Singled Out is a recurring segment in which I revisit the popular singles of yesteryear. he the last installment of Singled Out re-examined “Pop” by ‘N Sync, which, in retrospect, turned out to be nothing more than a decarbonated relic of the bygone Boy Band Era. Having taken a look at the transient and disposable [...]
In this companion piece to The Next Perfect Pop Song, Maybe - a comprehensive examination of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen - I preview a few choice songs that are contending for title of the Song Of Summer 2012..
You may have not realized it because of this spring’s exceptionally nice weather, but summer officially arrived last week. Now, although not every summer consists of some fantastic voyage with waterfalls and beautiful girls, each summer is guaranteed to have a select group of songs that define it; past examples of which include “Fantastic Voyage” by Coolio, “Waterfalls” by TLC, and “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston. Every summer, one song from this select group rises above the rest to become the Song Of Summer (SOS). This summer is no different. In fact, some candidates for SOS12 have already leaped to the head of the pack.
Although we normally don’t have a definitive idea as to what the SOS12 officially is until much later in the season, there is zero doubt in my mind that this year it will be “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Despite that claim, there are still other songs that will fruitlessly contend. So this article is here to give you a taste of who the contenders are, break them down, and explain why they’re not going to dethrone “Call Me Maybe” as the preemptive SOS12.
If you’re looking for specific reasons as to why “Call Me Maybe” is the front-runner for SOS12, you should first read this article’s companion piece The Next Perfect Pop Song, Maybe, where I conduct a comprehensive examination of all things “Call Me Maybe”, including whether it is truly the next perfect pop song.
Getting on with it, the following are a select few songs that would be, could be, or should be the Song of Summer 2012… were it not for “Call Me Maybe”.
These songs would be the most serious contenders for the title of SOS12, were it not for a few inconvenient circumstances.
“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye
The problem with this song being the SOS12 is that it was released on July 6, 2011. For some, this was already the SOS11. The other issue is that the popularity of this song has risen and fallen so many times in the last year, it just seems like it’s out of gas. I think the music video went viral last August. And the mumbles of discontent with Gotye began weeks ago. Additionally, the lyrical content and message behind the song have always made it feel like it belongs on the winter side of the spectrum.
“We Are Young” by Fun. feat Janelle Monáe
On paper, this song was meant to be the SOS12. It’s anthemic, youthful, and radio friendly. The problem is that it feels like it’s already peaked. As we hit the summer, “We Are Young” is, at best, on its way back down. “Call Me Maybe” on the other hand, is still gaining altitude.
Most mainstream artists and labels recognize the importance of having a hit single during the summer – the financial upside is tremendous. Being supported by the mass marketing and funds required to break a song to the public, these are songs that could challenge “Call Me Maybe” – that is, they have the financial backing and reputation necessary to do it.
“Scream” by Usher
Usher is no stranger to massive summer hits. For instance, in 2004 “Confessions Part II” and “Burn” finished at numbers one and two, respectively, for overall summer performance on the Billboard Hot 100. He’s had big summer hits before and since. “Scream” feels like it’s a hit song before you’ve even heard it. Then you hear it and nothing happens. It’s vapor. There’s nothing to hold on to. I heard it at a big party recently and it chilled the dance floor. I know some obnoxiously passionate Usher fans too, and it’s not doing anything for them either. I’m sure it will be successful and part of the soundtrack of summer, but it will earn that ground on reputation alone.
“Let It Roll” by Flo Rida
Although Flo Rida has never had a huge summer single, he is the one responsible for “Low”, which was the first song to ever reach over 5 million paid downloads. Flo Rida seems poised for summer greatness. He has a history of hit songs and he’s from (in case you haven’t figured it out yet) Florida; but still doesn’t have a summer hit. He’s due and he knows it. Cue “Let It Roll”, his new single. It’s dance-y, party-y, and all about “letting the good times roll.” I mean, he’s really going for it on this one, at one point going as far as saying: “Toast to the good times / May they last forever, we’re young / To the good times, raise your glass, let’s all have some fun.” He’s trying to push everyone’s individual pleasure button all at once. The song might just be candy, but whereas “Scream” has the weight of zero calorie diet air, there’s at least something to hold onto with “Let It Roll”.
“Wild Ones” by Flo Rida feat. Sia
Despite not being his most recent single (see above), this would have been a better choice as his SOS12 candidate. Getting hit with Sia’s distinct vocal right off the bat gives the listener something remember and there are some bread crumbs dropped in between choruses, too (re: “dooze it, dooze it”). Both of these songs will be big summer hits; but their disadvantage lies in their unoriginal sound and content.
