Start the party with these ‘songs of the summer’

Break down these 2010s hits — including the new champion of this summer.

(Shea Noland / Daily Trojan)

The “song of the summer” concept has existed for decades. These universally appealing hits stick on the charts like glue and soundtrack dance floors throughout the season. To enthrone 2024’s top hit, it’s key to examine the songs that came before it — that way, one can understand what makes a song define a season.

2015: Silento, “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)”

Starting off strong with a song that haunts middle school dances to this day, Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” took the world by storm in 2015. Everyone was caught in its clutches, as whips and nae-naes took over screens around the globe. The last in a line of hit dance-along songs, Silento’s hit gained a permanent spot on every prom DJ’s setlist.

2016: Justin Timberlake, “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!”

While it faced some fierce competitors, no rival reached quite the range of audiences as Justin Timberlake’s “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” Coming off the “Trolls” (2016) movie soundtrack, this song is a shot of technicolor adrenaline for seniors and toddlers alike. These four minutes of artificial summer were heard at everything from family pool days to pro-Clinton flash mobs.

2017: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito (Remix)”

The last thing anybody expected from Justin Bieber was a Spanish language remix, yet there it was, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks. For those alive to witness its reign, the “Despacito (Remix)” occupies permanent brain space; its opening guitar plucks trigger a conditioned response, compelling listeners to sing its forever-engrained lyrics on command.

2018: Drake, “God’s Plan”

“God’s Plan” is a true-to-heart hype song that appealed to almost everyone as soon as it dropped, blasting from club speakers, car stereos and house parties for years to come. Composed of a consistent backtrack and recurring beat, its simplicity is no signifier of the energy this song brings to any room it fills. It became an instant classic that gets people jumping and moshing every time.

2019: Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road (Remix)”

In 2019, country and trap were the perfect combination for near-universal appeal. Random elementary school students couldn’t stop dancing to “Old Town Road.” The song went 4x platinum in Austria. It was so unstoppable that the Grammy Awards gave Lil Nas X’s “7” EP, which featured two versions of “Old Town Road,” a nomination for “Album of the Year” — despite explicitly stating its EP status.

2020: The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic made it tough for any song to catch on in summer 2020. But The Weeknd managed to pull through with a synth-heavy song that completed his meteoric rise to the top of music streaming charts. For most concerts that came after, from the Super Bowl to his “After Hours Til Dawn” stadium tour, this global hit closed out a setlist full of them.

2021: Dua Lipa ft. DaBaby, “Levitating (Remix)”

Another season affected by the pandemic’s resistance to hits, Dua Lipa’s remixed disco track with popular rapper DaBaby — which was released back in fall 2020 — still had the groove required to get the world back on its feet and dancing. Despite stiff competition from the likes of Doja Cat and rising star Olivia Rodrigo, Lipa and DaBaby held onto their grip on the Billboard and Spotify charts.

2022: Harry Styles, “As It Was”

“As It Was” marked a new beginning for Harry Styles. It was an unconventional hit with melodic synth and chiming church bells that catapulted Styles to a whole new level of global recognition. Released that May, “Harry’s House” became the album of the summer, and as the leading single off the Grammys’  2023 Album of the Year, “As It Was” got people prancing all season long.

2023: PinkPantheress and Ice Spice, “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2”

Well-established headliners like Bad Bunny and SZA all fell at the knees of 2023’s queen: Ice Spice. From “In Ha Mood” to her collaboration with Taylor Swift, she was inescapable. But her biggest track was her instantly replayable smash with PinkPantheress, pairing pop and rap — with a slight twist of heartbreak — in a track tailor-made to dominate the summer.

2024: Sabrina Carpenter, “Espresso”

It may not officially be summer yet, but it’s becoming clear that Sabrina Carpenter is about to own the season. After smash hits like “Nonsense” lifted her to an opener gig on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, her new track was released just in time for her Coachella set. “Espresso” is a danceable earworm with lyrics that have already stuck with the public — especially the instantly iconic “I’m working late / ’cause I’m a singer.” That line alone may have sealed Carpenter’s reign over this summer.

© University of Southern California/Daily Trojan. All rights reserved.