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  1. #1

    Default The Summer Song of 2022

    From Radio Insight:

    As Labor Day approaches:

    • Enough of the songs teed up to be Summer Song of 2022 contenders in May have come through to make this a good summer for hit music;
    • There haven’t been as many Friday surprises as there were last year. A few more hits would have made it a great summer for hit music. I can’t yet tell you that these songs have turned the tide for pop radio or current music. I can tell you I enjoyed CHR more;
    • Most of the contenders were already in play around Memorial Day — even “Running Up That Hill,” although I was then in favor of bringing back the more-recent Meg Myers alternative hit.

    Here are some end-of-summer thoughts on some of summer’s biggest hits.*
    Jack Harlow, “First Class” – There was certainly a point in mid-to-late July where it might have been the most inescapable current in my radio listening. As with Latto’s “Big Energy” a few months earlier, it was also an indication that the audience was primed for an uptempo, accessible Hip-Hop song. Meghan Thee Stallion’s “Her,” starting to emerge at radio now, could be the next one, even as the pop-only “Sweetest Pie” starts to kick in for stations now. So could Kendrick Lamar’s “Die Hard.”
    Beyoncé, “Break My Soul” – It wasn’t on my short list initially because it hadn’t become an airplay hit of the magnitude of the others. But it was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. It was also a cultural moment — a once-reliable hitmaker again willing to make a record for the radio, but not waiving the right to make a larger statement. The morning it came out, I asked my very-music-conscious dentist if he’d heard it yet. No, he said, but he knew it was out because NPR was reporting on it. By that evening, I had my first “blaring from a passing car” experience with it. A lyric that worked on a variety of levels for different listeners, but it particularly filled a need for songs about strength and determination.*
    Harry Styles, “As It Was” – “Has Song of the Summer wrapped up and will likely be Song of the Year,” wrote industry veteran Lee Chesnut in our early summer handicap of the existing field. I’m ready to hand Styles “Song of the Year” now, along with “Artist of the Decade so far.” As summer ends, he’s put two singles in power; he has motivated radio to play the next likely single off the album without being asked; he’s our best answer to all those articles about lack of interest in contemporary music.
    “As It Was” was the summer song that captured the melancholy of the last two years. In doing so, it was not without risk. “Adore You,” his solo breakthrough, was Styles giving radio exactly what it would play in 2019. “Watermelon Sugar” was more of a sonic stretch, but perfectly calculated in its timing as Styles’ star emerged. “As It Was” and “Late Night Talking” were more subtle, not unlike “Golden.” That song didn’t go to power everywhere, but it did at most of the CHR stations I watch closely. This year, both Styles singles were clear hits, and a good sign for radio.*
    Styles’ success capped off a summer for Columbia that began with Dove Cameron’s “Boyfriend” and ended with Nikki Youre’s “Sunroof,” a TikTok hit this winter that followed the “Watermelon Sugar” game plan and went to radio for summer. Not that long ago, streaming seemed to be best at breaking “the hits of the dark web”— polarizing quasi-novelties that PDs didn’t quite know how to handle. Columbia has been potent at bringing a mix of songs that might not have seemed obvious and clear-cut radio records where streaming does the job that radio test spins once used to. RCA has also done a good job of balancing radio records and outliers — both “Big Energy” and “Bad Habits” by Steve Lacy. *
    Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill” – In 1985, it wasn’t a warm-weather release, but if “Running Up That Hill” had come out a few months earlier, it would have been competing with “Walking on Sunshine,” “The Power of Love,” “Raspberry Beret,” “Shout,” “Freeway of Love,” “Would I Lie to You,” “You Spin Me Round,” and “I Wonder If You Take Me Home.” It wouldn’t have been the Song of Summer, but for Bush fans, it was enough that she finally had a record on American radio. And that was only a fraction of the validation it provided 37 years later.*
    When the “Songs That Made a Difference” article is written this December, “Running Up That Hill” will mark a turning point, Bush was never officially worked to pop radio. For years, I’ve taken encouragement when labels take a viral hit to radio — e.g., “Driver’s License” or “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” – in search of an even bigger footprint. Thanks to Stranger Things, Bush’s management gambled that “Running” might go no further, then pop radio recognized its value anyway. There also haven’t been a lot of Urbano hits adding an English-language component for pop radio lately.
    There was certainly a moment when “Running Up That Hill” was the most exciting song on the radio, with everything that implies for current music. For me, it’s certainly hard for a new song to compete with the songs that have endured for decades with me. A lot of those 1985 songs would beat all comers now. But in 1985, those songs might not have stood up to “The Boys Are Back in Town,” “Windy,” or any of my summer faves of previous years.
    Now here’s reader Elliot Bentsen’s take. “In an increasingly divided [country], with increasingly fragmented listening options, is there any better Song of the Summer than the one that can unite generations and span genres [and] radio stations, from CHR to Alternative to Classic Hits?”
    Lizzo, “About Damn Time” – When Lizzo’s “Rumors” was showing up on some top songs-of-2021 lists, I asked publicly if maybe it was getting a second wind * and was firmly rebuffed on Twitter by radio friends who usually just chuckle privately at my oddball suggestions. There was clearly some lingering hesitation when “About Damn Time” was released, but growing gradually helped the song’s ubiquity in the second half of summer. Depending on your POV, you may think of it as a song broken by a TikTok dance. For me, it was a great radio record ratified by streaming.
    “About Damn Time” was also the back-in-circulation anthem that the world had been waiting for over the last two years. We expected a slew of similar hits last year, but “Hot Vax Summer” never really materialized and neither did the songs. “Back in circulation” still seems like a cruel hoax sometimes, but having a summer smash that represented the summer we wanted didn’t feel wrong. It’s readers’ Summer Song of 2022 and the Ross On Radio Song of Summer 2022, for many of the same reasons that I chose “Watermelon Sugar” over the emotional distress signal of “Blinding Lights” two years ago.*
    What was your Song of Summer 2022? Please leave a comment. You can also hear the songs in this recap, followed by some candidates for the fall, on my Big Hits Energy playlist.




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