Bodega cats across the land can finally stretch out in the light of the sun—it’s the onset of summer. But all one can think about right now are horses, because Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” has spent several weeks at No. 1 and is not going anywhere, at least not with videos like this one, in which a large and scarily good group of elementary school kids enjoy the purity of a country-trap song that’s more poignant than “Baby Shark.”
The Jezebel staff selected songs with extreme caution and care in 2018, and many of those songs wound up dominating the summer; in particular, Cardi B’s “I Like It,” which, yes, was an easy choice because this isn’t rocket science. But oh, it is! The song of the summer has a sneaky reputation. While at first it may seem too obvious or imperceptible at best—trivial, even, in an age of music overstimulation—a winner emerges nonetheless to seal the summer off and silence critics who once again doubted its relevance.
This year’s batch of contenders are familiar: there’s Lizzo, Jonas Brothers, and Cardi B, and there is no way we’re not getting one of these right. There is also no way we’re not getting most of them wrong. Without further ado, here are your songs of the summer.
Netflix unleashed Beyoncé’s Homecoming in time to commemorate her landmark performance at Coachella, which was smart for everyone involved, including but not limited to the hordes of people who latched onto her flawless cover of “Before I Let Go,” updated for 2019 with an extra verse at the end that provides instructions for how, precisely, to enjoy what I’m pretty sure is already the song of the summer.
It’s irrefutable that any song with an instructional component is primed for success. Older entries in this genre like the “Cupid Shuffle” and “Wobble Baby” are now classics for any time, be it a wedding, a funeral, a barbecue, or your cousin’s third birthday party, but these songs truly shine in the summer. Everyone loves dancing, but not everyone is a good dancer; thank god for songs that understand this innately and make it so that everyone can participate. Beyoncé’s got a leg up on the competition because she started early and people have taken the bait. The #BeforeILetGoChallenge is the kind of thing that makes me think that Instagram is good again, and also, I could listen to the song on repeat forever? It might not chart the way a “song of the summer” should, but I know nothing about charts and a little more about vibes. This song is your friendly reminder that sometimes it’s nice to be told what to do. —Megan Reynolds
As much as I’d like to write about the explosive K-Pop boy band BTS and their sweet summer fling of a hit single, “Boy With Luv,” I’m trying to be a bit realistic here—and I’ve only heard that song in the grocery store once this year, which is typically how I gauge the success and staying power of pop songs. The boy band that will reign supreme this summer is the boy band that ruled a decade ago and chose the perfect time to reunite: The Jonas Brothers. Now that Jezebel’s office is located in Times Square, I hear Nick Jonas’s falsetto in the opening seconds of “Sucker” at least once a day, without fail, emanating from the neighborhood’s chain restaurants, NYC-specific gift shops and inexplicably abundant Irish pubs.
In a world ruled by inattentive internet users, the JoBros provide a few promising key factors that point to victory: they’re nostalgic, they’re hot, their song is written specifically with a sexy, relaxing beach day in mind, it will probably make its way into a shit ton of advertisements and movies this summer, and it’s pretty PG-13. I’m considering the youths in my SoS pick, and for that reason, the brothers Jonas will dominate—just as they have been for weeks. —Maria Sherman
If I’m going to be 100 percent honest, “Old Town Road” will always feel more like the song of spring 2019 than song of the summer 2019. By April, the song was already memed to death, to the point where I was concerned that the song will become so played out that Lil Nas X will be too whenever he eventually releases new material (and no, endless “Old Town Road” remixes don’t count).
