The song of the summer creeps up on you, often not alerting you to its presence before it drops. Last year’s indisputable champ, Drake’s “One Dance,” hit in April and soundtracked the humidity into fall, but usually it’s the sleeper jams that end up becoming your own seasonal anthems, substituting ubiquity for personal attachment—or equating them just the same.
Each year, Jezebel predicts the songs of the summer, based on star presence, chart flow and most importantly, how we vibe with it. Sometimes we are wrong—I’m still pulling for Quentin Miller, for what it’s worth—and sometimes, belated, we are extremely right (“Trap Queen” por vida). We do not claim to be exhaustive—you won’t find songs like “Bon Appétit” or “Malibu” on this list, which will certainly make it into regular radio rotation, nor will you find songs that we truly love but didn’t have room for (Future’s “Mask Off,” Kendrick’s “HUMBLE”). We do, however, claim to be moderately psychic and in possession of excellent taste. Here are your songs of the summer.
Haim, “Right Now”
I’m almost embarrassed by how low-key excited I was for new HAIM, though most of that comes from the stress of worrying that their sound might not be sturdy enough to evolve but still intrigue. That changed after hearing the live version of “Right Now,” which isn’t the first single off their forthcoming album, but is, most importantly, the one I’m obsessed with. The one-shot video is worth your time in itself, but more importantly, the slow way the harmonies thread together, with the smart echo of the refrain (“You’re saying that you need me baby” Danielle sings, as Este follows up with “Right now right now”); the build of the drums; the eventual switch from “need” to “love”; and then, finally, the crisp, almost sudden cool-off that provides welcome release. I probably like it because it reminds me of “Dance Yrself Clean,” but above all, it’s like you’re soundtracking your own movie, and isn’t that the way summer songs are supposed to feel? —Kate Dries
Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour Llif3"
If you don’t know who Lil Uzi Vert is, congrats, you’re officially old!!! Kidding. But seriously, the 22-year-old Philly rapper, who’s collaborated with Migos and Future, has quietly risen through the charts recently to finally land the song “XO Tour Llif3" on the Billboard Top 10. Uzi, like his peppy peer Lil Yachty, prefers the self-descriptor “rockstar” over rapper and you can definitely hear that in this song, in which Lil Uzi Vert sings the chorus in a sort of a bored, pop-punk drawl. It’s a cool and delightfully nihilist song, perfect for an artist who transparently does not give a shit about being famous, and I’ll be surprised if a lyric like “all my friends are dead, push me to the edge” doesn’t quickly become a meme once more people get used to hearing this song everywhere. —Hazel Cills
Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”
I don’t listen to the radio that often because I require silence to do anything, really, but I do sit at a desk with my windows open to the wide range of aural distractions outside my window. In the past week or so, as the weather has gotten warmer and allergy season has begun in earnest, I have heard Bruno Mars’s delightfully infectious bop from every other open car window that’s passed me by. Opinions at Jezebel on Bruno Mars are varied, but this new album is something I will listen to three or four times in a row, only skipping “24K Magic” because I’ve heard it too many times, but letting everything else play out.
