Songs of the Summer through the years

Here in the U.S., the warmer months are marked by a “Song of the Summer” – an inescapable hit that’s heard over radio airwaves, on restaurant patios, and at parties and barbecues. 

You can try to escape the Song of the Summer, but it’s likely that you’ll know at least some of the lyrics by the time Labor Day rolls around! 

Here are some of the top Songs of the Summer from years past. Which are your favorites?

2021:  — Olivia Rodrigo “Good 4 U”

This track off of singer/songwriter (and former Disney star) Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album was streamed on Spotify more than 600 million times globally in summer 2021, making it the de facto song of the summer. Hayley Williams and Josh Farro of Paramore were given co-writing credits after the fact due to the song’s similarity to Paramore’s 2007 song “Misery Business”.


2019:  Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus — “Old Town Road

Rapper Lil Nas X’s debut single entered the Billboard charts in March 2019 after going viral on TikTok. A remix with country singer Billy Ray Cyrus was released in April of that year. The song also made it to No. 19 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart before being disqualified, sparking a debate about what country music is. Lil Nas X had purchased the beat from Dutch producer YoungKio for $30, and it sampled Nine Inch Nails “34 Ghosts IV”. NIN’s Trent Reznor granted clearance to use the beat shortly after the song started gaining popularity.

2017: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, featuring Justin Bieber – “Despacito (Remix)”

The remixed version of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” was the first primarily-Spanish song to be at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 since “Macarena” in 1996. The song has been credited by music journalists for helping bring Spanish-language pop music back to the mainstream market. English musician Ed Sheeran told Billboard Argentina in June 2017 that he wanted to do a remix of the song, but lost out to Justin Bieber.

2016: Drake Featuring WizKid & Kyla – “One Dance”

Drake’s dancehall anthem, a style departure for the rapper, spent a whopping nine weeks in the number one spot. It was the first song to ever reach over one billion streams on Spotify, and was the platform’s most-streamed song until Ed Sheeran’s “The Shape of You” in Sept. 2017. Drake tapped English artist Kyla and Nigerian musician WizKid to appear on the song. It was produced in just one week and quickly released in April 2016 – since another dancehall-inspired Drake song, “Controlla (ft. Popcaan)” was leaked earlier that year.

2012: Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”

“Call Me Maybe” introduced the world to Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen – and it was brought into the mainstream thanks to a tweet from fellow Canadian Justin Bieber. Jepsen, who won third place on the fifth season of “Canadian Idol”, told AOL Music in 2012 that she saw almost overnight stardom when the pop star and his then-girlfriend Selena Gomez tweeted their appreciation of the song after hearing it on a Canadian radio station. Jepsen was signed to Bieber’s record label shortly after. “Call Me Maybe” was on the top of the charts for nine weeks that summer. 

2009 :  Black Eyed Peas – “I Gotta Feeling”

The Black Eyed Peas dominated summer 2009. Their track “Boom Boom Pow” spent five weeks in the top spot, followed by “I Gotta Feeling”. The David Guetta-produced song was a staple at parties, clubs, and airwaves all summer, spending nine weeks on top of the charts. Group leader told Marie Claire in May of that year, “It’s dedicated to all the party people out there in the world that want to go out and party. Mostly every song on the Black Eyed Peas record is painting a picture of our party life.”


2007: Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z – “Umbrella”

One of Rihanna’s biggest songs ever, “Umbrella” could have been a Britney Spears song. The songwriters had the pop princess in mind when they wrote the track, but her label rejected it. They also pitched it to English singer-songwriter Taio Cruz and American R&B legend Mary J. Blige. The track was a huge hit for Rihanna and spent seven weeks in the top spot. It also had the biggest debut on iTunes at the time, breaking the record held by “Hips Don’t Lie”.

2006: Nelly Furtado Featuring Timbaland- “Promiscuous”

“Promiscuous”, which included a “back and forth” feature from rapper/record producer Timbaland, was Nelly Furtado’s first number one hit in the U.S. Furtado and co writer Timothy “Attitude” Clayton nicknamed the track “The BlackBerry song” since the lyrics were all phrases that could be text messages. “Promiscuous” spent six weeks at the top spot on the charts starting in July 2006.

2003: Beyoncé Featuring Jay-Z – “Crazy In Love”

Producer/songwriter Rich Harrison penned the lyrics for this huge smash off of Beyonce’s debut album in just two hours (while dealing with a hangover). Beyonce wrote the bridge (also the title of the song), and her future husband, Jay-Z, improvised his rap verse in about ten minutes. The song spent eight weeks at the top spot that summer.

