The sun is shining, the beach is calling, and school is out: It’s time to prepare the song of the summer.
Often, there’s a clear champion: In 2017, Lusi Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” was unavoidable. In 2019, Lil Nas X’s ubiquitous “Old Town Road” foretold future superstardom. Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” did the same in 2021. But that’s not always the case.
Was Harry Styles’ “As It Was” the go-to jam of the 2022 season? Who claimed the title during the summer-that-barely-was in 2020? When all the world’s music is available on streaming platforms, can genre-loyal listeners agree on a single song of the summer?
What if they didn’t have to? Well, here are AP’s 2023 song(s) of the summer predictions — and holders of each crown from past years:
Club song of the summer: “Put It On Da Floor Again” by Latto ft. Cardi B
Rapper Latto’s combative, no-nonsense flow atop a hot, minimalist beat on “Put It On Da Floor” makes it a club-ready contender for song of the summer. It also doubles as a seasonal mantra: “I’m sexy dancin’ in the house/I feel like Britney Spears,” guest Cardi B spits.
Past champion: “Break My Soul” by Beyoncé (2022)
Song of the summer that inexplicably came out in January: “Boy’s a Liar PT. 2” by PinkPantheress, Ice Spice
The dream duo of PinkPantheress hyperpop-punk and lackadaisical rapper Ice Spice created “Boy’s a Liar PT. 2”, a treatise on modern dating with an undeniable hook, and a very creative pronunciation of the word “Liar.” (That boy’s a … Leo?) Few songs have six-plus months worth of staying power, but few songs have challenged what a pop hook can sound like: space-y and, at times, charmingly self-effacing. Like the Capricorn it is.
Past champion: So nice, it must be mentioned twice — “Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo (2021)
The post-ironic, TikTok-heavy, too online, micro-hit song of the summer: “The Margarita Song” by That Chick Angel, Casa Di & Steve Terrell
What do you get when you take a confrontational evangelical sermon on “slut-shaming” given by a woman who calls herself Sister Candy on college campuses, remix it and give it a trap beat? A hit, thanks to comedian/rapper Angel Laketa Moore and artists Carl Dixon and Steve Terrell.
Past champion: “Birthday Suit” by Cosmo Sheldrake (2019)
Hot (divorced) girl (song of the) summer: “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus
Those waiting for a Texas-sized country anthem from Miley Cyrus will continue to do just that, but in the meantime: “Flowers” is an ’80s synth-rock for those brokenhearted — and getting over it. For Cyrus, its a song about life after divorce, but for her fans, it is a celebration in finding partnership within yourself.
Past champion: “Next Girl” by Carly Pearce (2020)
Song of the summer … this week: “Padam Padam” by Kylie Minogue
Like a summer fling, Kylie Minogue’s disco heartbeat “Padam Padam” is crush-worthy pop music for those who like their songs to burn bright, fast, and hard.
Past champion: “Work From Home” by Fifth Harmony (2016)
Biggest song of the year, and therefore the default song of the summer: “Last Night” by Morgan Wallen
The reign of Morgan Wallen continues into the summer, with his country pop-rock breakup record “Last Night” dominating terrestrial radio — and, likely, the headphones of the person next to you.
Past champion: “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, Kimbra (2011)
Song of the summer that’s actually a cover: “Fast Car” by Luke Combs
The country star takes the Tracy Chapman classic and turns it into a North Carolina campfire tune. Perfect for driving in your car, speed so fast.
Past champion: “Fast Car” by Jonas Blue, Dakota (2015) — or really any another cover of “Fast Car,” past and present
Song for the Swifties’ summer: “Karma” by Taylor Swift
In a phrase: Karma is my boyfriend, Karma is a god, “Karma” is everywhere this season … just like Taylor Swift, as her Eras Tour continues.
Past champion: “Red” by Taylor Swift (2013)
Song for people who always live like it’s summer: “WHERE SHE GOES” by Bad Bunny
With a title like “WHERE SHE GOES,” it might seem like the Puerto Rican reggaetonero Bad Bunny was preparing to release a crossover hit recorded in English. But that’s not his style. Instead, Benito (as he’s lovingly dubbed by fans) marries the world of dembow and drill, still sung in Spanish — perfect for a late-night party or the early morning at the beach that follows.
Past champion: “Mi Gente” by J Balvin, Willy William (2017)
Song of the summer of revenge: “Kill Bill”by SZA
SZA’s genre-ambivalent soulful pop reaches new levels of self-actualization in this revenge fantasy. “I might kill my ex,” she croons, a soft exorcism of her worst impulses. “Not the best idea.”
Past champion: “Where My Girls At” by 702 (1999)
Song for singles ready to mingle this summer: “Ella Baila Sola” by Eslabon Armado x Peso Pluma
Is there a greater success story than the sierreño hit “Ella Baila Sola” from Eslabon Armado and Peso Pluma? Regional Mexican music has entered the American mainstream — horns and all — and this flirty track about a woman dancing on her own is proof.
Past champion: “Buy You A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” by T-Pain, Yung Joc (2007)
Song of the summer romance: “Calm Down” by Rema, Selena Gomez
The inescapable Afrobeats track from Nigerian singer Rema and pop star Selena Gomez isn’t slowing down this season. Expect to hear it at an oceanside hang and inside your local grocery store in equal measure, but mostly, playing quietly during a backyard make out session.
Past champion: “I Swear” by All-4-One (1994)
Empowering song of the summer: “All My Life” by Lil Durk ft. J. Cole
A children’s choir, a trap beat, and an inspirational hook make “All My Life” the feel-good track of the summer, a reminder that positive attitude is a potent medicine.
Past champion: “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga (2011)
Slow burn song of the summer: “Favorite Song” by Toosii
Bangers come and go, but ballads live inside the soul. Rapper Toosii’s “Favorite Song” is for those hoping to have a romantic summer spent inside with a loved one.
Past champion: “If Your Girl Only Knew” by Aaliyah (1996)
Song of the summer for sad girls: “Cupid” by Fifty Fifty
Apologies to all fans of the indie-adjacent pop group Boygenius (Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker), but the sad girl song of the summer comes courtesy the K-pop girl group Fifty Fifty. The harmonies on their lovelorn bubblegum pop song “Cupid” are sweet like candy, ripe for rolling the windows down and scream-singing along.
Past champion: “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Rey (2012)