2014 Contenders for Song of the Summer :: Radio Jams
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part feature of the songs of the summer. Here, we explore the pop songs you’ll likely hear on the radio.
It’s that time of the year again. Now that the Grammys, Oscars and Tonys are over and RuPaul has crowned the next drag superstar, one of the biggest annual fights in pop culture is about to commence: The Battle for the Song of the Summer.
Last year saw Daft Punk’s transcendent "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke’s catchy but insensitive ode to date rape, "Blurred Lines," both featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams, go head-to-head in an epic smoldering showdown. In 2012, there was a clear-cut winner: "Call Me Maybe" by Canadian sweetheart Carly Rae Jepsen, and in 2011 the goofy "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO took the world by storm.
By now, some of the likely contenders for Summer Jam 2014 have already worn their welcome, like the annoyingly catchy "Happy" by Pharrell. Jason Derulo’s "Talk Dirty" and DJ Snake and Lil John’s "Turn Down For What" will definitely get more play this summer, but after spending several weeks on the Hot 100, DJs will soon pull back on their play and let the better songs shine this summer.
There are a few tracks readying to be the song to soundtrack your summer. But instead of simply listing the 10 most exciting jams, the songs here are broken up into two categories-songs that you’re almost guaranteed to hear this summer, and ones you’re going to want to put on your radar now.
Whether they’ll be heard by millions or played by thousands on SoundCloud, all 10 tracks provide the perfect soundtrack for sunny days at the beach, breezy late-night drives, carefree pool parties and steamy club adventures.
Below are our radio hits:
Ariana Grande - "Problem" featuring Iggy Azalea
Ariana Grande is already hitting it hard at the beginning of the second cycle of her solo music career. Her debut single, off her untitled upcoming album, skyrocketed on iTunes and debuted at No. 3 on Hot 100. The success of the brass-driven "Problem" isn’t because of the 20-year-old’s Mariah Carey-mini vocals-though there is no denying she is a powerhouse-it’s because she’s able to weave her influences into a seamless pop song. She summons the powers of the Ying-Yang Twins (those whispers), Jay Z, and "Mr. Saxobeat"; throws an Iggy Azalea verse into the mix, and out comes a monster that you won’t be able to, or want to, escape this summer.
Iggy Azalea - "Fancy" featuring Charli XCX
Practically from its downbeat, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea hooks you on "Fancy." The drippy, dank synths that lead the song, and Iggy’s unmistakable husky voice, make the track instantly recognizable, which is essentially a perfect club song. Her sporadic "eehs" are addictive and her flow is nimble, but it’s when British singer Charli XCX, who is responsible for Icona Pop’s "I Love It," chimes in with the song’s massive hook that "Fancy" slays. It’s a song you can chant while getting ready to go out, while at the club and on the way back home. "Fancy" is one of the best hybrids of hip-hop and pop that has come out in recent years, and it’s helmed by two strong females.
Sia - "Chandelier"
Sia Furler is the underdog on the pop landscape. She’s written songs for nearly every star imaginable, penning more hits for others than for herself. But Sia is stepping into the spotlight with "Chandelier," her first solo single in four years. During her hiatus, she wrote Beyonce’s "Pretty Hurts," David Guetta’s "Titanium," (she also sang lead vocals), Rihanna’s "Diamonds" and Britney Spears’ "Perfume." All of those tracks are amazing in their own way, but on "Chandelier," Sia pulls out all the stops. It sounds special: a song she’s been saving for a while just for herself, waiting for the perfect moment to unleash it on us. The Australian singer could have handed "Chandelier" off to Rihanna, whom Sia channels on the opening verse, but the song lifts off on the chorus, where Sia showcases her stunning vocal prowess, something Ri would have trouble doing. At it’s core, "Chandelier" is a party anthem with a dark, soulful twist; a melodic melodramatic #YOLO jam with substance and heart.
5 Seconds of Summer - "She Looks So Perfect"
Move over One Direction, you’ve got some competition. The appropriately named 5 Seconds of Summer is the latest (and cutest) boy band to take over the radio. Their single "She Looks So Perfect" is a shamefully addicting pop rock song that features some incredible lyrics: "She looks so perfect standing there / in my American Apparel underwear." The boy band’s vocals stand strong behind gritty guitars, anthem-sized cheers and a tone slightly reminiscent of the Ataris’ 2003 cover of Don Henley’s "Boys of Summer." The Sydney group blends Green Day and Blink-182 into a saccharine 3-minute, 24-second song that never takes itself seriously.
Michael Jackson - "Love Never Felt So Good"
For the most part, posthumous releases are pretty terrible - look at that Amy Winehouse record and Natalie Cole’s shameless collection of duets with her deceased father. But the lead single off Michael Jackson’s second postmortem release, "Love Never Felt So Good," defies the odds and is one of the best of its kind since the 2002 Junkie XL remix of Elvis Presley’s "A Little Less Conversation." "Love Never Felt So Good," written by Jackson and pop legend Paul Anka in 1983, is updated from the simple, but lovely, piano demo to a swelling disco song that blossoms over perfect string arrangements, guitar licks, spastic bass lines and the King of Pop’s perfect voice. Anka’s piano holds the melody, but the stunning production by John McClain and Giorgio Tuinfort breathe new life into the song, at a perfect time when pop is embracing the funky ’70s era Jackson thrived in.