Every year, a new champion must be crowned. There is no bias, no preconceived notions, just a willingness to embrace good music. What was the 2018 Song of the Summer?
The most obvious option might seem to be Drake’s “In My Feelings,” a deep cut off Scorpion that gained significant popularity through a viral dance challenge. It sits at number one on Billboard’s current Songs of the Summer rankings, but it shouldn’t.
Timing is extremely crucial when it comes to the Song of the Summer. Too early, and you won’t be getting those valuable Memorial Day weekend plays. Too late and you risk becoming an autumn anthem. “In My Feelings” missed the late spring sweet spot — it came out June 29, a solid month after most students started summer break and began looking for music to set their vacation to.
Besides the right release date, the Song of the Summer must also have an appeal to wide audiences — it doesn’t have to be pop, but it can’t be so burrowed into a genre that outsiders won’t appreciate it. This rules out breakout rap hits like Sheck Wes’s “Mo Bamba” and SahBabii’s “Anime World” because you won’t find non-rap fans listening to them.
It’s also critical that the Song of the Summer be upbeat and summery. If there are softer vocals, they must be paired with an energetic hook or EDM drop to be in contention. Post Malone’s “Psycho” was certainly a popular song this summer, but the slow tempo means it’s out of the running.
If you’re a Drake fan, you’re surely thinking that “Nice for What” meets all these qualifications and should be crowned the Song of the Summer. Released in early April, the song fits our timetable. It has wide audience appeal, rarely dipping outside the top 15 on the Hot 100. It’s rap, but heavily includes elements of New Orleans bounce music, a genre designed to do just what the name says.
But we’re not looking for a great summer song. We’re looking for the Song of the Summer, and for that we turn to the Queen of the Bronx, Cardi B. “I Like It,” off her debut studio album Invasion of Privacy, contains the perfect formula for a warm weather work of art.
Cardi invites Bad Bunny and J Balvin, rappers from Puerto Rico and Colombia, respectively, to join the track — and the result is magic. Not only does the song embrace the same up-tempo, Latin style that made “Despacito” so popular, it increases streaming numbers by reaching an international audience. In addition to the Latin vibes and rap verses, the electronic-style bass on the hook creates a summer anthem trifecta. And the May 25 release date gave it time to get plays before peaking on the charts in the beginning of July.
So there you have it — the Song of the Summer for 2018 is “I Like It” by Cardi B. You know it in your heart to be true.