Just what is it that makes a great summer song? Should it sing of youth and freedom and a summer breeze? Should it be one of those dance anthems that dominate every club from Ibiza to Miami? Or should it be a simple pop song, ideally one that makes liberal use of unusual instruments like Spanish guitars or marimbas?
Those are the questions MTV viewers are asking themselves right now, as they vote for “Song of the Summer” at the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday (August 27).
Chances are you’ve heard the nominees, whether you knew it or not (and whether you wanted to or not, in some cases). In no particular order, they are Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee‘s “Despacito” feat. Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran‘s “Shape of You,” Shawn Mendes‘ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back,” Demi Lovato‘s “Sorry Not Sorry,” DJ Khaled‘s “Wild Thoughts,” feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, Camila Cabello‘s “OMG” feat. Quavo, and Fifth Harmony‘s “Down,” feat Gucci Mane.
Phew. But what about those lesser known songs that summed up the summery season? Here are 10 summer-defining songs that didn’t make MTV’s cut.
1. “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Poppier than a bottle of fizzy pop that’s been shaken and left in the sun, this offcut from Ms. Jepsen‘s third album E•MO•TION is three minutes of pure euphoria. Prepare to be uplifted.
2. “Passionfruit” by Drake
Not all summer songs are happy-go-lucky, jump-on-the-table affairs, however. This low-key cut from Drake‘s More Life has all the atmospheric nostalgia of a summer classic, though the subject is far from uplifting. Drake sings instead of a relationship gone sour, in a voice so melancholy and devoid of affectation you have to believe he really means it. Yup. We’ve all had that kind of summer before, too.
3. “Shadow” by Chromatics
Okay, so this breezy melancholic gem was released way back in September 2015, but it had a new lease of life this summer when the band performed it at the end of the two-hour season premiere of Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival.
4. “Bad Liar” by Selena Gomez
Not many pop songs have David Byrne‘s seal of approval, but that’s the case for this stripped back banger from the former Disney star. Its use of Tina Weymouth‘s deft bass line from Talking Heads‘ 1977 hit “Psycho Killer” led the band’s frontman to tweet, “I really like the song… and her performance too.”
5. “The Man” by The Killers
This welcome injection of testosterone comes courtesy of Vegas’s finest, though lead singer Brandon Flowers‘s falsetto means it’s the least convincing display of masculinity since Michael Jackson pulled on a pair of leather pants. And for good reason too: drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr has called this shimmering, swaggering piece of disco funk a “tongue-and-cheek” take on what it means to be a man.
6. “LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI” by Kendrick Lamar
This is one big sticky swoon of a song, pleading for unconditional love in the face of fear and doubt. “If I don’t got you, I got nothing,” sings Kendrick, against a backdrop that sounds like someone’s turned down the tempo on a mid-80s Prince track, while Zacari‘s soothing falsetto will have you sinking deeper into your deckchair in no time.
7. “Green Light” by Lorde
As well as Drake’s More Life and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., Lorde‘s Melodrama is a strong contender for the title of best album of 2017. Its lead single sets the tone, with a post-breakup headiness that almost always precipitates a lengthy and painful comedown. Or “fall,” as it’s better known.
8. “Fast Wine” by Machel Montano
The undisputed king of contemporary soca music released this track in the wintry depths of December 2016, but its burst of Caribbean sunshine means it’s quickly become a party favorite over the warmer months.
9. “Everything Now” by Arcade Fire
Not only does the lead single from Arcade Fire‘s fifth studio album scream ABBA, but there’s also pan pipes and even some nah-nah-nahs thrown in for good measure. You’ll feel like you’re driving with the top down and the wind in your hair as soon as you press play (just try not to think too hard about the lyrics).
10. “Fior di Latte” by Phoenix
Imagine listening to 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” but sat on a sun-dappled lounger on the beach with a piña colada in one hand and a choc-ice in the other: That’s this track by French synthpop band Phoenix. It’s taken from their sixth album Ti Amo, and it has summer written all over it.
What gets your vote for song of the summer?Read More