2001: Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya & Pink – “Lady Marmalade”

These four performers teamed up on a revamped version of Labelle’s 1974 song for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. It held the No. 1 spot for five weeks and was the third airplay-only song in the chart’s history to hit No. 1 without being released in a major, commercially available format.

1998: Brandy & Monica – “The Boy Is Mine”

R&B singers Brandy and Monica teamed up for this chart-smashing track, which was inspired by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s 1982 song “The Girl is Mine”. It was the top-selling song in the U.S. in 1998 and became only the second song in the chart’s history to jump straight to No. 1 from below the Top 20. The Beatles were the only other artists to do this, when “Can’t Buy Me Love” jumped to No. 1 from No. 27.

1994: All-4-One – “I Swear”

Country singer John Michael Montgomery had a country hit with this song in 1993 – and when R&B boy band All-4-One put their spin on it, it became a certified smash, staying 11 total weeks in the number one spot.

1991: Bryan Adams – “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”

The lead single for the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams’ most successful song. It made the number one spot on charts in at least 19 countries, and spent six weeks at the top of the charts in the U.S.

1990: Mariah Carey – “Vision Of Love”

“Vision of Love” introduced the world to singer-songwriter Mariah Carey – and her iconic “whistle” register. Carey started writing songs in high school. She wrote an early version of “Vision” with drummer/songwriter Ben Margulies, then called ““Here We Go Around Again”, for Carey’s demo tape. The track was revamped and recorded once she signed with Sony, and the result spent four weeks at the top of the charts.

1986: Madonna – “Papa Don’t Preach” 

Madonna is no stranger to controversy, and the second single from her 1986 album True Blue stirred up plenty. The lyrics – inspired by the teenage gossip that songwriter Brian Elliot heard outside of his L.A. recording studio – talk about teenage pregnancy and the tough choices that accompany it. Feminist groups and family planning organizations criticized the singer for encouraging teenage pregnancy, while Tipper Gore from the Parents Music Resource Center, who previously castigated Madonna for her single “Dress You Up”. praised the message of the song. Controversy aside, the song proved to be the singer’s fourth No. 1 hit and spent two weeks in the top spot.

1983: The Police – “Every Breath You Take”

The Police and Sting’s signature song, “Every Breath You Take” swept the summer of 1983, sitting on top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for eight weeks. Sting penned the track in the Caribbean at James Bond author Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate. 

He told The Independent in 1993, “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it was. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.

In May 2019, Broadcast Music, Inc. recognized the song for being the most-played song in radio history.

1982: Survivor – “Eye Of The Tiger”

Survivor’s only chart-topper, “Eye of the Tiger” brought the “thrill of the fight” to MTV and radio stations in summer 1982. The track was the theme song to Rocky III, and was recorded at Sylvester Stallone’s request after Queen denied him the use of “Another One Bites the Dust”. It was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six straight weeks and 15 consecutive weeks in the top ten.

1979: Donna Summer – “Bad Girls”

The summer of 1979 belonged to Donna. The disco queen’s album of the same name stayed on the top of the charts for six weeks during the summer, and the singles “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls” both were number one hits. According to Stereogum, “Bad Girls”, a sympathetic ode to sex workers, was inspired after Summer’s secretary had been stopped by police on Sunset Boulevard.

1976: Wings – “Silly Love Songs” 

“Silly Love Songs”, from Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles group Wings, was a tongue-in-cheek response to criticism against McCartney for writing airy love songs (including from John Lennon). It held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for five non-consecutive weeks and was the top pop song in Billboard’s Year-End charts for 1976. The track was McCartney’s 27th “number one” as a songwriter and is the all-time record for most number one hits by a songwriter, according to Billboard Hot 100.

1975: Captain & Tennille – “Love Will Keep Us Together”

This song was the title and lead single of husband-and-wife duo Captain and Tenille’s first album, but it wasn’t penned by the pair. It was written by collaborators Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Sedaka said that he took the main chord progression from The Beach Boys’ “Do It Again” – both “Captain” Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille played with The Beach Boys as keyboardists. They acknowledged Sedaka on the outro of the track by including the phrase “Sedaka is back”. Captain and Tennille’s version held the number one spot on the Billboard Charts for four weeks that summer, and was the best-selling single of 1975 in the U.S.

1971: Carole King – “It’s Too Late”/”I Feel The Earth Move”

This double lead single off of singer/songwriter Carole King’s album Tapestry spent five weeks in the number one spot on the charts in midsummer 1971! Although King’s record label chose “I Feel the Earth Move” as the A-side, DJs and listeners both seemed to prefer the slower “It’s Too Late”.

What do you think the song of the summer for 2022 will be? Let us know on social media!


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