The Last 15 ‘Songs of the Summer’ Ranked From Worst to Best
I have ranked every official Song of the Summer from 2000 to 2014. This ranking is correct, so you should not attempt to argue with its inherent rightness.
Note: Each year, Billboard names an official Song of the Summer based on chart performance between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Yes, there is an official Song of the Summer. So just because “We Can’t Stop” was your “song of the summer” in 2013, that doesn’t mean it was the Song of the Summer. Only official Songs of the Summer are included in the ranking below. Deal with it.
Another note: As previously mentioned, Billboard uses data from Memorial Day through Labor Day to calculate the official Song of the Summer. Therefore, the 2015 Song of the Summer has yet to be named. So far, the saccharine “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth is in the lead. Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) is stuck at No. 2 after a brief, two-week stint at the top but is still in the running. It is also possible that OMI’s “Cheerleader” will leapfrog to the top spot and take the title. It is too early to tell, but my money, not that I’m a betting man, is on “Cheerleader.” It has the momentum.
Ready? Without further delay, here is the definitive ranking of the last 15 Songs of the Summer:
15. “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock (2011)
This song, the “Who Let the Dogs Out?” of the new millennium, is absolute douche-bro garbage and is not worthy of further comment.
14. “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke (2013)
There was a time that a song about date rape not only made it to No. 1, but made it to No. 1 and stayed there for 12 weeks. That time was two years ago. Hard pass.
13. “I Gotta Feeling” – The Black Eyed Peas (2009)
The Black Eyed Peas were masters of purveying soulless dance music that advertised itself as being more clever and deeper than it had any right to pretend to be. And this song was their nadir. “I Gotta Feeling” was so horrifically overplayed and overused — in clubs, on soundtracks, for sporting events — that whatever little charm it had to begin with soon evaporated. It now plays as a parody of itself.
12. “Bent” – Matchbox Twenty (2000)
11. “Fancy” – Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX (2014)
Quite frankly, the only reason this song is as high as it is in this ranking is because Charli XCX is an underrated Pop Goddess and she deserves at least some credit for her chorus, which, appropriately enough, is the only memorable part of the song.
10. “Confessions Part II” – Usher (2004)
Here we have a song in which Usher “bravely” confesses that he’s cheating on his partner (and that he got his sidepiece pregnant). That is his confession and the whole point of the song. I like a good moral gray area, but seriously? It would be one thing if Usher were repentant, but instead it seems Usher wants to be both celebrated and pitied for a mess that he himself created. It really should have been called “Manpain: The Anthem,” but “manpain” wasn’t really a “thing” we knew how to talk about in 2004.
9. “I Kissed A Girl” – Katy Perry (2008)
Perry’s faux-lesbian exploitation “anthem” has endured, somehow, even if more as a catchphrase than as an actual, solid pop song that people enjoy listening to. (Cut to eight years later, and here we have Demi Lovato trying to pull the same thing. So, hey, it works.)
8. “Promiscuous” – Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland (2006)
The folksy Nelly Furtado of “I’m Like a Bird” is nowhere to be found on Loose, the album that spawned the biggest, most controversial hits of her career. Loose was the followup to her low-selling “Folklore,” and many interpreted Furtado’s enlistment of Timbaland for an album of bangers as a cynical, desperate grab for a smash. “Promiscious,” the lead single, was the first to hit, and it hit hard. While many objected to Furtado’s image change, the fact is that the song was and remains empowering and fun, if not Furtado’s best. (“Say It Right,” which also hit No. 1, is far superior. So is “Maneater.”)
7. “California Gurls” – Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg (2010)
Admittedly, I am not a huge Perry fan, so KatyCats have no reason to take me seriously when I say “California Gurls” is just not a great song. Still, we can all agree that even though this is (marginally) better than “I Kissed a Girl,” it’s still nowhere near as good as the single that followed, “Teenage Dream.” Oh well. Though enjoyable in its way (and seemingly crafted with the goal of becoming Song of the Summer in mind), the song loses further points by bearing too close a resemblance to Ke$ha’s (she still had the dollar sign then!) “Tik Tok.”
6. “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen (2012)
2012: the year viral hits really began to bridge the gap between what the internet finds amusing and mainstream music listeners. Between “Call Me Maybe” and “Gangnam Style,” the summer of 2012 felt like a case of internet in-jokes taking over radio and becoming something more than in-jokes. If you’ll recall, “Call Me Maybe” was as much a meme as it was a song. Whether you think that’s a good thing or not (no comment), this fact remains: strip the superfluous cultural elements away, and this is one damn catchy, damn solid pop ditty. Unfortunately, its success has proven to be unreplicable for Jepsen, despite the fact she’s still making above-average pop music.
5. “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” – Eve feat. Gwen Stefani (2001)
This song is a time capsule, for only in 2001 could Eve and Gwen Stefani have come together to rule the summer airwaves. And you know what? It worked then, at the peak of rap-pop collaborations, and it works now. The song holds up! Bonus: “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” helped demonstrate that Stefani could hack it as a solo pop star (she was, of course, the frontwoman of pop-rock staple No Doubt at the time), and three years later, she released her very good L.A.M.B. album (which featured another Eve collaboration).
4. “We Belong Together” – Mariah Carey (2005)
Carey scored one No. 1 hit following “We Belong Together,” her ubiquitous 2005 smash, with (the reprehensible) “Touch My Body,” but as of this writing, “Together” remains her last unimpeachable classic. As far as last hurrahs go, it is pretty impeccable. It is weightless and timeless and breezy and gorgeous.
3. “Hot In Herre” – Nelly (2002)
Outside of a summer context, “Hot in Herre” is not necessarily an amazing song, but in the context of Song of the Summer, it is perfect. It’s slinky, sexy, and heat-obsessed, making it a flawless soundtrack to these slinky, sexy, and hot, hot, hot summer months.
2. “Umbrella” – Rihanna feat. Jay-Z (2007)
To this day, “Umbrella” remains Rihanna’s best single. Fight me, Navy! Sure, she’s released several great songs since then — most notably “We Found Love,” which comes close to “Umbrella”‘s greatness — but “Umbrella” is it. It is melancholy pop perfection — sweet and sour in equal measure — and it was the first indication Rihanna was capable of becoming a bonafide pop queen. (Her first two albums spawned one major hit apiece, but until Good Girl Gone Bad, the album from which “Umbrella” is taken, no could have foreseen just how massive Rihanna would become.) Jay’s presence on the track is completely unnecessary, but that’s irrelevant; “Umbrella” is all about Bad Gal coming into her own.
1. “Crazy In Love” – Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z (2003)
Beyoncé’s first single as a solo artist, “Crazy in Love,” remains, 12 years later, her most iconic. (“Single Ladies” is her only other single that comes close.) Bey has released a plethora of incredible songs since then, but “Crazy in Love” is The One. Its legacy is so enduring she just this year re-recorded a new version for use in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. With Bey’s ecstatic vocals over a symphony of euphoric horns, plus her spot-on chemistry with real-life love Jay Z, “Crazy in Love” is not just a perfect Song of the Summer, it is a perfect song, period.
There you have it; that’s the last 15 Songs of the Summer ranked in the appropriate order. Your feedback is welcomed below, but please note that if you disagree, you are wrong. There’s nothing either one of us can do about that.