You're Being Lied to About Songs of the Summer

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We at The Wire have seen some awfully dubious lists declaring Songs of the Summer throughout the years. With summer finally here, and thus Song of Summer Choosing Season upon us, we decided to set the record straight.

Earlier this week, The Boston Globe published a timeline of the songs of summer going back to 1915, at least according to Phillip Niemeyer. "Songs were chosen based on a loose criteria of release date, when they peaked in popularity, and because they help illustrate how we enjoyed music that summer," he wrote. The reality, however, is that his selections are woefully misguided. 

Take, for example, his pick for 2012: "Gangnam Style" by Psy (which, by the way, is on the verge of 2 billion YouTube views). Psy's viral sensation was no doubt popular in 2012. There's only one problem – it wasn't popular in the summer. 

For one, the "Gangnam Style" video wasn't uploaded until July 15, meaning it wasn't even a blip on the pop culture radar until the end of July, according to Google trends, when the summer was long underway (we're defining summer as May-September, because let's be real here). For another, it didn't overtake Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" until late August, when the summer was approaching its end. Popularity doesn't necessarily dictate Song of Summer status, of course, but anointing a song that wasn't even released until halfway through the season is, by Niemeyer's own metrics, simply incorrect. Also, though: come on. "Call Me Maybe" was the song of that summer. Be serious.

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The Globe list is riddled with similar dubious choices – like "Dynamite" over "California Gurls" in 2010 or the claim that an Animal Collective song (!!) could ever be the Song of the Summer (!!!) – but lord knows it's not the only Song of the Summer list to get it wrong.

This Uproxx list, for example, posits that "Steal My Sunshine" by Len was the Song of Summer '99 instead of "Livin' la Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin. Most crown "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey over Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" for 2005 which, fair, Mariah was all over the place with that song, but this is one where we think the charts diverge from the people's hearts. "Hollaback Girl" is the song of every summer.

Interesting to note: 2006 is highly contentious. We've seen "Hips Don't Lie," "Promiscuous," and "Crazy" all listed as the Song of the Summer, and all three were at the top of the Billboard charts that season. This seems to be the one case where there isn't a wrong choice.

What of 2014, you ask? Vulture offers a fairly respectable look at the contenders, listing the posthumous Michael Jackson jam "Love Never Felt So Good" as the front-runner, but its omission of the sugary pop punk of 5 Seconds of Summer's "She Looks So Perfect" might very well be its own undoing. For what it's worth, Time's reader poll has "Fancy" leading the pack, but it leaves off "Love Never Felt So Good." In any case, prognosticating the Song of the Summer can be kind of a crapshoot. 

But just for the record, here are the past 15 Songs of Summer, end of story:

  • 1999: "Livin' la Vida Loca" - Ricky Martin
  • 2000: "It's Gonna Be Me" - *N Sync
  • 2001: "Bootylicious" - Destiny's Child
  • 2002: "Hot In Herre" - Nelly
  • 2003: "Crazy In Love" - Beyoncé
  • 2004: "Yeah" - Usher
  • 2005: "Hollaback Girl" - Gwen Stefani
  • 2006: "Hips Don't Lie" - Shakira
  • 2007: "Umbrella" - Rihanna 
  • 2008: "I Kissed a Girl" - Katy Perry
  • 2009: "I Gotta Feeling" - The Black Eyed Peas
  • 2010: "California Gurls" - Katy Perry
  • 2011: "Super Bass" - Nicki Minaj
  • 2012: "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
  • 2013: "Get Lucky" - Daft Punk

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.