It’s just June, but this year’s purported songs-of-the-summer contenders already are getting old.
Starting around Memorial Day, the song of the summer “race” begins, largely driven by industry forces and music critics for a song that, by Labor Day, theoretically will have dominated the airwaves to the point it will define the season in years to come.
Luckily, the past few years of summer songs largely have been enjoyable. That’s thanks to a dominant run by Drake in 2016 and 2018 and the feel-good rise of “Despacito” in 2017.
Why is this year’s crop so lackluster? It’s been a combination of below-average releases from normally reliable superstars (including DJ Khaled, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber) with a lack of exciting breakout singles.
For now, here are this year’s largely undeserving song-of-the-summer contenders:
‘Old Town Road,’ Lil Nas X
It seems mean to say anything critical about the country rapper “Old Town Road,” the little song that could. The rise of Lil Nas X from unknown, Internet-obsessed rapper to bonafide star has been heartening to watch. So has the ascent of “Old Town Road” from TikTok meme to legitimate smash. But considering its novelty appeal, will the joke still be funny come August? And that’s if the song is still ruling the radio. Which it could be. “Old Town Road” has spent nine weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. So fans still can’t seem to get enough. But in another few months, it’s hard to see how lyrics like “ridin’ on a tractor / lean all in my bladder,” will still be amusing rather than eyeroll-worthy.
‘No Guidance,’ Drake and Chris Brown
Of all the performers Drake could have teamed with, he chose the wrong one, reuniting with Brown after a widely publicized beef instead of choosing literally anyone else to work with.
But “No Guidance” isn’t just morally reprehensible. It’s also one of Drake’s all-time most boring collaborations, a lazy retread of every song he’s ever made about female empowerment and hard-working women, with Brown singing the same lines we’ve heard a million times about real men and trash exes — as if listeners will ever believe he’s the good guy in those scenarios.
“No Guidance” isn’t just worse than any of Drake’s summertime hits last year. It falls short of the majority of the songs on Drake’s 2018 album “Scorpion.”
Drake generally knows better than to make music as dull as this. He should have known better than contribute his vocals to it.
‘Sucker,’ Jonas Brothers
Like Lil Nas X, the Jonas Brothers are hard to hate. They seem so nice, and they have such great marriages, and they give funny interviews and remind listeners of a certain age of our Disney Channel-watching days.
But “Sucker” is completely unmemorable, a sleek, radio-ready production that nevertheless has zero distinctive qualities and reveals nothing about the JoBros’ musical abilities, a bland few minutes of music that’s better suited for a credit-card commercial than summertime listening.
By the way, if you think you’ll still be craving “Sucker” months from now, the Jonases play the United Center Sept. 19-20 and the Allstate Arena in Rosemont on Dec. 3.
‘Please Me,’ Cardi B & Bruno Mars
“Please Me” is far from the worst single Cardi B and Bruno Mars have released. But it doesn’t seem to have the same sweeping influence of, say, “Bodak Yellow,” which was released in June 2017 and became a cultural behemoth.
“Please Me” is not that —a cute Cardi one-off maybe, certainly not a summer-owning hit.
But, hey, at the pace Cardi B. is releasing new singles and contributing to others’ songs, she still could deliver 2019’s song of the summer — just not yet.
‘Me,’ Taylor Swift
“Me” was a fluffy confection that was tolerable at first but will be completely stale come August.
Swift has teased more new music supposedly coming soon. We can only hope she has an actual summertime banger waiting in the wings because we’ve already stopped paying attention to “Me.”
‘Never Really Over,’ Katy Perry
Are we ready to embrace Katy Perry once again as our song-of-the-summer queen? Even Perry’s staunchest fans have had a tough road the past few years.
But “Never Really Over” might be the best of the big, poppy summertime songs released so far. It’s her best single she’s released in years, the comeback Perry needed.
It’s hard not to hope she has more summer smash hits still coming. But, if “Never Really Over” ends up as the song that defines the summer of 2019, we could do worse.
Read more at USA Today.