Maroon 5 released their latest single “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt like a Motherf—ker” in May, and for all intents and purposes, it was destined to be the tune of the season. Why not, right? The band has enjoyed a steady stream of hits, with their last five catchy AF singles charting in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. (If you haven’t jammed out to “Sugar” at least once, then you officially have no soul.) Plus, the song literally has the word “summer” in its title. Agenda-pushing at its finest, friends.
However, “Summer” has been — well — hurting the band’s winning streak like a motha. The track has yet to crack the top 20 on the Hot 100 chart or make an impression on Top 40 radio. What gives? Are Adam Levine and his hot tattoos just not doing it anymore?
Absolutely not. (He’s still beautiful.) The problem lies with the song. To be frank, it’s not that great — which makes sense when you consider it’s the fifth single taken from last fall’s LP V. Bottom of the barrel, much? While M5’s recent singles all contain the sugary-sweet choruses that distinguish hits from fillers, “Summer” is a slow-burner that takes a long time — if ever — to take off. It wails on and on and even borders on whining by the two-minute mark. For a summer anthem, the track is surprisingly depressing.
And that’s a running theme this season. We have yet to experience a jovial, quintessential summer anthem. Gone are the days of Katy Perry’s bombastic “California Gurls” — or even Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s “Fancy” — and what’s left are grungy and grimy slices of pop that feel a little too angsty and tepid. Why the long face, guys?
Take Selena Gomez’s new track “Good For You.” The song breaks interesting new ground for the 22-year-old singer, trading in the candy-coated hooks of “Come & Get It” and “Slow Down” for a more subtle hip-hop-flavor — naughty nightclub fare reminiscent of Britney Spears’ “Early Mornin’.” A+ grinding music, to be honest.
But it’s not a summer hit. For the casual listener, “Good For You” is disappointing. It’s a murky (and occasionally lethargic) slow-jam bereft of the kind of orgasmic chorus we’ve come to know (and love) from Selena. Like M5’s “Summer,” “Good For You” is almost too experimental — too serious — to reach the ecstasy of beach bag bliss.
Even BritBrit can’t churn out a poolside stomper. She attempted to kick off the summer music season with her Iggy duet “Pretty Girls.” Unfortunately, the Twitter war surrounding the track received more attention than the song itself — and for good reason. It’s nothing but a lazy carbon copy of Ms. Azalea’s “Fancy,” with a chorus more ear-screeching than catchy.
Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer” is the closest thing we have to a sunshine smash, though even that has its angst-ridden moments. Yes, the “Take make down into your paradise” chorus is full of frothy pop goodness, but the surrounding verses are incredibly clunky and drawn-out. The synth-heavy bass drop is also so 2013! It’s a flawed pop tune, and — let’s be honest — we were hoping for something perfect. Could it be that no one knows how to make original carefree pop anymore?
Hilary Duff is doing it. Her single “Sparks” is about as breezy as pop music can get. Plus, her new album Breathe In. Breathe Out. has some serious bops, including “One in a Million” — exactly the brand of energy-jolting Euro-fuzz missing from the summer landscape. But the problem is nobody wants to listen. While Breathe debuted at an admirable No.5 on the Billboard 200, it has since plunged to No. 65. And, sadly, “Sparks” has made little to no commercial impact.
The Hot 100 chart verifies this. It appears there just might not be a strong desire for the syrupy dance treats we’re craving. Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” continues its domination, leading us to believe listeners want feeling, not mindless techno fodder. Whether that’s lyrically — i.e.: “See You Again” — or through instrumentals that don’t feel so glossy, like The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (No. 6) or “Watch Me” by Silento (No.7), there doesn’t seem to be a strong market for straight-up pop anymore. (Taylor Swift is the exception, of course.)
With only about a month and some change left in the “Song of the Summer” season, the chances of a brilliant hit popping up are slim to none. It’ll just take one seamless tune to rescue us from this unsatisfying pop drought. Don’t make us listen to “Uptown Funk” again!
But instead of getting our hopes up, we’ll begrudgingly accept that this thirst is probably here to stay.