It’s not necessarily what you think of when you hear “Song of the Summer,” because it’s kind of low-key, slowed down, and dare I say, more chill. The lyrics are whatever, but the video is wonderful as is tiny, lovely Bruno Mars. Listen to it on repeat, like I do sometimes. Picture yourself at an outdoor function, two drinks in, another on the way. Yung Mars comes on, crooning hilariously juvenile inanities about champagne and Puerto Rico. Are you dancing? Have you started a light two-step while scrolling through Instagram on your phone? Is this a song you will be able to listen to at every event you go to this summer without wanting to steal the aux cord to put on anything else? The real beauty is that this works as well during the day as it does at night, but it’s probably best suited for the half hour before you leave the house while waiting for your hair to dry—a private karaoke performance for one. —Megan Reynolds
Kygo feat. Selena Gomez, “It Ain’t Me”
Every breakup track should aspire to be this bouncy and airy, every Bieber ex this untroubled. Gomez’s relaxed epiphany about her failed relationship (“Who’s gonna walk you through the dark side of the morning? It ain’t me”) is the perfect carefree anthem for a summer in which we’re all enduring a post-inauguration hangover that may never actually dissipate. It’s nice to remember, however briefly, what easy indifference feels like. —Emma Carmichael
Lady Gaga, “The Cure”
This is so predictable, but I’m going with “The Cure,” a song that opens with a sweet cycle of screaming echoes that continue throughout (Gaga is the witch and the screams are Hansel and Gretel). Gaga sings cozily before everything swells into a Jepsenian chorus burst: “I’ll fix you with my love/ And if you say you’re okay, I’m gonna heal you anyway!” This feels like an anthem that pairs well with fireworks and makes you feel positive. It’s made to be listened to everywhere you’ll ever be this summer. -Clover Hope
J Hus, “Did You See”
A British 20-year-old whose thrilling 2015 summer jam “Dem Boy Paigon” inspired massive joyous teen singalongs in neighborhoods all over London, J Hus’s major-label debut, released just last week on Epic, exemplifies his multivalent style: Afrobeats, grime, dancehall, pop, and a youthful elasticity and sense of humor that makes him one of the most relevant “new” artists out. “Did You See” is one of his sneaker-sounding songs, its low-key slink eyeing your heart and probably snagging it sometime around June (if you’re Stateside, anyhow; pretty sure England is already on one). The best part about this is his funny honesty—“I’d be a genius if I didn’t think with my penis”; “They never seen such a skinny man in a big puffer jacket”—which belies a pure, low-key giddiness at his own audacity. Which is just about exactly how I wanna feel come 89 degrees. —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd
SZA f. Travis Scott, “Love Galore”
If I’m being brutally honest with myself, the song of the summer will be that infectious Lady Gaga song, and the sound of the summer will be screaming at your tablet device every time it shows you what the news is. But summers are also for timeless trials of the human experience—like when great sex spoils into ambient longing! or you try to bedeck your entire body with monarch butterflies!—and it’s for these reasons that I’ve selected SZA’s cheeky, cheating “Love Galore,” featuring Travis Scott. Sure, its slow-tempo chill minimalism means it probably won’t be playing at an H&M near you; this is more like the song playing at the summer party you’ll actually be glad you went to. And this track will have to do until the 26-year-old R&B singer’s debut album, CTRL, comes out sometime in the next few months. —Hannah Gold
DJ Khaled f. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne, “I’m the One”
I’d like everyone to remember that I made this call on April 28th and just two weeks later, DJ Khaled and friends debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Is it my favorite song ever? No. But it’s boppy and has a nice vibe and in it I saw a real contender.
With such an early splash, they’ll have to do a lot of work to keep the track popular all summer, but if there’s anyone who is up for the promotional task it’s DJ Khaled. I don’t think most of us will get that “Aw, hey now!” feeling when this comes on, but more than once, you’ll find yourself at a pool party with this floating in the background. As you reach for your red up, filled to the brim with your summer libation of choice, you’ll hear Justin Bieber’s smooth vocals and nod your head. Yes, this will do. -Kara Brown
Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee f. Justin Bieber, “Despacito”
For what it’s worth, I do not think Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” featuring Justin Bieber will be the song of the summer—not because it isn’t a massive hit and a huge deal for reggaton fans (because it is indeed both of these things). It just has the misfortune of coming out around the same time as DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” (also featuring Justin Bieber), as well as a new Haim and whatever Bruno Mars is putting out. Still, you will hear it a lot. —Madeleine Davies
Paramore, “Hard Times”
Paramore’s first single in years is an approachably dorky, retro hybrid (the verses owe to the Talking Heads, the chorus to Blondie) so sunny it compels your ear drums to absorb it like Vitamin D on your skin. But it also gives you a little something to chew on—it’s one of the most upbeat pop songs about depression in recent memory. Paramore mastermind Hayley Williams delivers it all with gusto—her voice positively chimes in the hook. This is a new direction for Paramore, and Williams totally nails it. She makes “Hard Times” sound easy. —Rich Juzwiak
Hailee Steinfeld, “Most Girls”
This song has everything: a catchy hook, a vague message about female empowerment that can’t quite be interpreted as anything as scary as feminism, and I always forget to turn it off when Spotify plays it. You can listen to this tune while getting dressed to go out, murmuring to yourself, “You look greatest when you feel like a damn queen.” Who can disagree with that? Or the fact that “most girls” are just celebrating life, whether they wear jeans so tight ‘cause it feels so right, or sweatpants, or a tiny dress, or they slut it up all over the place? Summer is for dressing however you want and kissing people on roofs after too many wine coolers. I wanna be like most girls, and like most girls I will hear this song 5,000 times before Labor Day. —Aimée Lutkin
Pitbull & J Balvin with Camila Cabello, “Hey Ma”
Let me be very honest about the anthem for the latest Fast & the Furious movie: It’s ridiculous. I’m not a big fan of the song but I can’t seem to avoid it—I’ve heard at the grocery store, at the gas station, and it was even playing as my dentist drilled into my molar last week. So rather than resist the lure of J Balvin, Pitbull, and Camila Cabello—definitely the most awkward trio to ever produce a dance track—I’m leaning in and declaring “Hey Ma” the song of the summer.