But entering June, “Old Town Road” is still at the top of the charts, its new music video has over 88 million views, and we’re still endeared enough by the song that Lil Nas X performing the hit for a bunch of elementary school kids is content that makes us go “awww” instead of content that makes us keep scrolling. So yes, the song had reached ultimate saturation—it’s in the new Rambo trailer, for god’s sake—but if the song were to start playing at the club in June or the cookout in July, would we really sit it out? Not a chance, we’re belting it. It’s that intangible urge to sing along to this goofy song, despite it being a little played out, that will help keep it an essential part of summer’s soundtrack. —Ashley Reese
As soon as I heard this on Megan Thee Stallion’s Fever album, the summer song bells rang off. There’s a breakneck dance pace and a clear, familiar directive: “Simon Says put yo hands on yo hips/Simon Says put yo hands on yo knees,” which is easy enough for those among us with creaky knees. The song is perfect for the club. It’s perfect for the strip club. It’s perfect for the backyard BBQ attended only by patrons over age 18. It’s perfect for the car. It’s perfect for twerking in your bedroom. One of rap’s greatest new prospects, Megan has a handle on songs that make the people move, gyrate, and twerk with dedication. This may not be thee song of the summer, but it will definitely be one. —Clover Hope
Because I’m a cynic, I pinned my “Song of the Summer” prediction last year on a mediocre white guy teaming up with a big pop hitmaker (Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa.) Their song did not become Song of the Summer, but I’m taking a similarly technical strategy because I’m still a cynic and I want to feel in control. Here I present to you Shawn Mendes’s “If I Can’t Have You.” If you’ve been paying attention, you might remember Mendes also had my least favorite song of 2018, but that’s because he’s omnipresent! I’ve heard this song a few times already in public, which was released as an official single in early May, and it’s been on the chart for three weeks currently in the number 13 spot. It’s bright, it’s catchy, it’s wallpaper. I just predict it’ll hang around for awhile, but would love to be proven wrong. —Hazel Cills
The ideal song of the summer should sound like backdrop for a little misbehaving. Listen to “Con Altura” and you’ll have a hard time not to. The Spanish artist known for giving flamenco an edgier, modern twist dips her toe into the world of urbano music and reggaeton, and the result feels like stepping into an icy pool on a sweltering day. Assisted by J Balvin and El Guincho, Rosalía crafts an homage to living fast and literally dying young (on the chorus, she sings “Voy de joven pa’ la sepultura,” which means something like, “I’ll be headed to the grave young.”) But the stakes need not be as high for you to enjoy this upbeat, shimmering single; just listen and let your hips sway. It’s easy. —Frida Garza
I dog-eared Cardi B’s “Press” as my pick for the Song of the Summer before I even heard it. I’ve been burned before (I’m still amazed that Paramore’s “Hard Times” got zero chart traction!), and this year I felt like aligning myself with a winner, the kind who has smashes coming out of her pores at this point in her career. After hearing it, do I still think the virtually hookless “Press” will be this year’s Song of the Summer? Doubt it. There’s nothing that’s particularly summer about it, save Cardi’s decision to wear virtually nothing on its cover. The ultra-femme visual presentation contrasts severely with Cardi’s delivery, which finds her bellowing to the point of sounding butch. “Press, press, press, press, press/Cardi don’t need more press,” she shouts. Well in that case, it won’t really matter to her if this is the Song of the Summer or not, will it? But if it is, I won’t be surprised, either. Weirder things have happened. —Rich Juzwiak
This year, unlike in year’s past, I’m happy to have found a song that I both genuinely enjoy hearing, summer or not. Lizzo’s “Juice” is an airy, fun, upbeat ’70s throwback with a message of self-love and celebration. With lyrics like, “If I’m shining everybody wanna shine,” and “I be drippin’ summer sauce,” it’s also the perfect, breezy song to enjoy while slinging back a few drinks in the sun. —Prachi Gupta
Similarly to “Te Boté”—last year’s most played (yet never taxing) remix that has continued its reign into 2019, based on both statistics and car speakers in Queens and Latin America—this remix of Dalex’s original enlists six featured guests and manages to show the lyrical guns of each of them while boasting a perfectly egotistical summer mood, albeit with a more honeyed tone. Though guaranteed to get less mainstream attention or exposure, since it doesn’t flaunt heavyweight names like Ozuna or Bad Bunny, this song, and every rising urbano artist therein, is one to keep an eye and ear on. Most notably, Panamanian reggaetonero Sech, sensual sensation Dalex, Argentinian emo queen Cazzu, and Lenny Tavárez who really stands out from the rest here. This song is about wanting someone all to yourself and making that crystal clear to them. Even if you’re Soltera, or riding the solo Baila, Baila, Baila wave this year—this is a smooth one that beseeches at least one daily replay and makes me even more excited for the future of Latin music. —Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo
The real song of the summer is whatever this is, presumably forthcoming on Wiley’s Godfather III, out September. But the grime kingpin hit every summer banger checklist with his stunt anthem “Boasty,” which I’ve been bumping nonstop since April, the too-cool cadence of “fling a ragga riddim like it’s ’03" popping into my brainpan whenever I let my guard down. Suitable for a vast range of scenarios—parkside BBQ, low-key rave, high-key rave, bashment ting, Notting Hill Carnival, beach bonfire, TikTok, my abuela’s front porch (rest in peace)—everything about this song is delectable, especially the adorably memeable video and the fact that Idris Elba, Heimdall of Asgard and Macavity of Cats, lobs the best verse (only one Briton on earth can brag about deejaying the royal wedding—well, the good one, anyway). I can’t wait to blast this track on a roof from a massive subwoofer. —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd