Every summer there’s one extremely popular song that the general public just cannot escape no matter how hard they may try. For example, last year’s song was Get Lucky by Daft Punk and Pharrell. And not only could you not be in public without hearing it, it was hard to escape it even in your own house. Summer songs are great because as the years past we can still recall great memories with these songs because, like I said, no matter what we are doing they seem to be there as an uninvited guest. Since Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, has just passed and everyone is speculating about what the summer jam of 2014 will be, I decided to look back on summer songs of the past.
This was a terribly easy task since Billboard keeps track of these sorts of things. Their list is fairly expansive and covers the top 10 songs every summer since 1985. I picked my favorites from their encyclopedia of summer and trust me for some of these I’m using the term “favorite” very, very loosely.
Mo Money, Mo Problems – Notorious B.I.G featuring Puff Daddy and Mase (1997)
Ah, 1997. I was spending a majority of my summer split between swimming in the pool and watching hours of MTV. MTV Summer Beach House forever, am I right? Which makes sense why Mo Money, Mo Problems is one of my favorites. You can dance to it. You can certainly attempt to rap along to it. And if you can’t rap along, there’s always that sick sample of Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” to sing along with. Unfortunately, the song went to number one after Biggie had passed but he was still featured in the video via archival footage (I believe one of the very first to do so? At least in this context). But let us not forget the short story of the video: Puff Daddy channeling the spirit of Biggie in order to win a golf tournament. Yeah, he was still called Puff Daddy at this time and that was his biggest challenge. Not entirely sure what golf has to do with having more problems as the bank account grows, but I can’t dog the song. I actually enjoy it quite a bit to this day. Eventually Puff Daddy became P. Diddy and about a half a million other names, and who knows what happened to Mase, but I will always remember the time I stunned my mom by bursting into a rap when this song came on the radio a few years ago.
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) – Katy Perry (2011)
Number 1 Song: Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO
Sure, Katy Perry has quite a few summer hits to her name (I Kissed a Girl, California Gurls, etc), but this is by far one of the better ones. It’s catchy and fun, but ultimately describes not a single party I have ever been to. Not that some of us haven’t woken up smelling like a mini bar, but I don’t understand how anyone wants to wake up and “do it all again.” And apparently this song is inspired by real events. I have no doubt it was the soundtrack to many, many epic parties. Probably still is actually. But hands down the most important thing about Last Friday Night: the video. The video is a cinematic wonder featuring Darren Criss, Hanson, Debbie Gibson, Corey Feldman (making so many Lost Boys references), and most importantly, Kenny G. YES KENNY G! Good ol’ Uncle Kenny breaks out some saxophone on the roof for this one. I don’t know if it gets any better than that.
MMMBop – Hanson (1997)
Number 1 Song: I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans and 112
Hanson was kind of a big deal for me in 1997. What? I listened to a lot of different music and if you were a girl in 1997 odds are you were into Hanson. Don’t pretend you weren’t. Granted around this time it was really hard to determine whether they were girls or boys. MMMBop is an extremely catchy song that no doubt can get stuck in the head of the listener for hours if not days. I’m entirely sure this was a hit summer song due to the extreme popularity of Hanson, and the subsequent wave of bubblegum pop music that overtook MTV for the next 5 years, and not on the basis that it’s a great song. That said, it has everything a perfectly successful pop song has. A catchy hook. A video that screams fun (at least in 97). and dreamy boys capable of selling thousands of CDs and teen magazines. I only have one memory that comes to mind when I hear MMMBop and that is my cousin stole my Hanson CD (yes, I actually owned this CD) right out of my CD binder. The CD was gone forever, she didn’t get in trouble, and eventually I forgot Hanson ever existed. But just know, I know you did it, T.
Waterfalls – TLC (1995)
Waterfalls is one of those songs that are great for a bit, fades away, and after awhile you realize how great it is again. I say that because for many years my mom was obsessed with this song. And I never wanted to hear it again. It was all over the place on MTV (which if you can’t tell we watched religiously) and I remember very vividly watching a video I didn’t quite comprehend the message of. The video isn’t complicated. It’s a literal telling of the lyrics mixed with a performance by TLC standing in a giant puddle of water. I guess my growing child mind just didn’t put two and two together. The song has almost become TLC’s signature calling card (unless you are more partial to No Scrubs) and features some socially conscious lyrics about violence, illegal drugs and HIV/AIDS. While it’s a bit strange this was the most popular summer song of 1995 since it doesn’t exactly evoke feelings of fun with friends, it’s still extremely important. And recently was featured in quite the comical scene of We’re the Millers. We can all pretend we don’t try Left Eye’s rap, but we do.
Step By Step – New Kids on the Block (1990)
Number One Song: Visions of Love – Mariah Carey
My love of boy bands began fairly young with New Kids on the Block. They were the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m still thankful to this day my parents didn’t raise me on RAFFI or Disney albums. Step By Step is one of my favorite NKOTB songs ever. I’m still disappointed it wasn’t used as the theme song to the classic ABC TGIF sitcom of the same name. Not only is the song just great, it gives the listener a LIST of steps they can take to achieve some goal.
- Step 1: we can have lots of fun.
- Step 2. There’s so much we can do.
- Step 3: It’s just you and me.
- Step 4: I can give you more.
- Step 5: Don’t you know the time is right?
I’m recalling these unnecessary steps from memory so if they are wrong forgive me. Even at this point I still have no idea what the heck these step by step instructions are actually for. It’s certainly not a treasure map or a Goonies style adventure. In fact, the steps just abruptly end and leave listeners hanging. And if they really are instructions about how to get involved with a member of New Kids on the Block I’m going to have to take a hard pass. Have you seen their outfits? The video also features some completely wonderful things like Donnie Wahlberg pretending he’s tough enough to drive a motorcycle and jumping over a drum set because that’s a feat that needed to be conquered. Mark Wahlberg is just casually working out which compliments these spectacular dance moves fairly well. Don’t want to watch the video? Just know: Step by Step was the Jordan Knight show and Donnie really loved jumping over things.
Song data via Billboard