What's the recipe for a summer hit? It's a formula that artists and producers have attempted to figure out for decades, long before the advent of music publications' "Trending 140" charts and streaming services' "Viral 50" playlists. Does it come down to a bigger act's co-sign? Placement in a Hollywood blockbuster? How do viral memes affect a single's #1 potential? Sometimes there's a singular song that rules the Top 40 airwaves during the warmer months, while other years, multiple tracks battle it out to be the omnipresent soundtrack for your beach and cottage visits.
According to Billboard's "Songs of the Summer" chart (based on radio play, sales data, and streaming data), the championship belt went to Drake's "One Dance" last year, and the Canadian rapper's don't-call-it-an-album playlist More Life ensures that he'll be in the running for the title once again in 2017. Potential challengers include Kendrick Lamar, who released his highly-anticipated album DAMN. in April, and upcoming returns by festival circuit regulars Haim, Lana Del Rey, and Lorde. On the EDM side of the spectrum, enfants terrible the Chainsmokers and Calvin Harris—both no strangers to chart success—have been delivering inescapable, festival-ready bangers.
As arbitrary or frivolous as the pursuit might seem, music critics and armchair oddsmakers have made it an annual tradition to attempt to predict the "song of the summer" using past data, gut feelings, tea leaves, etc. With this in mind, we reached out to some of our favourite artists including Eclair Fifi, Leonce, Skratch Bastid, and Zedd, to find out what tunes they have in heavy rotation right now. While their picks range from the mainstream to the not-so-mainstream, we're confident that you'll discover something for your next road trip or BBQ playlist.
Donae'o feat. JME & Dizzee Rascal - "Black"
"There isn't a flaw in the tune. The energy is perfect. The hook with JME's ad-libs is too deep. "Black" is just a super banger!"
George Clinton - "Atomic Dog (Special Atomic Mix)"
"Recent Brainfeeder signee George Clinton thought it wise to make a 10-minute-long version of the ultimate 80s funk anthem. It's glorious, indulgent, and tastes like the sweat off a slushee cup."
Omar S feat. Nite Jewel - "Confess To U"
"Recorded after introducing these two to one another while Omar S was out here visiting LA early last year. These two recording artist and my friends have managed to take that LA/Detroit intro to further heights, and have stuck up a creatively sincere-sounding collaborative effort via this sunny side up groove ready for cars, beaches, and yes, dance floors this summer. A delight."
DJ NinOo - "Ambientes Leves"
"The track is of the tarraxo style. It's super innovative and carries all the sexuality and spice, making it one of the best made tarraxo songs in the city of Lisbon for this summer."
Kendrick Lamar - "HUMBLE. (DJ TiGa Jersey Club Remix)"
"I could've entered the summer with any other track, but honestly this spoke more to my character. Once I heard "HUMBLE.," from the first note I felt no more being nice, but I'll still smile. Not to be cocky, but they know I'm a threat. "
Lone - "Crush Mood"
"I chose this track as it sums up the energy of summer festivals for me. The combination of pads, claps, and twinkles expel happiness. I've only played this in hot, sweaty, dark clubs so far, with a very smiley/bouncy reaction, and I'm looking forward to playing it in hot sunshine this summer!"
TRP - "Gunz"
"The song of the summer will undoubtedly be some awful horrible trash with three unhealthy brands, a feature, and a remix, but what it should be is a tune called "Gunz" by TRP out on Unknown to the Unknown. Stripped-back, banging, bouncy techno that doesn't take itself too seriously—probably why it bangs so hard. A synth, a kick, a snare, a hi-hat, that's all."
Calvin Harris feat. Migos & Frank Ocean - "Slide"
"Shit's warm and funky as fuck dawg. Makes me want to day drink and smoke cigs."
UMFANG - "Weight"
"One record I'm really looking forward to this summer is the UMFANG album, Symbolic Use of Light, on Technicolour. I'm a big fan of her music and the first tune to come from it, "Weight," is so, so good. I really can't wait to see what the rest of the album is like. I love the play on tension which is kinda mesmerising. It feels like it's about to really go, but it stays refrained. I love music that feels like it doesn't reveal its full self, that provides you the space to find your own way within it. This is a great example of that."
