DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller is one of those song that’s so cheesy that it’s hard to believe it exists. Guitar sampled from Carlos Santana’s 1999 schmaltzy smash “Maria Maria” wails over an itchy Destiny’s Child-esque rhythm while Rihanna, seeming to smack her lips, delivers this bit of crass babytalk: “Know you wanna see me nakey, nakey, naked.” All of which, you may have guessed, produces a near-perfect piece of pop that may well become the cookout jam of this July or of this century.
Rihanna’s involvement in this piece of joyful piffle is a sign of a few important trends in pop. Lately, superstar singers have been spending their solo efforts on credibility-boosting concept albums—and outsourcing the manufacture of pure radio bait to a select group of superproducers who specialize in splashy collaborations. Right now, this system has produced a glut of particularly transparent contenders for the title of song of the summer.
Many of these efforts come from DJ Khaled and Calvin Harris, who have released full-lengths in back-to-back weeks. Khaled is a 41-year-old hip-hop impresario with a long and varied list of accomplishments, while Harris is a 33-year-old Scotsman whose electronic dance creations have been ubiquitous for the better part of a decade. Their albums—Khaled’s Grateful and Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1—sound very different, but both pull from the same pool of high-profile singers and rappers, and both suggest that the era of the mercenary posse cut is also an era of total kitsch.