What Is The Song Of The Summer?

Jul 3, 2018
Originally published on July 3, 2018 9:30 am

Every generation has a handful of songs that invoke memories of sweltering days at the beach, barbecue or backyard and the warm nights that follow. Since it's that time of the year again, we're asking: What are the songs of the summer for 2018?

Morning Edition asked an array of music critics to cast their vote. Hear their pitches at the audio link or read them below — and If you're craving even more summertime sounds, check out NPR Music's extended playlist on Spotify.


The Carters (Jay-Z and Beyoncé), "Apes***"

I realize the title is perhaps not appropriate for civil conversation. But I think they chose it, in part, to convey the sort of sheer and dramatic magnitude of their following. It's also a little bit, I think, about the dangerous idea that in America, money buys you some freedom. ... There are very, very few artists left that can capture the national attention instantly. At least in my neighborhood, this song was briefly playing out of every single car that drove by. These are pop royalty. This is the king and queen of the radio right now. -- Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker

Residente and Dillon Francis feat. iLe , "Sexo"

This song is a song about all the things we do to obtain sex. In the lyrics he says, "They put makeup on because they want sex. They buy clothes because they want sex. They use perfume because they want sex." Residente doesn't actually use the he or she pronouns; instead he leaves it open to be inclusive of everyone. He's very well known for doing very conscious, social commentary, political songs. And even though this is not like that, he's just talking about this universal language that is sex, but that nobody talks about directly. — Rocío Santos, Vocalo Radio

Lil Dicky feat. Chris Brown, "Freaky Friday"

The song has this really crazy, strange premise: Lil Dicky, this white parody rapper, switches bodies with Chris Brown, the black R&B singer. Hilarity ensues. I picked this song because no other song this year has made me more uncomfortable and made me ask myself more hard questions. ... It gets stuck in my head for days at a time, but I know, in my heart of hearts, I should not like it. Like 2018, I feel conflicted about this entire year and it's all problematic, and yet, I cannot stop dancing.

-- Sam Sanders, NPR's It's Been a Minute

Drake, "Nice for What"

Drake really wrote this song for the hardworking women out there, whether that be the CEO, the nurse working night shifts, the college student — because you know what, he appreciates them all. ... A big thing that makes Drake stand out is that almost every song that he drops, it adds another catchphrase or another comeback to the lexicon. "Nice for What" is basically a quick-witted comeback for a woman who doesn't want to put up with a guy. -- Sidney Madden, NPR Music

Bebe Rexha feat. Florida Georgia Line, "Meant to Be"

The crazy thing about calling it the song of the summer is this song actually debuted in fall of 2017, but it has stayed at the top of the country charts for 30 weeks consistently. A lot of people have long criticized Florida Georgia Line for being the "bro-country" guys, the reason country went back to this sort of frat boy way of thinking. And so to see them not only work with Bebe Rexha, who's a pop singer, but let her be the lead and be the feature, kind of does give people this insight into a new version of Florida Georgia Line [that I think] really reached a huge audience. -- Alison Abbey, Sounds Like Nashville

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NOEL KING, HOST:

From the Beach Boys...

(SOUNDBITE OF BEACH BOYS SONG "FUN, FUN, FUN")

KING: ...To Cardi B...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIKE IT")

CARDI B: (Rapping) Diamond district in the Jag. I said I like it like that. Certified, you know I'm gang.

KING: ...There are always those songs that become a sort of soundtrack to the summer.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So what about 2018? Well, we asked a few people in the know. And one recommendation features a title we can't - well, we can't broadcast. It begins with the word ape.

AMANDA PETRUSICH: My name is Amanda Petrusich. I am a staff writer at The New Yorker. My choice for the song of the summer is Jay-Z and Beyonce - who are now known together as The Carters - "Apes**t".

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APES**T")

THE CARTERS: (Singing) I can't believe we made it. Have you ever seen a crowd going ape-[expletive]?

PETRUSICH: I realize the title is perhaps not appropriate for a civil conversation. But I think they chose it, in part, to convey the sort of sheer and dramatic magnitude of their following. It's also, I think, a little bit about this sort of dangerous if possibly true idea in America that money buys you some freedom. And Jay-Z raps the line at one point, I said no to the Super Bowl. You need me. I don't need you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APES**T")

THE CARTERS: (Rapping) Every night we in the end zone. Tell the NFL we in stadiums too.

PETRUSICH: So every night we in the end zone. Tell the NFL we in stadiums too - kind of suggesting this almost divestment from corporations - which is to say, we don't need you. You need us. You know, look what we can make these people do. Have you ever seen a crowd going ape-[expletive]?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APES**T")

THE CARTERS: (Singing) I can't believe we made it. Have you ever seen a crowd going ape-[expletive]?

PETRUSICH: There are very, very few artists left that can capture the national attention instantly. I know, at least in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, this song was briefly playing out of every single car that drove by. These are, you know, pop royalty. This is the king and queen of the radio right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "APES**T")

THE CARTERS: (Singing) Stack my money fast and go, fast like a Lambo.

