Song of the Summer discourse is a cherished internet tradition. Every year, people assess the crop of pop singles in an attempt to determine which will define that summer. For our part this year, Jezebel is holding a tournament voted on by our readers. Instead of focusing on “the song of the summer,” a specific distinction that is technically reserved for only one song (in the U.S., that which has the biggest chart impact), we looked at Billboard’s mega-list of the Top 10 most popular songs in the U.S. for every summer from 1990 to 2022. From there, we selected 16 songs that have, in our estimation, endured or left an indelible impact on pop. More importantly, most of these are songs that we love (and still, after decades in some cases, want to hear).
Most people probably associate summer songs with something uptempo, light, and breezy, but a number of summer hits are on the slow and/or sad side. In fact, there’s a surprising market for songs about being sad in the summer or at least reflect that idea in the title: Lana del Rey’s early hit “Summertime Sadness” (her first U.S. Top 10—courtesy of a remix), Taylor Swift fan favorite “Cruel Summer,” and Maisie Peters’ “sad girl summer.” The fact is that not everyone’s moods sync with the seasons, and an artist who can manage a summer banger (whether uptempo or down) about negative affectation deserves a shout.
We’ve set up this tournament to culminate in a face-off between the highest-voted fast/happy and slow/sad songs. Here’s how it works: In this post, the 16 songs are paired according to their genre grouping: Vote on your favorite from each pair (polls are at the bottom of each slide.) The winners will, bracket-style, be back next week to face off. Out of those votes, four will survive. The following week, they’ll battle and we’ll be left with the top-voted fast/happy summer song, and the top-voted slow/sad summer song. In the final week, we’ll set them against each other to finally determine, once and for all, if the Ultimate Song of the Summer is fast&happy or slow&sad. Get to voting.