I honestly don’t remember this “song of the summer” stuff being such a big deal until a few years ago. Someone somewhere in the music industry decided that this was some kind of competition and now everyone seems to have bought into this ridiculous race. Billboard even has a dedicated “Songs of the Summer” chart. Pandora uses listener data to predict songs of the summer. Spotify does the same thing.
On the other hand, we all tend to frame summer memories in terms of the music we were listening to during those few months. Whether we’re aware of it or not, these songs form a temporal reference for summers gone by.
For example, I will always associate 1992 with “New World Order” by Ministry, probably because I stood side stage as Al Jourgensen rained hellfire down on the crowd at Lollapalooza. Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” always reminds me of where I was in 2001–and I don’t even like the song.
Elle has done some chart research, looking back over the biggest summer songs of the 80s. Prince and “When Doves Cry” in ’84? Absolutely. “Shout” from Tears for Fears in ’85? No question.
Let’s expand that even further. What was the big summer song the year you were born? Billboard has this chart that stretches back 60 years.