The Summer Crop: 2016’s Contenders for S.o.S.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to the summer season, meaning it’s time we seriously consider which songs will soundtrack the upcoming months. As always, superstars lead the pack out the gate, but there are bound to be some lesser known acts who use the summer to make a name for themselves. Here’s to you, Capital Cities.

These are your 2016 Songs of the Summer contenders:

THE LEADER

1. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

I, like most others, was initially thrilled to hear JT was back so soon with new music, washing the taste of 20/20 Pt. 2 out of our mouths. That excitement was tempered when I discovered he was simply returning with a Max Martin-produced, Trolls-soundtracking single. As market-tested as the song is, though, it’s impressive that Timberlake is able to infuse the song with enough soul to make even the most cynical bastard (i.e. me) feel the need to groove to it. “Can’t Stop The Feeling” is a rare instance of a single designated for summer being as sunny and joyous as the months it’s meant to soundtrack.

THE CONTENDERS

2. “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna

3. “One Dance” by Drake, WizKid, and Kyla

4. “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele

5. “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor

These are all artists with #1 hits on their hands, with Drake scoring his first ever Hot 100 #1 with “One Dance.” The dancehall-inspired single, taken from VIEWS, is another sure-fire hit for the Canadian singer-rapper, and is as much a crowd-pleaser as his other hit singles – “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Hotline Bling.” “This Is What You Came For” finds Calvin Harris joining forces with Rihanna yet again, and while “We Found Love” has an impossible shadow to escape, “Came For” smartly taps into a different vein than “Love,” with the most contemporary comparison being an artist Rihanna shares her middle name with – Robyn.

Adele has been largely quiet since 25 erupted in November 2015. “Hello” was a certified smash, yet “When We Were Young” wasn’t the “Someone Like You”-sized hit her record execs expected. I have a feeling that will change with the album’s third single, the buoyant, playful “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).” When the album was first released, “Send My Love” was an obvious single choice. And now with the temperature rising, the song has finally reached its destiny.

“Me Too” is the latest from Meghan Trainor, following the late 90s R&B-aping “NO.” It’s not a good song by any stretch – then again, quality didn’t stop Magic! or Wiz Khalifa before her. What “Me Too” is, though, is a grade-A self-empowerment anthem, one that will surely resonate with a large portion of the listening public.

DARK HORSES

6. “Don’t Mind” by Kent Jones

7. “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers ft. Daya

8. “All The Way Up” by Fat Joe, Remy Ma, French Montana and Infrared

9. “Lush Life” by Zara Larsson

10. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia

Flying under the radar isn’t such a bad thing, especially when it comes to trying to land the Song of the Summer. The aforementioned Magic! – as well as Nico & Vinz – came out of nowhere a couple years ago to score two of summer 2014’s biggest smashes. This year could see something similar occur, and Kent Jones would lead the pack with the smooth and infectious “Don’t Mind.” While hardly showing a lot of personality, Jones completely owns the vocals, creating an indelible melody that is as weightless as an ocean breeze. During the summer months, simplicity counts, and “Don’t Mind” is charming in its simplicity.

The Chainsmokers, Zara Larsson and Sia all have hits under their belts in the states, with Sia being the most recognizable star of the three. Yet her single “Cheap Thrills” – like most other of her singles – has flown under the radar since release. It’s starting to pick up steam on radio and iTunes, indicating the song is receiving nice word of mouth. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t. “Cheap Thrills” feels like summer personified, with Sia’s main thesis being “I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight.” That statement rings true, especially if you have this playing in the background. “Don’t Let Me Down” is a little darker than most summer singles get, but the Chainsmokers/Daya collab is certainly striking a chord with audiences: the song currently sits inside the top ten of the U.S. iTunes singles chart, Spotify’s top steaming tracks, and Top 40 radio. While the song doesn’t scream SUMMER, people are definitely screaming for it. “Lush Life” already had a decent run overseas, but with Larsson breaking through with “Never Forget You,” it would only make sense for her label to re-release “Lush Life” as a U.S. summer single. If this were a contest for which song sounds most like summer, “Lush Life” would win hands down.

Every year there seems to be one rap song so hot rappers come out of the woodworks to jump on it. Have you been wondering what Fabolous, Jadakiss, and a reincarnated Meek Mill have been up to? Or Jay Z since Beyoncé ether-ed him for a second time? They’ve all been trying to get in on Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s excellent throwback jam “All the Way Up.” In front of a magnetic horn loop, Fat Joe and Remy Ma are as fluid and pointed as ever. And even if the original is better than any authorized or unauthorized remixes, the sheer number of artists flocking to “All the Way Up” is a sure sign that there’s only one direction this track can go. I think you know what it is.

Listen to a playlist of the songs featured in this post via Apple Music.

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