ROCIA SANTOS: I'm Rocia Santos, host and producer at Vocalo Radio. And my pick for the song of the summer is "Sexo" by Residente.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEXO")

RESIDENTE: (Rapping in Spanish).

SANTOS: This song is a song about all the things we do to obtain sex. In the lyrics he says, oh, they put makeup on because they want sex. They buy clothes because they want sex. They use perfume because they want sex.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEXO")

RESIDENTE: (Rapping in Spanish).

SANTOS: Residente doesn't actually use the he or she pronouns. Instead, he leaves it open to be inclusive of everyone. He's very well-known for doing, like, very conscious social commentary and political songs. And even though this is not like that, he's just talking about this universal language that is sex - but that nobody talks about directly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEXO")

RESIDENTE: (Rapping in Spanish).

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: My name is Sam Sanders. I host an NPR show called It's Been A Minute. And my pick for song of the summer is called "Freaky Friday" by a rapper named Lil Dicky. And the song is featuring the singer Chris Brown.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREAKY FRIDAY")

CHRIS BROWN: (Singing) I woke up in Chris Brown's body.

SANDERS: So this song has this really, really, crazy, strange premise. Lil Dicky, this white parody rapper, switches bodies with Chris Brown, the black R&B singer. Hilarity ensues.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREAKY FRIDAY")

BROWN: (Singing) I drive his Ferrari. And I'm light-skin black.

SANDERS: I picked this song because no other song this year has made me more uncomfortable and made me ask myself more hard questions. So to start, this is a song featuring Chris Brown. He has been someone tied to domestic abuse. Some other things that are in the song just feel so retrograde. Chris Brown's voice, which is actually a Lil Dicky's voice, just takes pleasure in the fact that he can now, as a white person in a black person's body, say the N-word over and over and over again. It's just such a weird whack-a-mole song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREAKY FRIDAY")

BROWN: (Singing) I wonder if I can say the N-word. Wait. Can I really say the N-word?

SANDERS: I do not know if I like this song. It gets stuck in my head for days at a time. But I know, deep in my heart of hearts, I should not like it. But like 2018, I feel conflicted about this entire year. And it's all problematic, and yet I cannot stop dancing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREAKY FRIDAY")

BROWN: (Singing) I can't believe that it's freaky Friday. It's freaky Friday. I'm in Chris Brown's body.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: This is Sidney Madden. I'm an assistant editor at NPR Music. And my pick for the song of the summer is "Nice For What" by Drake.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NICE FOR WHAT")

DRAKE: (Rapping) Everybody get your roll on. I know shorty, and she doesn't want no slow song. Had a man last year. Life goes on.

MADDEN: Drake really wrote this song for the hardworking women out there, whether that be the CEO, the nurse working night shifts, the college student, because - you know what? - he appreciates them all. And he recognizes that if you're a hardworking woman out there, you do not need to settle for a bum dude. So this is really a musical thank-you note for all the hardworking women.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NICE FOR WHAT")

DRAKE: (Rapping) Working hard, girl. Everything paid for - first, last, phone bill, car note, cable. With your phone out, got to hit them angles.

MADDEN: A big thing that makes Drake stand out is almost every song that he drops it adds another catchphrase or another comeback to the lexicon. Nice for what is basically a quick-witted comeback for a woman who doesn't want to put up with the guy.

DRAKE: (Rapping) That's a real one in your reflection - without a follow, without a mention. You really piping up on these. You got to be nice for what to these? I understand.

ALISON ABBEY: I'm Alison Abbey from Sounds Like Nashville. And I have to say the song of the summer is "Meant To Be" by Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEANT TO BE")

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE: (Singing) If it's meant to be, it'll be. It'll be. Baby, just let it be.

ABBEY: The crazy thing about calling it the song of the summer is this song actually debuted in fall of 2017. But it has stayed at the top of the country charts for 30 weeks consistently.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEANT TO BE")

BEBE REXHA: I don't mean to be so uptight. But my heart's been hurt a couple times.

ABBEY: A lot of people have long criticized Florida Georgia Line for being the bro-country guys - the reason country music went back to this sort of frat boy way of thinking. And so to see them not only work with Bebe Rexha, who is a pop singer, but let her be the lead and be the feature kind of does give people this insight into a new version of Florida Georgia Line.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEANT TO BE")

REXHA: (Singing) If it's meant to be, it'll be. It'll be. Baby, just let it be.

ABBEY: You know, as a female fan of Florida Georgia Line, you can sing along to all their songs. But this was really a Florida Georgia Line song with a female perspective. And so I think that really reached a huge audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEANT TO BE")

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE: (Singing) So come on. Ride with me. Ride with me.

KING: Those were just a few of the songs of the summer for 2018. For even more selections and to listen to a curated playlist, go to nprmusic.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.