Why Having a Song of the Summer Isn’t Always a Good Thing

Now that we’re in September, we can probably agree that there was no dominant song of the summer for 2015. But as Bloomberg points out, this might be a good thing for someone.

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard of rapper Iggy Azalea, the 25-year-old Australian blonde with the face of a model and a disproportionate derrière that she shakes proudly in music videos and jokes she can’t squeeze into a normal-size dress. But the real reason you know Azalea is that her song Fancy—with its brilliantly inane chorus, “I’m so fancy/You already know/I’m in the fast lane/From L.A. to Tokyo”—was America’s No. 1 hit for seven weeks last year. It outperformed John Legend’s All of Me and Pharrell Williams’s Happy, ultimately becoming the Song of Summer for 2014.

Summer has long been a brisk season for the music business, and it has often featured an unofficial anthem, but the Song of Summer is a recent phenomenon. Five years ago, Billboard turned the coronation of a single hit into an event when it created its Songs of Summer chart, tracking releases from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The magazine also pored over its historical data and found the most popular jams of the previous 25 summers, from Tears for Fears’ Shout in 1985 to Rihanna’s Umbrella in 2007 and Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl in 2008.

Now prognosticators from NPR to the least trafficked music blogs studiously parse each year’s contenders. In May the streaming service Pandora released a list of a dozen leaders. “A single song can capture the vibe of the summer and leave an impression for years to come,” Pandora declared on its in-house blog. In late June, Spotify created a midsummer list, based on users’ plays and the “feel-good” nature of the picks. “It’s become the March Madness of music,” says Maura Johnston, a founding editor of the music site Idolator.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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