The “song of the summer” debate is heating up. While we’ve offered you a list of unexpected choices for this year, we thought it would be fun to look back at some of the chart-toppers from the last 20 years that define what makes a summer anthem: ubiquitous, insanely catchy, and really, really fun.
“In The Summertime” – Shaggy (1995)
While this mid-’90s classic has somewhat moved into novelty terrirtory over time, listening to it is still akin to being at an island party, getting slow-drunk on piña coladas. Plus, it literally has the word “summertime” in the title, so there’s that.
“Always Be My Baby” – Mariah Carey (1996)
Compared to most songs of the summer, this one feels a little mid-tempto. But, it is blessed with the best sing-along chorus of the entire ’90s, which earns it a spot.
“Semi-Charmed Life” – Third Eye Blind (1997)
Yes, the lyrics might be about a descent into meth addiction, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s the most upbeat-sounding tune ever written.
“Livin’ La Vida Loca” – Ricky Martin (1999)
One of the biggest singles ever recorded, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” feels like the “Blurred Lines” of its generation, without all the skeeziness.
“Bootylicious” – Destiny’s Child (2001)
As a solo artist, Bey has given us several candidates for “song of the summer,” but nothing reaches the absolute party-starting power of this girl-power anthem.
“Hot In Herre” – Nelly (2002)
This former club staple and number-one hit was the hip-hop equivalent to a five-alarm blaze designed specifically to make you sweat.
“Promiscuous” – Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland (2006)
No one could have expected the earthy “I’m Like a Bird” singer to follow up that hit with this overtly sexual come on, but the boy-girl back-and-forth with the song’s producer, Timbaland, was more flirty than gratuitous. It’s also incredibly addictive.
“Umbrella” – Rihanna feat. Jay-Z (2007)
You could not turn on the radio in the summer of 2007 without hearing RiRi’s iconic “ella-ella-eh-eh-eh” blasting over the airwaves. Its ubiquity alone earns it song-of-the-summer status, but it gets bonus points for being vehemently anti-rain.
“California Gurls” – Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg (2010)
If we need to spelll this one out for you, then chances are you live in Antarctica.
“Lights” – Ellie Goulding (2012)
Ellie Goulding’s breakout, sleeper hit was released in early March, but by the time beach weather returned, it was in the middle of its 33-week run on the Billboard Hot 100. We still can’t get it out of our heads.