A hit record is a hit record, but there’s always been something special about a song that has the ability to dominate radio mixes and party playlists throughout the summer. Sure, Drake has countless hit records, but how can anyone forget how he dominated the summer of 2016 with “One Dance” and a guest verse on Rihanna’s “Work.” Similarly, it’s easy to talk about the careers of Wizkid and Tems without mentioning what they did in 2021, but “Essence” will always come to mind when talking about their impact on music over the last few years. Simply put, summer hits are just a little bit more special in the grand scheme of things. As a result, it’s always fun to debate with friends and the like about what the “Song of the Summer” is each year. Last year, some may have said that it was “F.N.F.” by GloRilla while others may point to “Last Last” by Burna Boy. One year earlier, most of the world would argue that “Essence” was the “Song of the Summer,” but there’s a strong contingent in New York that would claim that “Gyalis” earned that title.
As the month of June kicks off, the chase for the “Song of the Summer” has begun yet again. Filled with newer artists like Sexyy Red and Byron Messia along with more established acts like Bad Bunny and Davido, the “Song of the Summer” pool is as diverse as its ever been. Not to mention, the top songs of the summer may vary from club to reggae, creating a multifaceted collection of work. With that in mind, “Sounds of the Summer” will return every two weeks to hopefully get a gauge on where the “Song of the Summer” battle stands. For the first edition of the series, here’s how things will be broken down.
Clubhouse Leader: Beginning June 26, this title will be bestowed upon the song that holds the premier spot in the “Song of the Summer” chase.
Contenders: A group of five songs that are all vying for the top spot, but have yet to take the pole position.
On The Radar: Every song can’t be a contender. Some songs may make noise, but are just on the outside looking in at the top six songs at the moment. At any moment, any one of these five songs has the potential to break into the top six and shake things up.
Sleepers: Certain songs may be well crafted, perfectly produced and received well by a particular artist’s fan base, but fail to break onto the mainstream scene for a myriad of reasons. Reserved for three song tracks that have all the makings to be a strong contender.
On The Horizon: In an age of snippets and teasers, songs are constantly being previewed before their official release. It may be difficult to get a clear gauge of a song’s full potential from a 30-second clip, but it does provide somewhat of a look at what the song can do once it’s released.
Newcomers: Within two weeks of a song’s release, it can be difficult to make a clear assessment of how a song may age throughout the summer. As a result, it may be wise to sit back and see how fans react to it before making a sweeping conclusion.
Personal Picks: A place for three to five songs that may have been left out of a particular section due to constraints or may be flying under the radar.
Note: Within each category, songs are not listed in any particular order.
Where She Goes
Artist(s): Bad Bunny
Release Date: May 18, 2023
Bad Bunny is quite possibly the biggest artist in the world at the moment. Riding the high of Un Verano Sin Ti, the Puerto Rican hitmaker really doesn’t need to deliver new music in the summer of 2023. Still, he’s decided to return with the Baltimore Club-influenced hit, “Where She Goes.” Falling in line with the Baltimore Club, Jersey Club and Philly Club mainstream explosion that has taken place over the last year, it has a high-energy, fast-paced feel that is infectious and hard not to bop your head to. With over 30 million plays on YouTube in less than two weeks, it’s clear that listeners are gravitating to this record and it has staying potential given its quality and the magnitude of who released it.
Artist(s): Byron Messia
Release Date: January 20, 2023
Every year, an artist that is relatively unknown to casual listeners around the world makes a major splash in the summer with an undeniable hit record. A decade ago, Bobby Shmurda made his mark on the summer of 2013 hit “Hot N*gga.” More recently, Capella Grey and GloRilla made their mark on the music scene with tracks like “Gyalis” and “F.N.F.” This summer, it looks like it will be Byron Messia’s time to make his presence felt on the mainstream music scene in the United States and beyond. Coming to the world from St Kitts and Nevis by way of Jamaica, the 23-year-old rising star has racked up more than 22 million views on YouTube and millions of additional streams on Spotify and Apple Music with his latest single, “Talibans.” The track may have dropped in January, but it’s still in rotation in mixes around the country. Not long ago, he locked in a deal with Interscope Records. With the backing of a major label, Byron Messia’s “Talibans” is getting ready for takeoff this summer.
Put It On Da Floor
Release Date: April 21, 2023
Latto had a great run in 2022 with the success of 777, but she’s not looking to take any time off in 2023. Whether she’s working on records with TiaCorine or gracing the stage at Coachella, she’s using her music to keep herself in the conversation at all times. Heading into the summer, she’s hitting her stride as “Put It On Da Floor” continues to rise on the streaming charts and continues to get a great reaction when played outside. This past Friday, she added fuel to the fire with a Cardi B verse on the remix. As the summer gets going, expect “Put It On Da Floor” to continue gain traction and make a serious push for the season’s top spot.
Artist(s): Sexyy Red, Tay Keith
Release Date: January 27, 2023
Many may have thought Sexyy Red’s raunchy lyrics and laid-back flow were simply social media hype, but it’s clear that the rising artist’s breakout hit, “Pound Town,” is here to stay. With the help of a Nicki Minaj feature and Tay Keith production, “Pound Town” has all the traits of a hit that lends itself well to TikTok and fits perfectly within a DJ set at a party or a club. Maybe it won’t branch out and lend itself to commercials or other branding opportunities, but it’s clearly got the backing of listeners looking for a fun record that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Artist(s): Davido, Musa Keys
Release Date: March 31, 2023
A key part of any “Song of the Summer” is its ability to have listeners shout or recite a certain lyric out loud when the song is played. Last year, GloRilla had millions of listeners shouting, “Let’s Go,” at the top of their lungs when “F.N.F” was played. In 2017, Young M.A. had her fans shouting, “You call her Stephanie. I call her Headphanie.” This year, Davido’s “Unavailable” has that important quality. Thanks to the layered vocals in the hook, Davido’s call and response opens the door for listeners to sing along with him whenever the song is played. Sure, it sounds like a simple thing to do, but it goes such a long way in helping people build an affinity for the song and anticipate when it will be played.
On The Radar
Release Date: March 17, 2023
Kali may not have known that her song draws from Ludacris and Nate Dogg’s 2001 hit of the same, but she is well aware of how big her 2023 track has become. With more remixes than one can count and a growing social media buzz, Kali is quickly becoming more visible to a larger audience this summer. The song’s catchy hook paired with the Tate Kobang-powered, bass-heavy production make it undeniable in a party or club setting. With a remix from Nicki Minaj rumored to be in the works, “Area Codes” could soon elevate to “Contender” status.
What It Is
Artist(s): Doechii, Kodak Black
Release Date: March 17, 2023
March 17, 2023 proved to be a great day for emerging female artists. As previously mentioned, Kali dropped her breakout hit, “Area Codes,” back in March. On the same day, TDE’s next big star, Doechii, shared her collaboration with Kodak Black, “What It Is.” While sections of her fan base certainly expressed their frustrations with the Kodak Black feature, the song has gained support over the last two months and change. Just last week, it hit its peak on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and it looks to be hitting its stride at just the right time. Doechii is a massively talented artist who has shown and proved that she can make a great record, so it’s only a matter of time until she claims the “Song of the Summer” title.
Release Date: May 5, 2023
Over the last few years, DaBaby has certainly faced backlash for making a number of offensive comments. However, it does appear that he may have a hit on his hands. After years of being slandered on the internet for his production and flow, “Shake Sumn” appears to have the full support of TikTok creators and influencers on Reels. Not to mention, a song like “Shake Sumn” elevates the energy at any party or function. The song is still only a month old, but it certainly has the potential to grow throughout the summer.
Lick Or Sum
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Many would argue that “F.N.F” was one of the three or five biggest rap songs of 2022. One year later, “Lick or Sum” carries the energy of “F.N.F” over to Juicy J’s production. Sampling “Slob On My Knob,” Glorilla’s “Lick or Sum” is the perfect follow-up to “F.N.F” as it is both aggressively energetic and sexually playful. The song is still fairly new, so it may take some time to spread its wings, but it definitely should be on everyone’s radar.
Release Date: December 5, 2022
“People” by Libianca is a deeply personal, yet infectious record that has gradually become a hit song over time. While there’s no denying it’s success, there are two major concerns as it pertains to this list. First, it is the oldest song on this list by more than a month. Sometimes, a great song may lose momentum before the summer hits. With that said, it is just now reaching its peak on the Billboard Hot 100. Second, “People” is a pretty sad song and tracks that are typically considered the “Song of the Summer” are relatively happy. However, “Free Mind” by Tems and “As It Was” by Harry Styles did become hit songs last summer despite being pretty sad as well. “People” by Libianca is undoubtedly a hit record. At this point, it’s just a matter of how well its able to transition into the summer.
Artist(s): Lola Brooke
Release Date: April 28, 2023
Lola Brooke put herself on the map with the success of “Don’t Play With It.” Fresh off of tour with A Boogie, she’s looking to keep the momentum going with new music and a tour of her own down the line. “So Disrespectful” and “Here I Come” were solid releases, but “Just Relax” is the song that stands out heading into the summer. Not only does it have the iconic Black Sheep sample, but Lola Brook’s charisma and distinct vocal tone stand out and make the song hers. In addition, the visual is both fun and playful, which is perfect for the summer. She may have something else in the chamber for the summer, but “Just Relax” feels like her strong release thus far in 2023.
Artist(s): Victoria Monét, Buju Banton
Release Date: May 10, 2023
Victoria Monét is no stranger to a hit record. For more than a decade, she helped craft records like “Do It” by Chloe x Halle and “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande. In recent years, she has poured more and more of her artistic talent and time into building her career as a solo artist. Nearly a decade removed form her first EP, Nightmares & Lullabies: Act 1, she is gearing up to release her most highly-anticipated album yet, Jaguar II. Leading the way, she has teamed up with Buju Banton for a song and visual that showcases her wide range of talent. From her singing to her choreography, everything about “Party Girl” and its accompanying visual is beautifully packaged. “Party Girl” may not be the fast-paced, high-energy track that people often deem to be the “Song of the Summer,” but good music is good music at the end of the day. Jaguar II is on the way and “Party Girl” is a perfect moodsetter.
Artist(s): Janelle Monáe
Release Date: May 11, 2023
Few artists have had a press run in 2023 quite like Janelle Monáe. More than a decade into her career, she’s finding new ways to attract new fans while still staying true to her artistic vision. Taking things in a different direction from 2018’s Dirty Computer, the first single from her upcoming LP, The Age of Pleasure, is a fun, Reggae-influenced bop. Lyrically, it has all the makings of a summer hit and the visual adds to her vision. Claiming the “Song of the Summer” title is tough in a crowded music space, but familiarity is a big advantage. For the last 15 years, she’s been building a fanbase and becoming a familiar name to many. It’s not as if she has to introduce herself or build a fan base. She’s already got that, so all she has to do is market her art and deliver great music. She’s never had a problem doing either of those things in the past and it’s hard to believe that she’ll struggle to do that with her forthcoming album.
On The Horizon
Been wavy since morning!
No dey talk to me in public!
We can’t wait for Burna Boy’s next hit “Wavy” to drop ?
— Wavy Footy (@wavyfooty) May 26, 2023
Artist(s): Burna Boy
Release Date: TBA
It is extremely difficult to earn back-to-back “Song of the Summer” titles, but it is not impossible. In today’s musical landscape, only a handful of artists have the ability to do it and Burna Boy is one of them. Last summer, he and GloRilla led the way with “Last Last” and “F.N.F” This summer, he has the ability to claim the top spot yet again with “Wavy” The track was teased in late May, leading fans to believe that it would arrive in the near future. However, it seems he has decided to kick off the summer with the Brandy-inspired “Sittin’ On Top of the World.” While the track has been received fairly well, “Wavy” appears to be the song that most fans are waiting on. When will it drop? Ultimately, it will come down to Burna Boy. With that said, he does have a major show scheduled for July 8, 2023 at Citi Field in New York. He may put the song just in time to add a little surprise to his latest appearance in the Big Apple.
TRAVIS SCOTT x THE WEEKND x BAD BUNNY!!! ???
UTOPIA? THE IDOL? ?? pic.twitter.com/cBi45qLKZt
— UTOPIA (@Jackboyflame98) May 31, 2023
Artist(s): Travis Scott, Bad Bunny, The Weeknd
Release Date: TBA
A track with Travis Scott, Bad Bunny and The Weeknd is a streaming service algorithm’s dream. Fans should be wary of getting overly excited by a snippet, but it’s hard not to be intrigued by three superstars coming together at very different points in their careers. Bad Bunny is red hot and seemingly can’t miss. The Weeknd is fresh off of a showstopping set at Primavera Sound in Barcelona and the launch of his very own show on HBO. Meanwhile, Travis Scott is looking to reenter the music space after the mass casualty event that took place at Astroworld nearly two years ago. Not to mention, there are high expectations for his next project following the success of Astroworld. All three acts bring their own flavor to the song and it could turn out to be a smash hit. At this time, it’s unclear where it may land. The Weeknd is putting out The Idol soundtrack this summer, Travis Scott’s collaborator, Chase B, has an album in the works and Travis Scott’s Utopia is expected to arrive sometime this summer.
Artist(s): The Weeknd, Playboi Carti & Madonna
Release Date: June 2, 2023
At first glance, a track with Playboi Carti, The Weeknd and Madonna sounds like it could be a mess. However, The Weeknd, Metro Boomin’ and Mike Dean managed to pull out each artist’s strengths for a fun, upbeat summer record. This is type of the music that is played as soon as you get off the plane in your vacation destination and you’re headed to the hotel in the Uber as you look out of the window toward the beach. With that said, the song may have been better served with just The Weeknd’s verses and Carti’s vocals. “Popular” will likely end up on a number of summer playlists, mixes, etc., but it’s hard to see this particular song breaking out and becoming the “Song of the Summer” in 2023. However, The Weeknd-curated soundtrack for HBO’s The Idol could have a few more tracks that could enter the conversation later this summer.
Sittin’ On Top Of The World
Artist(s): Burna Boy
Release Date: June 1, 2023
Last summer, Burna Boy delivered the Toni Braxton-inspired “Last Last” and stole the show. This summer, he seemingly used the same formula to deliver “Sittin’ On Top Of the World.” The Brandy-infused track certainly has the energy and charisma of a “Song of the Summer” contender, but it doesn’t have the same push behind it that “Last Last” had in 2022. Burna Boy is a superstar and will certainly have a few tracks in rotation at day parties, BBQs and other functions throughout the summer, but it’s hard to say that this will be his standout track through Labor Day. Time will tell.
Artist(s): Central Cee, Dave
Release Date: June 1, 2023
Within the last week, there have been a number of fun collaborations put out into the world. Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem teamed up for “The Hillbillies” and Latto and Cardi B followed up with “Put It On Da Floor Again.” Adding on, two of the U.K.’s brightest stars teamed up for “Sprinter.” This may be Central Cee and Dave’s first major collaboration, but their chemistry on the track is undeniable. They seamlessly transition from verse to verse as they deliver caption-worthy punchlines. Not to mention, the visual is beautifully shot near the water to give the complete summer feel. As a single, “Sprinter” is beautifully executed, but it’s hard to say that it is the song of the summer. Oftentimes, the characteristic that pushes a rap song over the top into the “Summer of the Song” conversation is its hook or a particular line that a crowd would repeat in unison when its played at a party. “F.N.F,” “Hot N*gga” and several other songs over the years have had that, but it’s hard to say that “Sprinter” does.
Release Date: February 17, 2023
IDK recently received a bit of backlash for his comments regarding the music scene in the DMV, but his most recent album, F65, is a strong, cohesive body of work. When thinking about this album, there are two tracks that come to mind for a list like this. First, there is “Pinot Noir” with Jucee Froot and Saucy Santana. Saucy Santana kills his verse and the production is on point. With that said, “Radioactive” may be the more relevant record considering the direction in which music is headed. It has a club bounce to it and it sounds different than anything that’s out in the mainstream scene at the moment. It’s a unique and addictive song with a strong hook. Not to mention, the video was shot in North London and pulls from the Garage scene that fits perfectly with the club music scene in the U.S.
Artist(s): Mnelia, Bellah, Miraa May, Joyce Wrice
Release Date: May 19, 2023
Summer can be a great time to move past a tough breakup and find a new direction. Mnelia’s “Genesis” Remix is the perfect theme music for such a transition. With the help of Joyce Wrice, Bellah and Miraa May, she has crafted a fun R&B track that is reminiscent of the early 2000s. Each vocalist is flawless in their delivery and the video takes the song to new levels. R&B singles aren’t usually included in the “Song of the Summer” conversation, but their could always be an exception made for an exceptional song.
Artist(s): Don Toliver, Wizkid
Release Date: June 2, 2023
The success of Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower” has set the bar pretty high for all Spider-Verse-related music releases. While it’d be nearly impossible for any other track to match the commercial success of the 2018 hit, Metro Boomin’ did a great job of putting together the soundtrack for this past weekend’s top film, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. Complete with contributions from Nas, Lil’ Wayne and many other A-list acts, the project perfectly fits the cinematic nature of the animated release. Of the songs that were released, Don Toliver and Wizkid’s “Link Up” truly stands out as a hypnotically rhythmic bop with a nice bounce. If any song from the album has a chance of breaking out and doing some real damage this summer, it is likely this song.