The Summer Bangers that Came to Define an Era
Is there anything sweeter than a great summer banger?
That tune that reminds you of warm beers in the sun, Magnums, and making wildly inappropriate romantic decisions in a Mediterranean villa. It’s the soundtrack to the best moments of your life; a song that makes you long for some lost, forgotten euphoria.
Unfortunately, the summer banger cannot last forever. Just like your fragile existence in this terrible world, summer must come to an end, and so must the summer banger. Suddenly, the track that filled you with pure joy feels weirdly out of place, like when your mum tries to say “it’s lit” or wearing socks in the bath. Have you ever tried to listen to Will Smith’s Summertime in February? Don’t. Once the summer is over, so must lie to rest the summer banger. There is a certain type of song, however, that can escape this curse. A song that doesn’t give you unnerving flashbacks to Crete 2012, but instead captures a broader cultural moment. That, my friends, is a summer super-hit.
Deciding what gets to transition from incidental music to something more era-defining isn’t simple. Does the song need to have had commercial success or can it just be loved by a cult following? Does it have to have been at No. 1 during the summer months to be considered? If you and your mates listened to it two years later on repeat, does it count? Arguably, the category is quite flexible, but it must capture the character of that year, and it must absolutely bang.
Crazy in Love is the perfect example of a track which has made the leap to greatness. Released in May 2003, the first track off Beyoncé’s debut solo album was a foreshadowing of the gargantuan pop career that would follow this catchy, energetic pop song. A timeless hook, taken from the from Chi-Lites’ 1971 hit, Are You My Woman, alongside the iconic video helped safeguard Crazy in Love in the pantheon of summer super-hits. Everything about it captures a particular moment of female pop dominance, itself a forerunner of pop music’s contemporary embrace of feminism. Not to mention, it spent three weeks at No.1.
Spice Girls’ Wannabe is another track that also came to define a generation of women. Just like Crazy in Love, it started a “girl power” revolution, preceding Beyoncé’s by seven years. Released slap-bang in the middle of July, Wannabe spent seven weeks at No.1 in the UK. A defining moment in time for any 90s child.
The third longest running No.1 of all time, Drake’s One Dance marked a new movement in pop music. By taking into account of steams, artists could monopolise the charts in ways not seen for twenty years. Drake too the Crazy Cousinz remix of Kyla’s Do You Mind – with its clever, almost jarring use of a house sample crossed with Nigerian Afrobeat – to build one of the greatest monster-hits of all time. Sure, Billboard named it their Song of the Summer, but when you’re number one for 15 weeks, it’s the song of 2016. One Dance was pre-Trump, and pre-Brexit, evoking a time of hope, when Leicester City had just won the Premier League and Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London. Anything was possible.
Rihanna’s Work, released earlier that year, is a controversial entry. The track was released in January 2016, only peaking at No. 2 in April, so it breaks the mould for a standard summer jam. That said, Work marked a clear shift to a more reggaeton and dancehall infused-pop, something Drake clearly learned from. In early 2016, Rihanna dutty wined on Drake at the Brit Awards in a white Bardot top and cargo pants. Subsequently, the entire British viewing audience simultaneously went through a sexual awakening. It may have been overshadowed by One Dance that year, but as the song is such a sweaty, sexy banger, it becomes an honourary summer super-hit.
In this glorious summer of 2018, there are some potential contenders but one track just might edge it. Currently No. 1 in the UK streaming charts, Three Lions looks like it might be this year’s summer super-hit – no matter how bittersweet. Suck it, Drake.