Summer is finally here and now is the time to duke it out over which scorching hot new song is going to rule our short, but blessed, Canadian summer.
Below, you'll find CBC Music's contenders for "song of the summer" — songs that, in all their anthemic, earworm glory have a chance at soundtracking patios, roadtrips, park hangs, lake floats and more.
What song do you think deserves the coveted title? Let us know at @CBCMusic.
We also asked this question to some of this year's CBC Music Festival performers. See what Charlotte Day Wilson, The Rural Alberta Advantage and Milk and Bone had to say:
‘I’ll Be There,’ Jess Glynne
Is there time for this new banger to work up enough steam in the coming weeks to hit the top of the charts? If anybody can pull it off, it’s Jess Glynne, the compelling singer behind previous summertime hits, “Rather Be,” “Real Love,” “Hold my Hand,” and most recently, “These Days.” Glynne has infused a country/folk/gospel vibe into her signature powerhouse pop, so don’t be surprised when (not if) you find yourself singing along with its unabashedly affirmative chorus.
— Robert Rowat
'Bad Bad News,' Leon Bridges
This track, which is already a favourite on CBC Music radio shows Afterdark and Saturday Night Jazz, is one of those effortlessly cool songs you can pull out anytime you want to impress someone. It's also one that, if you play it at your summer pool party, you'll find no shortage of people pulling out their phones to Shazam it. Bridges came onto the scene in 2015 with his debut album, Coming Home, which had a decidedly vintage soul vibe. With his followup album, Good Thing, Bridges has expanded his sandbox and added jazz, retro-pop and funk to his repertoire, as demonstrated with the new, sophisticated approach we hear here.
— Jeanette Cabral
‘Nice For What,’ Drake
Drake may have taken a loss in his beef with Pusha T, but there is one area where Drake never loses: summer jams. The Toronto rapper knows how to make a hit, and with “Nice For What,” he’s destined to take the song-of-the-summer crown. The song brilliantly samples Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor,” a classic about the struggles of escaping a toxic relationship, and flips it into a party jam about moving on, being confident, embracing your bad self and, above all, dancing your worries away. A New Orleans bounce beat, which brings the song in around 94 BPM, ensures that last part. “Everybody get your mothaf--kin' roll on/ I know shorty and she doesn't want no slow song,” Drake raps. And he’s right, as “Nice For What” has already been sitting at the the top of the Billboard charts for six straight weeks, moving Drake into hallowed territory for total time spent in the number 1 spot. He now has a total of 37 weeks, which ties him with Michael Jackson (only Usher, with 47 weeks, has more). Appropriately, when “Nice For What” debuted at number 1, it only bumped out another Drake song, “God’s Plan.” And let’s face it, either one would make a perfect song of summer.
— Jesse Kinos-Goodin
‘Body,’ Loud Luxury feat. Brando
Canada’s hottest new DJ duo, Loud Luxury, created an upbeat and catchy hit with “Body.” They’ve worked on tracks with Martin Garrix and Tiësto, and are signed to Armin van Buuren's record label Armada Music so it’s no surprise if you’ve found yourself fearlessly belting the chorus to this song over the past few months. It’s refreshing to hear their prominent reference to “the six,” bringing it back to their roots. From the snaps off the top to the layering of guest Brando’s vocals, everything builds into a song that you will be singing along — and dancing your heart out — to.
— Christine Lieu
'If You Know, You Know,' Pusha T
G.O.O.D. Music president and veteran rapper Pusha T's latest, Kanye West-produced release DAYTONA has only been out for two weeks, during which its seven songs have reignited (and seemingly extinguished) more beef with Drake and landed him his first-ever number 1 album on the rap charts. The quick-spitted album opener, in particular, is some of Push's best work to date, thanks to his dexterous one-liners and that inexplicably triumphant non-beat-drop-beat-drop. For any of the kids online asking, "Who's Pusha?" (in defence of their boy Drizzy), "If You Know You Know" and the rest of DAYTONA answers that — he's a lyrical top dog you shouldn't come for; a craft-honing, living, breathing example of the hustle and grind paying off.
— Jess Huddleston
‘Happy Man,’ Jungle
Unlikely to beat out a Drake track for most-streamed or Cardi B for most-watched, this is one of those jams that will become the song of the summer simply because it is destined to be part of a soundtrack. Undoubtedly, those individuals who marry music with commercials, movies, and German TV shows will have already picked up this great vibe, the smooth vocals, and how listening to it somehow makes everything, well, better. Sit back and enjoy, because this one will simmer in the recesses of your head all summer long.
— Mark Macarthur
‘Lost in Japan,’ Shawn Mendes
When you’re young and in love, anything feels possible. Jet-setting across the world just to spend the night with someone you can’t stop thinking about? Sure, why not. And while 19-year-old pop star Shawn Mendes arguably has the money to pull of such frivolous acts, the rest of us can just listen and swoon along to such fantasies on his song of the summer contender, “Lost in Japan.” The light and airy track is without a doubt the best song off of his latest, self-titled album; a sexy number that feels equal parts inspired by Justin Timberlake and the Bee Gees. Mendes’ falsetto is a secret weapon that we must hear more of, but till then, we’ll happily leave this track on repeat all summer long.