French Montana feat. Swae Lee - "Unforgettable"
"I don't usually toot my own horn, but I think the song of the summer is what everyone else is telling me, the song I produced for French Montana and Swae Lee titled "Unforgettable." With the lyrics and melodies in the song, it can invoke some emotions or it can make you really move your body to the beat. Maybe even both at the same time? That's what makes it special in my opinion. That and the fact that I can still have this song on repeat 5 months in a row (and counting)."
Blay Vision feat. JME - "Gone Mad"
"Blay Vision is one of my favourite artists in the UK. The MIDI flutes that he recorded on "Gone Mad" are insane. The hook is overly infectious. Blay and JME's lyrics are so poignant, it's great to hear something so fresh and original. I know this song is going to be doing stuff over the summer!"
Joris Voorn - "Iran The Zoo (Digital Mix)"
"This track was the opening of my Awakenings Festival main stage closing set in summer 2016, but I've been playing it since in almost every gig. I fine-tuned it over time, and it fits perfectly in whatever set I play. Out in May just before the summer!"
Kelly Lee Owens
Caserta - "Ricky (Thatmanmonkz Remix)"
"This track makes me want to dance/head to a club. I feel like if it's something you haven't heard, it has the potential to be your track of the summer!"
Katy Perry feat. Migos - "Bon Appetit"
"I was totally prepared to state my case for why Katy Perry's "Chained To The Rhythm" is definitely going to be song of the summer, but then she dropped "Bon Appetit," and now I'm not sure which one goes off harder. I'm gonna put my money on "Bon Appetit" though—it's fun, it's got a built-in meme, and a Migos verse, it probably makes parents uncomfortable. Perfect formula."
SahBabii - "Pull Up Wit Ah Stick"
"It's still pretty early in the year, but at the moment "Pull Up Wit Ah Stick" by SahBabii is a clear winner for me. The melody and hook is unforgettable, and it has this candid happy mood that has enough staying power to bring us through this wild year. Future's "Mask Off" is definitely a honorable mention for being so quotable and meme'd already on the internet."
Mura Masa feat. Charli XCX - "1 Night"
"The whole Number 1 Angel mixtape is so fye, definitely Charli's best release thus far. So many bangers, but something about this song, it's impossible to stop listening to. The track is pretty chill, but Charli's vocals make it super hype. I like that contrast in particular. I think the thing that makes this song so addictive is the super long chorus that keeps building on itself, and how the vocal line drops an octave on the hook."
Ricky Eat Acid
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie - "Drowning"
"While the auto-tuned vocals, 808-heavy beat allows it easy rotation alongside current hits like [SahBabii's] "Pull Up Wit Ah Stick" and [Lil Uzi Vert's] "XO Tour Llif3," A Boogie's deft melody and No I.D.'s atmospheric production are more reminiscent of Speaker Knockerz classics like "Lonely" and "Erica Kane" than anything else. The hook never wears out its welcome, instead gaining more power through repetition, and the whole thing sounds fucking great at full volume in the car. It's my favorite rap song in a good while. RIP Speaker Knockerz."
andhim - "Tosch (Roman Flügel Remix)"
"I recommend my latest remix for the German duo Andhim. The remix of "Tosch" has all the ingredients that it takes to lift your spirits on a hot summer day: euphoric synth lines, a catchy melody and some little breakdowns in between."
Kendrick Lamar feat. Rihanna - "LOYALTY."
"The Kendrick album gets better with every listen. It's hard to tell what song will get the most play at this year's Bastid's BBQs—"HUMBLE." and "ELEMENT." are early favourites—but this song has summer banger written all over it. And when a video drops for this thing, it will solidify its place on the charts, and you'll be hearing it out of every drop top if you aren't already."
Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos - "Slide"
"Egotistically I'd say the song I'm currently working on is shaping up like a summer anthem, but other than that I'd pick Calvin Harris' "Slide." I just think you have to be able to imagine yourself in a car with your windows rolled down, the sun shining, and you wearing sunglasses. If the song feels like that, it's a summer hit."
All interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Illustrations by Louise Reimer.