June 25--The song of the summer is an elusive thing. You don't really know what it is until after it's happened. You might dismiss it as forgettable pop fluff. You're likely already sick of it.
But months later, it's still around -- evoking memories of that road trip, that night out, that karaoke singalong with friends.
This year, one true champ has yet to emerge. But it's not for lack of contenders. A wealth of songs are vying for the title, including Selena Gomez's Bollywood-pop ditty "Come and Get It," Demi Lovato's angsty "Heart Attack" and "#Beautiful," the Mariah Carey comeback we've been waiting on for years. (Those songs, however, may have been released too early to make it through July and August.)
"The true test of a summer hit is one that you hear in the future that instantly brings you back to the summer you first heard it," says Dave Morales, KRBE (104.1 FM) on-air personality and co-founder of entertainment site backstageol.com.
"Last year's was a no brainer -- Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe.' This year, I am getting a ton of radio requests for Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky.' I'd also say the Selena Gomez tune has a shot. I dare you to listen to either and not get that summer vibe."
Here's a look at several of the strongest contenders:
"Get Lucky," Daft Punk: Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers join in the unabashedly retro, disco party alongside two helmeted French men. Williams' effortless falsetto helps the song take flight. Tag this now as the likely winner. Then, dance.
"Can't Hold Us," Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: This song was actually released in August 2011, if you can believe it, and went nowhere until "Thrift Shop" became a ubiquitous hit. The dark undercurrent offsets some of the silly lyrics. And even if it doesn't become everyone's anthem, there's a special place for it in Houston. Thousands of ecstatic fans sang and danced along when the duo performed it at the Free Press Summer Festival earlier this month.
"Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke: Thicke out-Timberlakes Justin on this jangly hit, the biggest (and best) of his career. It's sexy and soulful but just wacky enough to shake things up. Co-producer Williams again adds to the shine.
"I Love It," Icona Pop: An in-your-face, electro-pop anthem that got big lifts from perfectly timed TV placements. The snarling, riot-girl attitude is impossible to resist. Just try and stop yourself from fist pumping during the chorus.
"Treasure," Bruno Mars: More feel-good disco from the current king of pop. (Who else deserves that title right now?) Mars stays true to a '70s groove but brings it around to present day with a soulful, spirited delivery.
"Cups (Pitch Perfect's When I'm Gone)," Anna Kendrick: A hit movie and a plastic cup gave this song life far beyond the box office. It was remixed for radio and became a pop hit. Kendrick's plaintive delivery makes it easy to love. And, admit it: You've tried the cup trick more than once.
"Next to Me," Emeli Sande: Scottish singer Sande's lush tune has popped up all over TV singing competitions. Her version still tops them all. It has an old-school swing and urgent, pleading verses. And that "ooh-hoo" hook puts it over the top.
"People Like Us," Kelly Clarkson: With better promotion, Clarkson's dance-pop anthem could have ruled radio. The self-empowering message and booming production seem tailor-made for late-June parties. Luckily, it's found major love on the dance floor.
"Wings," Little Mix: The cheeky girl group, who won the U.K. version of "The X Factor," plays like a latter-day Spice Girls. This first single plays up their individual charms and impressive voices.
"We Can't Stop," Miley Cyrus: Every time we count her out, Cyrus returns with a vengeance. Or a new haircut. This blurry ode to -- what else? -- partying is more fun than it should be. Even the R&B and hip-hop influences don't seem so out of place. (But enough with the twerking, Hannah Montana.)
"A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)," Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock: An appropriately eclectic standout from "The Great Gatsby" soundtrack. Something old, something new, something electro and no Will.i.am.
"Closer," Tegan and Sara: This twin-sister act should have a much bigger following, and this song could be the one that catapults them into the mainstream. It's poppy, sexy and accessible, with just the right amount of quirk.
"The One," Tamar Braxton: Toni's youngest sister makes like old-school Mariah on this gorgeous track, which samples the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy." Braxton's voice is like butter.
"Brave," Sara Bareilles: Bareilles wrote this song about a friend who was struggling with coming out. But the lyrics ring with universal truths, and the production has an anthemic, affirming quality.
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