— Melody Lau
‘PYNK,’ Janelle Monae
Look, there's nothing subtle about this song, which is the whole point of summer anthems: they are unapologetically, brazenly catchy and hot as hell. "PYNK" subverts and provokes with every coyly robotic and hyper "girlish" verse. And when Monáe unleashes that glorious chorus — a bouncing and buoyant dance party that's joyful in its celebration of women, specifically Black, LGBTQI women — well, just try to resist.
— Andrea Warner
‘This is America,’ Childish Gambino
Especially with the jaw-dropping video still firmly lodged in people’s psyches, there is little to celebrate in this stark and brutally honest track from Childish Gambino about racism, police brutality, gun violence, money worship and apathy in today’s America. And yet, with chipper (and irony-laden) lines such as “We just want to party, party just for you,” Donald Glover’s unmistakably catchy “This is America” will no doubt stay high on the charts right through the heat of summer — even if not everyone gets the message.
— Jennifer Van Evra
‘Girl Next Door’ Ralph feat. Tobi
Ralph kept us dancing through smoldering days last summer with her pop hits "Cold to the Touch" and "Tease," and now she’s at it again with her catchy new collaboration with Toronto rapper Tobi. Ralph's sultry vibes on "Girl Next Door" force us to slow down, kick back and enjoy the short (and fleeting) summer days, while Tobi’s guest verse makes the two a sonic match made in heaven. If this is just a tease of what we can expect on her upcoming debut album, we want more — and we want it now.
— Monika Platek
‘Fake Love,’ BTS
If you haven’t explored the technicolour world of K-pop yet, then this is the summer to do it. And if you don’t know where to start, we highly recommend BTS as your gateway into one of the world’s most popular genres. BTS, a seven-member boy band, made history last month as the first K-pop act to debut at number 1 on the Billboard albums chart, and their single “Fake Love” has been heavily promoted through television appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the Billboard Music Awards. While it’s not the most upbeat track on this list, “Fake Love” is an anti-love song that has been described as an “emo hip-hop” hybrid — it is the perfect showcase of each members’ strengths, from RM’s rap verses to Jimin’s ability to belt out a good chorus. After a few spins, you won’t be able to get this song, with its hook cleverly sung in English, out of your head. (Alternatively, I would also like to nominate BTS’s 2016 song “Blood Sweat & Tears” as the song of this, and every, summer.) — ML
'Brooklyn in the Summer,' Aloe Blacc
Raise your hand if you wouldn't mind someone saying you felt like "Brooklyn in the summer" — of course, assuming they mean hot, breezy and a barrel of fun. Aloe Blacc's soulful summer single is all of the former, sending pangs of nostalgia through you as he recounts an old love that was perfect in all of its unglamourous simplicity. A CBC Music radio favourite, the bouncy piano ballad was just made for hot summer afternoons on a front stoop, sifting through old memories with a cold drink in hand — so, spin it on repeat this season and let it live its best life. — JH
‘I Like It,’ Cardi B
You’ll want to pull out the blender and whip up some fruity concoctions for this fast-climbing Cardi B hit, which mixes the 1967 Latin-infused Pete Rodriguez classic “I Like it Like That” — one of the most influential boogaloo songs of all time — with Cardi B’s fresh and decidedly colourful flare. Taken from her new album Invasion of Privacy, the track also features J Balvin and Bad Bunny, and comes with a new eye-popping video. — JVE
'1950,' King Princess
"I hate it when dudes try to chase me/ But love it when you try to save me, 'cause I'm just a lady," sings indie-pop's brightest newcomer King Princess (a.k.a. Mikaela Strauss) on her breakout hit, "1950." The mid-tempo cut touches on unrequited queer love, and is carried by the golden combination of its sugary sweet melody and the 19-year-old's endearing lyricism. While you might not be turning up to this one the way you would some of the bigger bangers on this list, there's no doubt King Princess's raspy coo will stay stuck in your ears all summer long, soundtracking warm, late nights that turn into early mornings, and so much in between. — JH
‘Walk it Talk It,’ Migos feat. Drake
One of the tricks to writing a hit song is that a listener should be able to sing it after hearing it just once. Migos know this rule all too well, and while at first it comes off as repetitive, maybe even cheating a little, one listen to this song and you’ll be left singing “Walk it like I talk it” under your breath for the rest of the day. The Atlanta rap trio take a simple phrase and repeat it, but the delivery is such that it makes it sound wholly original. It’s one of the group’s greatest skills. There’s an undeniable groove to the Migos flow, which is based less on hitting you over the head with cerebral lyrics and more about an almost percussive delivery that transports the listener into their world. As Erykah Badu would say, it’s all about the vibrations. It’s no wonder Drake was an early champion/adopter of the Migos sound, and shows up with the group here to give the song his golden touch. — JKG
‘The Middle,’ Zedd feat. Maren Morris, Grey
Last summer, Zedd filled the airwaves with “Stay,” his Grammy-nominated collaboration with Alessia Cara. Now, you could argue that 2018’s “The Middle” is a blatant rip-off of that song’s (admittedly winning) formula, from the crunchy vocoder chords to the ticking clock, but there’s no denying the song’s infectious hook and opulent production. You’ve got to hand it to Zedd for recognizing the potential in country singer Maren Morris, who adapts her talents brilliantly to the EDM/pop idiom on this track. — RR
More to explore: