Every summer needs a theme tune, and each year pop music lovers passionately debate which single will earn the distinction of being named the Song of the Summer! In our eyes, this honor is wayyyy better than a Grammy. Record sales and official charts factor into it, but that’s definitely not all it takes to earn the exclusive title. These feel-awesome anthems have to permeate every avenue of our existence, playing seemingly at every moment, everywhere we go, during everything we do. Ordinarily that sounds like torture, but we’re too busy dancing to care. A true summer song is just THAT good! The polls are still open on this year’s song (*cough* “What rhymes with ’Hug me’?” *cough*), but we’ve decided to take a look back the best summer jams from the past 15 years. Head down below and relive them all, and then vote on your ultimate favorite! These hot hits will keep you warm all winter long…
1998: “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy & Monica
The female response to MJ and McCartney’s (fairly lame) Thriller face-off “The Girl Is Mine,” this track became one of the biggest hits of the decade, arriving at number one at the beginning of June and staying there until September!
1999: “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera
Those bright days of ’99 yeilded WAY too many songs competing for the song of the summer title. Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” were both riding high, and folks were still talking about that winter’s “…Baby One More Time” by a new artist called Britney Spears. But it was Brit’s former costar on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club that owned our stereos during the hot months with “Genie In A Bottle,” destined to be her signature song.
2000: “It’s Gonna Be Me” by ’NSync
Carlos Santana’s “Maria Maria” may have spent more time at the top of the charts that summer, but in our hearts the crucial summer soundtrack pick was the first number one single from JT and the crew.
2001: “Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil’ Kim and Mya
Ahh yes, the song that launched a zillion high school lip-syncs. You couldn’t get away from this cut from the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar nominated Moulin Rouge. The star-power involved made it way too big to ignore!
2002: “Hot In Herre” by Nelly
America took a trip to Nellyville in the summer of ’02, and it was damn sweltering! ’Hot In Herre’ was the up-tempo track of the summer, but Nelly also reigned supreme on “Dilemma” featuring Destiny Child Kelly Rowland. We have to admit, the hypnotized backing vocals always kind of creeped us out, but it didn’t keep the song from becoming a massive hit during those steamy months.
2003: “Crazy In Love” by Beyonce
VH1 voted this song the greatest track of the ’00s, so it’s DEFINITELY strong contender for the best summer song of all time. Queen Bey’s first solo venture outside of the Destiny’s Child bubble had her future husband Jay Z producing, and a super sexy music video to boot! Hard to believe it’s been a decade already since this one dropped…
2004: “Confessions Part II” by Usher
Usher’s Confessions album packed a steady stream of hits into the charts that summer, starting with “Yeah!” backed up by Lil John, and followed by “Burn” soon after. But all were outshone in the end by this one, giving him his third consecutive number one single from the record. It lives up to it’s title, with bruising lyrics painting a grim story of a dude telling his girlfriend that his mistress is pregnant. Oof. Not even the summer sunshine could brighten this one up.
2005: “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani
CONTROVERSIAL OPINION: We’re gonna level with you, we’re still not totally sure why “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey was number one from literally June til September (minus one week where Carrie Underwood took over with “Inside Your Heaven”). Sure, it was Mimi’s musical comeback after getting lost in the Glitter wilderness, and we guess it’s a dece song. But come on -it’s wayyyy too slow to be a proper summer jam, you know? Even “Confessions Part II” was pushing it! 2005 seemed to have kind of a summer song power vacuum, at least if you ask us. Our personal vote would go to Beck’s “Girl,” but we’ll listen to the Billboard charts and call it for with this one by Gwen and her Harajuku sisters.
2006: “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean
Technically speaking, Nelly Furtado had the ultimate summer number one with “Promiscuous,” but Sharika’s ode to the honesty of her pelvis outperformed it worldwide, becoming the best selling single of the 21st century in combined digital and physical sales. As if that’s not enough, it also broke the American record for most radio plays in an entire week (9,637 times). Plus, it’s just a better summer song!
2007: “Umbrella” by Rihanna
’Ella, ’ella, ’ella! Riri came of age as the good girl gone bad on this track produced by The-Dream, and featuring a rap verse from her mega-star mentor, Jay Z. She’d done dance-pop before, but we dug her new darker edge. So did everyone else: The tune stayed at number one for seven weeks that summer.
2008: “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry
Will you ever think about cherry ChapStick in quite the same way again? Katy Perry burst onto the scene in a massive way with this musical tribute to, err, experimentation. She has since gone on to kiss Russell Brand and John Mayer, and seemed to like that quite a lot, too.
2009: “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas
It’s impossible to listen to this song and not want to pogo on a club floor with your friends. You feel like you’re gonna live forever when you hear it! Fergalicious and the rest of the gang managed to record a jumpy dance anthem for the ages.
2010: “California Gurls” by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg
Paying tribute to the endless summer of the Beach Boys, Katy Perry returned to dominate yet another summer with her take on the California myth. The fun in the sun ear-candy comes with a super sweet ice-cream filled music video, but we have to admit: Snoop’s verse (“no weenies”) totally steals the show. Sure it kind of sounds a little like Ke$ha’s (nowhere near as good) “Tik Tok,” but the lyrics turn it into the ultimate summer fantasy.
2011: “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
There aren’t too many good uncle-nephew duos out there, but as the descendants of Motown records founder Berry Gordy, these dudes have hit-making in their blood. Plus they know how to move!
2012: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
For sheer annoyance, we rank this song on par with Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” But something about the track lodges in our brain like an aneurysm. Like so many of life’s unpleasantries, we have Justin Bieber to blame for helping to popularize this insanely catchy song by his fellow youthful Canadian.
[Photo: Columbia Records/Capitol Records/Def Jam]