“Starships” by Nicki Minaj
Originally, I was not going to discuss this song because it’s so bad, but it’s trying so hard that I felt like it deserves some recognition. First of all, I’m not even going to get into the Radio Disney-like acoustic guitar track on this song. Let’s just leave it as “gross” and move on to the breakdown, which is either some party rock derivative (if that’s even a thing) or blatant rip off of “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO. I don’t know enough about “party rock” to make that determination; but suffice it to say that the breakdown is nothing new.
The lyrics are utterly vapid, which is both surprising and disappointing because Nicki Minaj has such a colorful persona otherwise. The chorus proclaims: “Starships were meant to fly / Hands up and touch the sky / Can’t stop ’cause we’re so high / Let’s do this one more time.” Please, take a moment to clean the barf off your keyboard. There, that’s better.
The first verse simply rattles off summer buzz words, like “beach,” “wave,” and “drink,” all while telling the tale of a “bad bitch like [her]” who “found the Bud Light.” I know that name-checking specific brands of alcohol has become tradition by this point in the Rap Game, but Bud Light? I thought the name-dropping of alcoholic beverages in hip hop was supposed to help illustrate the struggle you persevered while going from the bottom (i.e. Colt 45, Olde English 800) to the top (i.e. Cristal, Patron). The only thing that drinking Bud Light says about you is that you’re just like the rest of us middle class Americans, which is pretty boring for a song about “starships.”
Despite the astonishingly uninspired Bud Light marketing team’s best efforts, it seems as though they somehow managed to increase brand awareness through their ads… or maybe they just paid for the product placement. I fear we might have just entered an era where product placement in popular music is not only normal, but common. Here we go…
Essentially, these are the sleeper picks. More often than not, they’re better songs than what mainstream radio and television pump down the collective throat of America. These should be the songs of summer, but will never gain wide-enough popularity or the recognition necessary to be considered so. Remember when Arcade Fire won a Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011? It’s like that. But there’s always a chance, just look at Gotye and Fun.
“Okay Cupid” by Kitty Pryde
Although there’s plenty of buzz surrounding this suburban rapper and tumblr sensation, she seems too apathetic to pose any serious threat to “Call Me Maybe”. Everything she does is sopping with irony, including an arguably more palatable reference to Bud Light (this time of the Lime variety). It’s also unclear as to whether or not she takes herself seriously as an artist. In fact, I imagine she might snicker at the fact that I just referred to her as an artist. Either way, whether you love her or hate her (those seem to be the only two options – the Kitty Pride backlash is on the way) she doesn’t have the appeal necessary to take down Carly Rae Jepsen (and she’s probably cool with that).
“Jumanji” by Azealia Banks
The song that should really be considered a contender for SOS12 is Azealia’s “212″ featuring Lazy Jay; but it was released some time ago and is far too verbally offensive to gain the widespread popularity necessary to be considered the SOS12. That’s not to say “Jumanji” is a bad song, because it’s not. Plus, there are steel drums in it – an instrumentation choice that never hurts a potential SOS candidate (see: “P.I.M.P.” by 50 Cent, and “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy). Something just tells me that the time is not right for Azealia Banks. Not yet. She’s coming though.
“The House That Heaven Built” by Japandroids,
“This Summer” by Superchunk, and
“Heaven” by The Walkmen
Each of these three songs carries that anthemic quality that people love in a good summer jam. Expect these songs to see heavy rotation amongst your roof top party-throwing friends with a more discerning (re: snobby) taste in music. They’re anthems for the indie crowd, but probably not for anyone beyond there… unless one or more of them is featured in some big summer ad campaign, which is more and more likely these days.
“Heatstroke” by Brick + Mortar
Being as far off the radar as these up-and-coming rockers out of Asbury Park, NJ are, they really have no hope of garnering the attention necessary to have a massive summer hit this year. Nevertheless, they’re a really great band and have a couple songs that are well-deserving of a spot on your summer playlist.
Don’t forget to check out their website and new single “Old Boy” either.
Have A Summah! by Howard Kremer
This album is all you need to have a summah! Imagine taking some Jimmy Buffet, Bruce Springsteen, and Dragon Boy Suede, then throwing them into some sort of sonic blender with a little ice, rum, and ocean water. That’s what this album sounds like… minus the cacophonous blending noise. If you don’t already know, Howard Kremer is a comedian, actor, and comedic rapper (a.k.a. Dragon Boy Suede), who also co-hosts the podcast Who Charted? with Kulap Vilaysack on Earwolf. Summah is a religion to him, and this album is his holy gift to us. Get your copy here for $5 and have a summah!
If you haven’t already, please check out this article’s companion piece The Next Perfect Pop Song, Maybe for some context and a more detailed examination of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
Obviously, I couldn’t talk about all the SOS12 candidates in this breakdown, so which ones do you think I missed? Can any of them hold a candle to “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen? Should we debate? I think we should. Let’s continue the discussion in the comments section below.
This following Spotify playlist contains most of the relevant music from this article, including some other unmentioned songs that could contend for SOS12: