When we think back to summers of the past, those hot and steamy months are often represented by songs that entangled our memories with an everlasting tune. It is usually easy to judge what the summer’s song will be based on a defining group of characteristics that songs of the past seem to share. For instance, the way songs like Call Me Maybe, the anthem of 2012 and Old Town Road from just last year, can be enjoyed by all is due to their catchy, lighthearted, and often simple nature. Songs like these bring people together and often provoke enjoyment, which we all hope to experience in the summertime. But while it is easy to identify what has the makings of a great song of the summer, deciding on a single song that is worthy of that title this year seems to be a little harder.
What makes a song the song of the summer?
As we all know, COVID has affected our daily lives in almost every way imaginable. These impacts have caused the music industry to suffer – for both artists and consumers. Around the time that COVID began heavily sweeping through most of the world in late March, artists were either unable to or were choosing to hold back on releasing their music. Artists did this knowing that they wouldn’t have the same promotional opportunities and consumption patterns that they are typically accustomed to. This pattern was seen most prominent until the end of June. Releasing during those months, which generally is when past songs of the summer have come out, was not common, shifting the amount of exposure to new music way down. There was no listening to the radio on our commutes to school or work or seeing friends on nights out that would expose us to new music; the music industry was flipped completely upside down. Fortunately, TikTok provided a platform that adapted to the effects of COVID and allowed people to share and consume music collectively again. Since we were confined to our homes for those months that are ordinarily crucial for summer music, TikTok has provided a positive space for people to share new music, even if the summer song hasn’t been as easy to find.
Unlike in past years, users on TikTok have played a first-hand role in making songs popular this summer by creating dances and other trends which get recreated by millions on the platform. Even in my own family, people can’t help themselves but “throw it back” when Savage comes on. Unfortunately, TikTok is catered towards a younger audience, specifically Gen X and Z, which leaves people from older generations confused by the craze surrounding those songs, and ultimately stops them from being loved universally. Nevertheless, the impact TikTok has had on the music industry during COVID has been relatively positive by creating a new consumer platform as others were limited during the quarantine. And while the songs might not be hits like summer songs of the past, they are able to bring positivity and enjoyment to people’s lives, which is clear through the number of streams these songs receive on music charts. Even still, the effects and confusion brought on by a worldwide pandemic are reflected in the difficulty of finding a song of the summer.
To help determine what song Queen’s students believe could be the song of the summer, the MUSE team held an Instagram bracket. Whether they were popular on Spotify, TikTok, or contenders on Billboards songs of the summer chart, all of the songs had the making for a great summer anthem. Especially the winning song, Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles, which is packed with lyrics about the summertime. All of the songs were generally uplifting, catchy and simple and reflected the characteristics of a usual summer anthem. It was interesting to see that popular songs this summer have been easy to spot, but the limitations to our normal (summer) lives brought on by COVID, and the influence this has had on music explains why it has been so hard for those within and outside of the Queen’s community to narrow down to the same one song.
Is watermelon sugar highhhhh your pick for this summer?
Not a lot of positives can be attributed to 2020. Sad, I know. But, because of the mental, physical, and economic toll, this year has brought, it seems more appropriate that the song of the summer for 2020 be subjective. And while Watermelon Sugar may be reflective of what Queen’s students pick as the song of the summer, that doesn’t mean other songs can’t be our song of the summer instead. What we spend our time listening to this year does not have to and may not match the formulas of the past but is instead representative of our own experiences this year; whether that means uplifting, calming, or even matching our lows. And because of how entirely different this year has been, it seems fair to cast all rules and formulas from former years aside. Even if this means listening to a song from 50 years ago over and over or one from the 2020 charts, as long as we can enjoy it and feel it is representative of how we want to look back on this summer years from now than it is worthy of being crowned your 2020 song of the summer.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: APPLE MUSIC