With Memorial Day – and thus the unofficial beginning of Summer – fast approaching, it’s that time of year again to break down the likeliest contenders for 2017’s SOS. Last year, Drake, Justin Timberlake and the Chainsmokers ruled the charts, and while “Passionfruit” will certainly soundtrack many summer nights, it doesn’t crack this chart. This list is an attempt to not only see which songs are big now, but also a way to try to project these songs’ future performance as we head into June and beyond. I’ll begin with the front-runners and move on to more fringe candidates from there.
Miley Cyrus: “Malibu”
“Malibu” may look like a 180-degree turn from Miley Cyrus, but it continues her trajectory in the straight line she’s been on since breaking character nearly ten years ago. Both Can’t Be Tamed and Bangerz signaled a growing independence for the Disney star, with Cyrus treading over electro-pop and hip-hop beats. That she’s returned with a slice of sunny guitar-pop isn’t a shock – especially after her misguided comments on rap music earlier this year – but the calm she gives the track certainly is. We’re used to seeing Cyrus uninhibited, uncompromised; here, she’s at peace. And while it pushes her arc to a natural next place, it’s a surprise we got here so soon.
DJ Khaled: “I’m The One” [ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper, & Lil Wayne]
Luis Fonsi: “Despacito (Remix)” [ft. Justin Bieber & Daddy Yankee]
Justin Bieber dropped these two songs – or, DJ Khaled and Luis Fonsi coincidentally released their Justin Bieber-featured tracks during the same week a little over a month ago. Both songs hit #1 on the Hot 100 with relative ease, and neither is likely to slow down anytime soon, as both have a ways to go in cracking Top 40 radio’s top five. Certainly looks like we’re in for the Summer of Bieber.
Future: “Mask Off”
Sam Hunt: “Body Like a Back Road”
The two most likely cross-over tracks from the two of the largest genre bases in music – rap and country – couldn’t sound any better for summer. “Mask Off” was an immediate highlight off of Future’s self-titled release earlier this year (although “Draco” is better) and the song has only grown more ubiquitous since. The song’s strong streaming presence has pushed it into becoming a Hot 100 top ten mainstay, and the recently released remix featuring the game’s other hottest rapper – Kendrick Lamar, might be enough to push the song to #1.
Meanwhile, Sam Hunt appears ready to break out of the country bubble with “Body Like a Back Road,” a song that has been creeping up Top 40 airplay charts for about a month now, and one that has rarely left iTunes list of their ten most downloaded songs. Future and Hunt have become two of the biggest artists in their respective genres, and this summer feels like the time they officially break through to their widest audiences yet.
Childish Gambino: “Redbone”
Playboi Carti: “Magnolia”
Every year, there’s at least one song that takes months to take off, and in 2017, Childish Gambino’s late 2016 single “Redbone” looks to be that song. The song is just now gaining traction on top 40 radio, and its creator is on a critical and commercial hot streak. Danny Glover has a critically acclaimed TV show in Atlanta, and the album featuring “Redbone,” “Awaken, My Love!“, is his best-reviewed album yet. The track also featured prominently in the opening of the breakthrough early 2017 film Get Out, and chances are we won’t be able to escape “Redbone” for quite some time.
“Magnolia,” on the other hand, is only a little over a month but feels like its been around for years. Playboi Carti is an ascending talent, and “Magnolia” is exhibit A in his potential. With the right push, “Magnolia” could bloom very soon.
Selena Gomez: “Bad Liar”
Paramore: “Hard Times”
Lana Del Rey: “Lust For Life” [ft. The Weeknd]
Selena Gomez returned with her best single yet just last week, and “Bad Liar” is already positioning itself as one of Summer 2017’s defining tracks. That Talking Heads bass line sets the tone, and Gomez’s playful delivery gives off the perfect vibe for the long, relaxed days of summer.
Perhaps no song sounds like summer this year than Paramore’s “Hard Times,” their 80s-indebted new single that boils with enthusiasm. It has the potential of being this year’s “Cheap Thrills,” a song that slowly but certainly makes its case for being the year’s defining summer anthem.
Lana Del Rey and the Weeknd both know a thing or two about crafting a summer single; Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” remix heated up airwaves a few years back, while the Weeknd dominated the Summer ’15 with “Can’t Feel My Face.” The two join forces on Lana Del Rey’s new single “Lust For Life,” and the song couldn’t sound any more designed for sunny days with the windows open. Radio has never truly embraced Lana Del Rey – it took an EDM remix to get her only top 10 hit there – but “Lust For Life” is her best attempt yet at getting back. Bringing along the Weeknd can only help.
Harry Styles: “Sign of the Times” / Liam Payne: “Strip That Down” (feat. Quavo) / Niall Horan: “Slow Hands”
These trio of singles arrive from three/fifth’s of One Direction (sadly, Zayn’s PARTYNEXTDOOR collaboration “Still Got Time” faded into obscurity as quickly as it arrived) and each is different enough that they can all find a place on radio and playlists this summer. “Sign of the Times” is a sweeping power ballad, “Strip That Down” is a club banger, and “Slow Hands” is an acoustic jam usually reserved for Jason Mraz or whoever just won American Idol. All three have the potential to take over the summer; in the end, they’re still moving in one direction.