It’s quick and catchy, it largely consists of Camila Cabello and J Balvin repeating the words “hey” and “mamma. “ Then there’s Pitbull attempting to make the song political as only Mr. Worldwide can. In the Spanish version, he demands the freedom of Cuba “from Havana to Santiago,” before asking an (ostensibly) hot Cuban girl, “Are you single?” Sure, the people of Cuba might deserve freedom, Pitbull implies, but not freedom from the tyranny of his bad come-ons. Why these lyrics were removed from the English version of “Hey Ma” and replaced with some tepid rhymes about James Bond is one of 2017's greatest mysteries. Either way, I’m doomed to be singing this at both beach and dentist all summer. —Stassa Edwards
Lana Del Rey f. The Weeknd, “Lust for Life”
Lana Del Rey’s yellow-filtered aesthetic and bored, breathy vocals are engineered to summon a fantasy of endless summer. There’s a reason why we were all listening to Ultraviolence during the summer of 2014 and why, on Memorial Day last year, I found myself vaping on Venice Beach, as—what else?—“High By the Beach” played on loop in my head. Now, as another summer approaches, we’re awaiting the release of one more Del Rey album, named Lust for Life after its title single. And while we may day-drink to Haim, we still need our soundtrack for the hot drunk nights lumbering across the beach or sprawled on the roof. On those occasions, Lana is our girl.
Del Rey’s music communicates a sweet delusion of immortality, and “Lust for Life” may achieve that effect more than her previous singles. It’s languid and sensual, lingering on the desire that nourishes so many summer flings—“Take off, take off, take off all your clothes,” Del Rey invites, all honey and dreams. The Weeknd’s presence only intensifies the romance of two young people bewitched by summer’s ethos: you may as well do what you want while you can. “Lust for Life” reminds us that our ids are granted more leeway during the summer, or at least it seems that way. So who cares if your boyfriend’s back in town, “cooler than ever”? You’ll frolic on that Hollywood sign with the person who’s by your side that night. —Rachel Vorona Cote
Jason Derulo f. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign, “Swalla”
Nothing I listen to regularly would qualify as the “song of the summer,” but after lots of diligent searching, I came across Jason Derulo’s “Swalla,” a song that is fine and definitely has that catchy beat with a carefree, beachy vibe that will eventually submit you into liking it whether you want to or not. —Prachi Gupta
Haim, “Want You Back”
Haim is so good at the swelling, driving in your car with the windows down on a sunny day (I don’t have a car), feeling good about bein’ you and bein’ alive singles that make a song of the summer! And “Want You Back,” delivers all that along with a very singable, syncopated chorus that makes me feel like getting drunk, wearing shorts, and burning something in a bonfire even when I’m tired and at the office. —Joanna Rothkopf
Flume f. KUČKA, “Hyperreal”
Although Flume collaborator KUČKA says she wrote it “after spending the day at the most beautiful waterfall in New Zealand,” “Hyperreal” does not sound the way you might imagine a song about a beautiful waterfall in New Zealand to sound. It’s insidious and mournful and a little bit sexy, and—not that I’m speaking from personal experience—an appropriate soundtrack for stomping wide-eyed around your neighborhood having apocalyptic daydreams about the future of the country. Is it the song of the summer? IDK! Do I think the teens will be blasting it in the car with the sunroof down? Honestly, no! But I’m including it because it feels familiar in that juicy kind of way that good songs do, and I expect to hear it thumping around a lot, or playing in the club while a bunch of sweaty, freaked-out liberals dance. —Ellie Shechet