What defines a “song of the summer”? First, it has to be popular during the summer months, and it helps if it’s a poppy, happy, catchy and dance-worthy tune. Extensive radio play, word of mouth and internet streaming also factor in. Summer songs conjure nostalgia for many people, and some of the best songs of the year are released then. In 1989, the song of the summer was Richard Marx’s lovelorn ballad “Right Here Waiting;” in 2002 Nelly’s “Hot in Here” played in everyone’s ears. Every year, Billboard compiles their annual Songs of the Summer list where they keep track of the songs released during the warmer months. It’s based on the “cumulative performance on the weekly Hot 100 chart from Memorial Day through Labor Day.” Here are the 10 best songs of the summer over the past ten years, according to Billboard.
10. 2004: “Confessions Part II,” Usher
Usher Raymond’s Confession album spurred back-to-back hits in the summer of 2004. Even though “Confessions Part II” was the song of the summer, “Burn,” the second biggest song of the summer, was overall more successful than its predecessor. For reasons unknown, “Confessions Part I” wasn’t released as a single, despite “Part II” being a continuation of the melodrama. The R&B song told a story about a man (Usher?) coming clean about getting another woman pregnant, and caused critics to think it was a true story.
9. 2005: “We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey
When Carey’s love ballad hit the airwaves in March of 2005, it had been a while since she’d had a bonafide hit. The song became her comeback tune and stayed number one for fourteen non-consecutive weeks. Like “Confessions,” Jermaine Dupri co-wrote the song. Although it broke chart records at the time, “Belong” had competition. Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” from her debut solo record, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., also stormed the radio in March and rooted itself in pop culture, in a way Carey’s song didn’t. It was so popular it became the first digital download to sell a million copies. (Billboard pronounced Carey’s song the song of the summer, though.)
8. 2006: “Promiscuous,” Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland
Nelly Furtado’s sexually-charged hip-hop-meets-dance song heated up dance floors and pools in the summer of 2006. The success could have been attributed to Furtado suggestively conversing in the song to rapper Timbaland, who contributed both singing and rapping. It became Furtado’s first number one hit in the U.S. and went on to receive a Grammy nomination. Besides Furtado’s hit, Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” received massive airplay and attention.
7. 2007: “Umbrella,” Rihanna feat. Jay Z
Rihanna joined forces with Jay Z, one of the song’s co-writers, in a melancholic pop song that sold over four million digital copies in the U.S.. The song was released in April of 2007 and it hit number one on the Billboard charts in June, just in time for summer. At the end of the year, it landed on several best songs of the year lists. To contrast “Umbrella”’s torrential rainfall, “Hey There Delilah” from the Chicago band the Plain White T’s brought a softer and acoustic perspective on romance, which was one reason why Billboard ranked it as the number four song of the summer.
6. 2008: “I Kissed A Girl,” Katy Perry
Singer, Katy Perry wasn’t a household name yet when she released, One of the Boys back in the summer of 2008. Although, the success of her New Wave-y female anthem from the album pretty much launched her career–not only as a diva, but also as the ‘It Girl’ of summer songs. The “I kissed a girl and I liked it” chorus propelled the single to hit number one on the charts, and to sell over 4 million digital copies that year. Another female artist that also ruled the airwaves that summer: 2007’s reigning queen, Rihanna. Her songs “Take a Bow” and “Disturbia” were top ten songs of the summer.
5. 2009: “I Gotta Feeling,” The Black Eyed Peas
June was a monumental month for the Black Eyed Peas. Their “I Gotta Feeling” party song was number two, with another one of their song’s called “Boom Boom Pow” coming in at number one on the charts, during the same week. This made them a part of an exclusive club, where only 11 other artists ever had songs that ranked simultaneously in number one and number two positions. The jovial song hit another milestone when it became the first song to sell over 7 million digital copies. Both of the Peas’ songs were deemed the songs of the summer, of course. Apparently, the recording industry liked the song, too, as it won a Grammy award.
4. 2010: “California Gurls,” Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg
Two years after Perry’s summer breakthrough, ‘The Girl of the Summer’ returned with even bigger hit “California Gurls.” Her second number one hit was released in May of 2010, a couple of months ahead of what would become the massively successful, Teenage Dream record. The sunny track was her homage to The Golden State (where she’s from), bikini-clad babes and confections. The album also included Snoop Dogg’s rap riffs. Perry’s pop song was the only one of its kind listed as Billboard’s top ten songs of the summer—Eminem, Drake and other rappers rounded out the list.
3. 2011: “Party Rock Anthem,” LMFAO
“Party rock is in the house tonight / Everybody just have a good time.” Akin to the Black Eyes Peas, electro-dance duo, LMFAO tapped into people’s love of partying during the summer. The easy, breezy dance anthem went number one in 12 countries–including the U.S–and became their first hit. Another hit-maker made waves in the summer of 2011: British singer Adele. Her soulful, “Rolling in the Deep” was released in November of 2010, but it took a while to find an audience overseas. In the summer, it was number one in the U.S. for seven weeks and went on to sell over 7 million digital copies. Besides Adele, the summer of 2012 saw fellow divas Perry, Lady Gaga and Nikki Minaj launching successful summery songs.
2. 2012: “Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen
Until the summer of 2012, it had been a few years since a summer song had truly mesmerized the world like Canadian singer-songwriter, Jepsen did with her crush-worthy hit, “Call Me Maybe.” Everyone was humming the chorus, “hey, I just met you, and this crazy, but here’s my number so call me maybe?” Thanks to Justin Bieber famously promoting the single, “Maybe” became a number one hit in 15 countries, birthed numerous viral videos of people singing the song, and became the best-selling single of the year, moving over 10 million copies. Other pop songs like Gotye’s, “Somebody That I Used to Know” also made the cut as songs of the summer.
1. 2013: “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell & T.I.
It has only been a year since Robin Thicke and his boys commanded last summer’s airwaves and computer screens, with his suggestive R&B-infused dance track. Released in March of 2013, the song didn’t hit number one until June, then it held the position for 12 weeks. Of course it’s up for debate whether, “Blurred Lines” or Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was the true song of the summer, but according to Billboard “Blurred Lines” won, making it the first time since Usher in 2004, that a solo male sang the song of the summer. In a rare appearance by a rock band, Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” held the number two spot on the summer song list, with “Get Lucky” ranking third. Looking around the corner to the summer of 2014, critics are already taking bets on what the song of the summer will be. Billboard’s predicting Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” but others are wagering on Ed Sheeran’s “Sing.”