your boy chauffeur me / But he got to eat the booty like groceries" — whaaat? Con: Chris Brown is the goddamn devil, so that's tough to reconcile. SoS Likelihood: 7.5. Has potential, fills lots of chilling-out needs — but is it too chilled out?
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